The past week has been a rough one for the Blackhawks, the NHL, and the sports world as a whole. With the COVID outbreak affecting leagues around the world and placing more than 100 players, coaches, and staff members into NHL COVID Protocols, the league has implemented enhanced league protocols, closed U.S.-Canada border crossing, and has seven clubs shut down through the Christmas holiday break. Meanwhile the Blackhawks have so far escaped major COVID concerns, but lost twice this week and had a suspensions handed down to Brett Connolly.
• After his hit on Tanner Kero Saturday night, Connolly was given a four-game suspension on Sunday evening.
NHL Suspends Brett Connolly Four Games For Interference on Tanner Kero https://t.co/hof8eG1KsY
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 20, 2021
• Connolly will miss the rest of the scheduled games for Chicago through New Year’s Day and will forfeit $70,000 in game checks.
• Two-thirds of the NHL is experiencing complications due to the current COVID outbreak, but somehow Chicago has come out unscathed at the moment. Made even more impressive after playing the Capitals and Predators recently, where both teams either had COVID cases spike after playing Chicago or the team was out-right shut down.
As of this second, 21 of 32 NHL teams have at least one player in COVID-19 protocol.
There are a total of four games left before Christmas where neither team has a player in protocol: MIN-DAL, TB-VGK, WPG-DAL, DAL-CHI.
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) December 19, 2021
• Yesterday, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to continue the season as scheduled, for the time avoiding a league-wide pause. Teams would be shut down on a case-by-case basis, as they are currently.
NHL and NHLPA Agree to Continue Season as Scheduled, U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Closed Through Christmas https://t.co/erUjdQ9azR
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 19, 2021
• Part of the announcement yesterday, which also included postponing 12 games that required crossing the U.S.-Canada border, was the ongoing discussions surrounding league participation in the Olympics.
• We’ve been talking about it for about two or three weeks now, but the slow-burn of the NHL pulling players from the Olympic Games is heating up.
Nothing official yet, but a real sense NHL players aren’t headed to the Olympics. Given all the NHL game postponements this past week, no surprise if that’s the final direction.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 20, 2021
• The NHL could use that three-week break to help get the schedule back on track, assuming everything can be sorted out by then. But with the Olympics likely off the table, what would it mean for the All-Star weekend?
From what I’m hearing, no discussion about canceling NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas at the moment. Clearly with NHL in triage mode over COVID, there are other priorities.
Would expect a robust debate over having so many players from so many teams converging in one spot.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) December 20, 2021
• Yesterday, the NHL added two more clubs who would be shut down through the Christmas holiday break.
SCHEDULE UPDATE: The @DetroitRedWings have been shut down at least through the scheduled completion of the @NHL’s Holiday Break in the schedule on Dec. 26. https://t.co/E57I3F2Hom pic.twitter.com/2CUmMc8oBQ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 19, 2021
• The Red Wings, housing the only unvaccinated player in the league, and the Maple Leafs make it seven clubs out of 32 that have had to be shut down due to COVID outbreaks in the last week.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 20, 2021
• I’ve made my stance clear over the past week, so I’ll stop bogging you down with it. I don’t know why the league has been hesitant to try together ahead of the outbreak, but at this point, it appears they are playing from behind and things will continue to get complicated.
• The Blackhawks were supposed to play tomorrow night against the Panthers, but that game was postponed. They are now off until Thursday when they will host the Dallas Stars. It could be an opportunity for there club to reset their own health status with Calvin de Haan and Henrik Borgström having been out with non-COVID illnesses for a handful of games.
The Blackhawks, with Tuesday's game postponed, are taking tomorrow off, too. That'll be 5 off days in 8 days, counting the Christmas break. With nobody in protocol, as long as they emerged uninfected after the Nashville game, this could be a very beneficial week, physically.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 20, 2021
• With the Blackhawks off on Tuesday, they’re sent Ian Mitchell and Josiah Slavin to the IceHogs yesterday with the likely intention to have both of them play in Rockford’s Tuesday night game and then have them come back to the Blackhawks by Thursday. At least for Slavin, that should be the case.
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) December 19, 2021
• Slavin has quickly become a reliable fourth-line option for the Blackhawks. After being a seventh-round pick in 2018, he has rocketed up the prospect depth charts and is finding a home in the Chicago lineup at just 22-year-old. He turns 23 on December 31.
• News off the ice for the Blackhawks as they will be involved in settlement talks today with representatives for “John Doe 2,” the Michigan high school student who was sexually assaulted by former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich.
Settlement talks are scheduled for tomorrow between the Blackhawks and a lawyer working for "John Doe 2," the former Michigan high school high school hockey player who was sexually assaulted by former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich. https://t.co/QdOgFIJWAv
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) December 20, 2021
• This comes after the Blackhawks and Kyle Beach reached a settlement earlier this month.
• Hopefully, like Beach, “John Doe 2” can come to a settlement with the Blackhawks that is fair to them and can help them move forward in their life from the incidents and process what life can be beyond these terrible situations.
• Chicago has made major changes to their organization this year, mostly due to the sexual assault investigations involving the club. They have an interim General Manager and an interim Head Coach. Once they figure out their front office personnel, they will likely then make their decision on who will be the next head coach in Chicago. If Derek King doesn’t retain the job, the Blackhawks could look to Rikard Grönborg, a highly respected European coach who has won every where he has coached.
If Not Derek King, The Next Blackhawks Head Coach Could Come From Overseashttps://t.co/LHpEVn6ieG
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) December 19, 2021
• This is not Alpo Suhonen 2.0. This is not another Jeremy Colliton. Grönborg has won Gold Medals as either an assistant or head coach with the Swedish National Team at the World Junior Championships, World Championships, and Olympics. He’s also coached ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League for the past three seasons, leading them to being the top team in 2019-20 in his first year as head coach. He’s been on the NHL coaching radar for a few years now, but there has yet to be a team that has brought him in. He’s had the backing from former Swedish NHLers like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Niklas Lidstrom, and Mats Sundin to coach in the NHL. Maybe the Blackhawks continue their “outside the box” approach to their coaching and front office changes.
• Speaking of intentional play, and a bad sign for the Olympics, Team Canada has pulled out of this month’s Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Canada has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the 2021 #SpenglerCup in Davos, Switzerland.
The decision was made to maintain the health and safety of participating players, coaches and staff.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) December 20, 2021
• Canada won the last Spengler Cup in 2019, led by former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg, as well as Chris DiDomenico, Matt Tomkins, and Ian Mitchell.
• That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Monday.
It Sounds Like Matt Nagy is Resuming Play Calling Duties Tonighthttps://t.co/Oe4CGF6IEm
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) December 20, 2021
• Go Bears!(?)