Oskar Sundqvist, who played last night in the Blues’ 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, has been placed on the NHL’s Covid-19 protocol list today.
Recently, Justin Faulk (who went fishing), Tyler Bozak (who wound up infecting his entire family and had symptoms) and Jordan Binnington recently were re-activated from the list.
The NHL is having problems with Covid-19 right now, as are most sports leagues. Rigorous testing will catch multiple cases, and most cases are either mild or asymptomatic thanks to the vaccines. The issue is that with the omicron variant’s quick replicability and infection rate, plus ability to evade some immunity, more and more positive cases are going to pop up regardless of a player’s vaccine status.
Already, the league has the Flames, Avalanche, and Panthers on a covid-pause until Christmas at the soonest. Other teams have had games postponed due to spread as well. According to a tweet from Elliotte Friedman, Nashville, Boston, Toronto, and Vancouver are close to having their seasons paused as well.
Hearing Nashville will be shut down through Christmas. We are awaiting news Boston (expected to be shut down) and both Toronto/Vancouver (playing each other tonight, and other opponents tomorrow).— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 18, 2021
Keep in mind, that the league is only postponing games due to covid, not due to covid and injury. The Blues, if this spreads past Sundqvist, could be in another pickle between call-ups and cap concerns. The team has sent Klim Kostin to Springfield on a conditioning stint, so his return will happen soon, and David Perron and Robert Thomas are skating with the team and look like they will be returning shortly as well.
Berube said the injured guys, including Perron, Thomas, Kyrou, Walman and Husso will accompany the #stlblues on the upcoming trip and they will see who is available. But good sign that they're going.— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 18, 2021
James Neal, Jordan Kyrou, Brayden Schenn, Ville Husso, and Jake Walman are still all injured, and return dates aren’t concrete for Kostin, Perron, and Thomas. The team plays tomorrow afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets, so they will still be in a tight squeeze as far as a roster goes.
The delta variant was clearly an issue for the NHL to manage, and it looks like the more easily transmissible omicron variant will be a bigger challenge. Players are vaccinated, but boosters are currently recommended for maximum effectiveness against the new variant. On top of that, one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots have been found to be less effective overall. If those are the shots that sports leagues arranged for their players due to one dose meaning only having to deal with side effects once, they may be having to find a way to be flexible with this next round. Clearly, the NHL wants to protect its product, and luckily for the players, they are the product. How well they’ll be able to protect the product while still putting out something that people want to watch remains to be seen.
The Blues have been lucky with their call-ups. Other teams who may find themselves in St. Louis’ situation may not be.