Lots of big news this week:
Training camp begins
The league officially enters Phase 3 of the Return to Play protocol with the start of training camp. By last week, most Blue Jackets players were back practicing in Columbus under Phase 2 of the protocol.
The 33 players have been split into two groups:
#CBJ will split their 33 players into two groups for training camp on Monday.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 11, 2020
The first group - the “game” group - is 22 players. The second group - extras - is 11 players.
The groups: pic.twitter.com/zfvX1a1vmc
Among the “extras” group, the most surprising inclusions are Nathan Gerbe and Andrew Peeke. Each played key roles this season. Do they face an uphill battle to play in the postseason?
The team needs to trim the roster from 33 to 31 before traveling to Toronto to enter the Eastern Conference bubble. As Aaron Portzline reported, a third player will be left out if the team chooses to add Josh Anderson to the playoff roster. Anderson is still recovering from shoulder surgery but could be recovered in time to play if the Jackets make a deep playoff run.
There are still some concerns about that Phase 4 bubble, as outlined in this in-depth article by Elaine and MrSwift.
With the ratification of the Return to Play on Friday, we finally have a schedule for the postseason. Be ready for all day hockey for the first week of August! As for the Columbus-Toronto series, the schedule is as follows:
Game 1: Sunday August 2nd
Game 2: Tuesday August 4th
Game 3: Thursday August 6th
Game 4 (if necessary): Friday August 7th
Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday August 9th
Game times and broadcast information is still to be determined. The Jackets will be the designated road team for Games 1, 2, and 5 and the home team for games 3 and 4. They don’t get the crowd advantage but the home team does get the all-important last change for faceoffs.
It appears the league is soliciting fan submissions for crowd noise. It’s unclear whether this will be piped in to the arena or just added to the broadcast:
Jackets fans were asked to chant C-B-J (both with and without clapping), the Chili chant, and “Let’s go Jackets!” This comes from a friend that was invited and participated.— Deana Weinheimer (@SinBinMonsters) July 12, 2020
After lockouts that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season and half of 2012-13, the NHL and NHLPA were able to avoid a work stoppage in two years by agreeing now to an extension of their collective bargaining agreement through 2025-26. Some important notes:
- Flat cap. The salary cap will be set at $81.5 million for next season, and possibly for additional seasons until league revenue increases post-COVID. The cap number will be based on revenue from an earlier season, so GMs can sign multi-year deals with more knowledge of future cap figures. As it stands, the Jackets have just over $6M in cap space for the upcoming offseason and still have to sign key players Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, and Vladislav Gavrikov. The silver lining: other teams find themselves with much tighter cap crunches, which the Jackets could take advantage of to swing a trade.
- The Duchene Rule. Remember how the Jackets would have sent the 2020 first round pick to Ottawa if Matt Duchene had re-signed here last summer? Those conditions are banned under the new agreement. The players argued that such conditions made it less likely for their new teams to offer them a new contract. Jarmo Kekalainen acknowledged last summer that the cost of that additional draft pick was a consideration as they weighed what kind of contract to offer Duchene.
- Olympics! After sitting out the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, the owners and players are agreed on wanting to participate in both the 2022 and 2026 games. All that remains is the league reaching an understanding with the IOC. Look for the current Blue Jackets roster to be well represented in those games. I, for one, can’t wait to see a Jones/Werenski pairing for Team USA.
The week that was
The Cannon Cast spoke with John Haferman, the executive director of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club and a nominee for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. It’s a very interesting discussion about what it took to build up a thriving youth hockey program in Central Ohio.
Ohio Sports Update
The Columbus Crew began the MLS is Back Tournament with a 4-0 demolition of FC Cincinnati. Ladies and gentlemen, Lucas Zelarayan:
Play me out
Last week I gave a shoutout to Hamilton, so this week I want to feature my existing 4th of July viewing tradition: 1776. This is the original attempt to put present the story of the Founding Fathers in musical form. It’s delightful.