If the Boston Bruins’ training camp is anything to go by, the NHL’s Return To Play Plan could prove to be highly unfair if a team suffers multiple positive tests.
Of course, normal hockey seasons are predicated on the fact that the Boston Bruins could lose multiple players to a cold or flu in the locker-room. In those scenarios, it’s seen as perfectly fair for them to play sick or scratch otherwise guaranteed names from the team sheet.
However, this Return To Play Plan doesn’t represent any sort of normal. A positive (or even a false positive) test for COVID-19 could see half the team deemed ‘unfit to play’ due to the risk of contact with said teammate.
You only need look to the Boston Bruins practice lines a couple of days ago to realise just how unfair this could make a play-off series. Missing on that occasion were David Pastrnak, Ondrej Kase, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner, Nick Ritchie and Sean Kuraly.
Whether or not these were the result of a COVID-19 test or potential contact with an infected individual is anyone’s guess. It was simply stated that they were unfit to participate.
If we’re talking about the Stanley Cup Playoffs though, that group represents a top-line winger, your middle-six centers, your power-play quarterback and starting goaltender among others.
It’s hard to fathom how it’d be fair to face an opponent missing that much line-up depth. It’s not as if an opponent would rest the equivalent to ensure parity. Any smart opponent would be running a short bench and double-shifting their superstars to truly humiliate a weakened opponent.
Obviously, it’s hard to say how this scenario looks once the teams head into their quarantine bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. Any COVID-19 diagnosis once inside the bubble surely impacts the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a whole, rather than just the Boston Bruins or any other specific team.
Right now, the Boston Bruins are in the unfortunate spot of having players missing from their training camp, meaning there is a high likelihood that their conditioning might fall a little behind the team’s rivals.
Thankfully, the Boston Bruins face a round-robin tournament to ease into their ‘Return To Play’, as a result of their President’s Trophy winning season, rather than a five-game series that actually counts towards their continued presence in the postseason.
These are trying times and new plans may end up being made on the fly. All we know is that right now, the Boston Bruins would be clearly disadvantaged if they were expected to play this short-handed.