We likely won’t hear from Darryl Sutter until after the holidays.
We likely won’t hear from Darryl Sutter until after the holidays.
He’s isolating at home, now on the growing list of Calgary Flames’ personnel to test positive for COVID-19.
But last season, amid an outbreak in the Vancouver Canucks’ locker-room, Sutter was asked about a situation similar to the one currently unfolding with his own club. Those words still ring true today, with a total of 27 active cases for the Flames — 16 players, three coaches and eight support staffers — and the team braced for the possibility of more.
“My biggest concern, they talk about the Canucks … My biggest concern, these are young guys with young families,” Sutter told NHL.com in April.
We likely won’t hear from Johnny Gaudreau until after the holidays.
Calgary’s superstar winger is isolating at home after a positive test of his own.
Everybody is wondering when the Flames will return to action, even if it’s without some of their key contributors. Saturday’s home date against the Columbus Blue Jackets has now officially been postponed. Next on the calendar would be Tuesday’s clash with the Anaheim Ducks, but that could certainly change.
There were similar questions last spring, when 20-some Canucks were infected with the virus.
“We couldn’t care less about the scheduling,” Gaudreau said then. “You hope everyone is safe and getting better and hope their families are OK. That’s the most important thing. You don’t really worry too, too much about the season right now. We worry about their health and everything like that. When they’re feeling better and whatnot, you can plan around that. You don’t really focus on the schedule right now.”
Those words still ring true today.
The Flames’ situation worsened Wednesday with news that the latest round of test results had revealed 17 more positives. That includes their leading scorer, Gaudreau, and their head coach, Sutter.
The Flames now have 16 players in COVID-19 protocol, the most of any NHL team at any point this season.
Also added to the list on Wednesday were starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom, defencemen Rasmus Andersson and Erik Gudbranson and forwards Byron Froese, Trevor Lewis and Tyler Pitlick. They join nine teammates who had previously been identified — Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Milan Lucic, Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan, Brad Richardson, Adam Ruzicka, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov.
Put another way, there are only seven skaters on the Flames’ active roster who have not tested positive over the past 96 hours.
There were three new cases Wednesday among Calgary’s coaches — Sutter, Kirk Muller and Ryan Huska — and seven among support staff.
Under provincial guidelines, every confirmed positive is legally required to isolate for at least 10 days. There are fathers and husbands on that list. Some have toddlers or infants at home.
The good news is as of Wednesday afternoon, all of the Flames’ cases were “doing well.” In announcing that Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets had been postponed, the league stressed again the organization “has followed, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, provincial and federal agencies.”
The big difference between what’s happening in Calgary and the outbreak in Vancouver during the 2020-21 campaign is that the Canucks’ players, because of availability/roll-out up to that point, had yet to be vaccinated.
A lot has changed since then, not only in the hockey world but period. The Flames are fully-vaxxed — as Lucic pointed out in a post on Twitter, some have already received a booster — and that will help to reduce the risk of severe illness. (Around the entire league, it’s believed there is only one remaining skater who has opted against getting the jab.)
Still, any sort of outbreak is concerning. What’s especially alarming in Calgary’s current case is the rapid spread — they’ve gone from zero positives to 27 in a short span. They will continue to be tested daily.
While the Canucks were dealing last spring with the Gamma variant, the Flames have been awaiting further results to determine if they have been hit by Omicron, the latest strain.
That’s one of plenty of questions that remains to be answered.
The Flames’ schedule, their salary-cap situation, etc. — that will be sorted out eventually.
Right now, with their training facilities closed until further notice, this isn’t about hockey.
Just like Sutter and Gaudreau told us in the spring, when it was a rival team going through something similar to what the Flames are now experiencing.
“The No. 1 priority for everybody is the health and safety of our players, their families, those close to them, everybody impacted,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving earlier this week. “Let’s not lose sight that everything else is a distant second to that.”
While Thursday’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs is postponed, here’s a good reason for hockey fans to swing by the Saddledome. The Calgary Flames Alumni will be collecting donations in an outdoor drive-thru from 4-8 p.m. for their annual holiday toy drive. You can drop off unwrapped toys or grocery-store gift cards outside the Telus Club Entrance. Some of your franchise favourites will be there to collect items that will later be distributed to Women In Need Society and the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Of the players who dressed against the Boston Bruins last Saturday, the black and white photos indicate those who are on the COVID protocol list:
Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team.
Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.
A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.
The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.
Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.
It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.
Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.
“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.
“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”
Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.
Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.
“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.
The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.
Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.
“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.
Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.
“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said.
“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.
“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”
The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.
“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”
Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.
The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.
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