I have seen some people on social media accusing Blues fans of only caring when the league’s poor decision making impacts our team, so I want to preface this by saying that I feel that the NHL’s Covid-19 policy, as executed in tandem with its injury policy, is absurd and I would feel that way regardless of any team that it impacts. Yes, I am currently angry about how it’s impacting the Blues right now, but if it were to happen to any other team, I would still believe it to be indicative of the league’s poor decision making and inflexibility.
Last night, the Blues lost Brayden Schenn to injury. He was in the middle of pulling another long night of ice time, and assisted on both regulation goals. Schenn is a key forward for the team, and his loss - especially so soon after his return - is concerning. The team did not play well the last time that he was out, between November 4th and 24th, and that was before much of the current injury rash/Covid-19 protocol list placement began.
Jordan Kyrou went down in Saturday’s game against the Canadiens. Kyrou has nine goals and 16 assists this season, leading the team in points.
Both players are a necessity if the Blues want to continue their improbable points streak. The AHL call-ups, notably Logan Brown, Dakota Joshua, and Nathan Walker, have all played very well, but at some point the continual loss of NHL talent is going to catch up with the Blues. Right now, Kyrou and Schenn join David Perron, Klim Kostin, James Neal, Robert Thomas, Jake Walman, and Ville Husso on the list of injured Blues. On top of that, Tyler Bozak is still unable to return from the protocol, and Jordan Binnington and Justin Faulk remain on the list as well.
That is currently eleven players who cannot play for the Blues, or the same number of forwards that they were able to ice last night. It’s uncertain if they’ll be playing with eleven forwards tomorrow night against the Dallas Stars, or if they’ll have to skate with ten again.
Meanwhile, the upcoming game between the Flames and Blackhawks has been postponed due to Covid-19 issues, along with two subsequent games for Calgary. Six players and one staff member is on the protocol list for the Flames, and the league acknowledges the likelihood of further spread of the virus. This is, unquestionably, the right decision, as the league can’t afford to have multiple teams decimated by Covid-19.
On the other hand, it appears that they’re fine with teams getting ground down when there’s a blend of Covid-19 and injury. Their rules for callups are unaltered to accommodate for the loss of players to breakthrough infections and injury, and players must still count vaccinated players against the cap when they have a breakthrough infection. If they are unvaccinated and a player misses a game, that’s fine - which penalizes teams and players who have been responsible.
What this is causing the Blues to do is increase ice time and shifts to the point where regulars are getting worn down and prone to injury, which of course exacerbates the problem. The NHL is giving teams like the Blues zero leeway to get out from behind the eight ball. This is causing them to ice what could be potentially (yet so far, shockingly, has not been) a sub-par product. This damages the league’s brand, which is why it is so shocking that it is being allowed to continue. It is also, of course, damaging to the players as human beings to consistently be playing through a situation that demonstrates zero consideration for their health and safety, be it because of infection or injury. From a business standpoint, the league is putting their employees in danger. From an investment standpoint, the league is apparently willing to risk the careers of players who are worth millions of dollars and who have irreplaceable skill sets.
Right now, it’s impacting the Blues. Next week? Who knows what team the league’s poor planning will ding. Fortunately for St. Louis, they have the depth to cope, at least for right now. How long that can last for the Blues or any team is hard to say.