Quick (will become regular focus) public service comments on COVID-19 pandemic
I do not plan to use this platform to cover the COVID-19 pandemic or to pretend that I am an expert on what we should or not be doing right now. That said, I feel like I have an obligation to say something and will use that to say two quick things.
1) Please consider this as an opportunity to constantly pick a couple small spots to do something to help someone else right now. What that looks like is completely different for all of us. Maybe it is helping out your local restaurants by buying gift cards or ordering takeout. Maybe it is helping elderly neighbors make sure they get what they need. Maybe it is making a monetary donation or two to charities who help people in need right now. Find your own spots.
2) If we reach a point where we realize that maybe we did too much to slow the pandemic and minimize its effects, that will be at worst a minor inconvenience. If instead we reach a point where we did not do enough, the toll on everyone’s lives could be massive. Please consider erring significantly on the side of caution and doing your part to charting a path to better not worse.
Again, I promise not to make Canes and Coffee a site for COVID-19 coverage or recommendations. There are plenty of capable media covering that obviously.
Fluid plans for Canes and Coffee
As for Canes and Coffee and Canes hockey coverage, to say that we are in uncharted waters for covering an NHL hockey team is a massive understatement right now.
I was writing about the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL’s work stoppage, but that was different and also remember the 2004-05 season lost completely by the same cause. But both were significantly different. Neither of those featured a situation that upset the totality of everyone’s lives. And in addition, there were plenty of other sports to fill the gap for those who wanted it.
The closest comparable, and I actually think the same is true for me personally outside of sports, is 9/11. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 similarly rocked the very core of the world that we lived in and cast a massive negative uncertainty over the future of our world at a level much more important than sports. After 9/11, the sports was similarly shut down completely, but who can guess for how many days……..?
It was only 10 days. Major League Baseball resumed on September 21 and the National Football League played on September 23. I will not pretend to be an expert on predicting how long the current suspension will be, but it will obviously be significantly longer than 10 days.
As a means to avoid being consumed by the negativity right now, I spent some time here and there thinking about what direction to take with Canes and Coffee over the coming weeks. The situation is fluid, but my starting point is thus:
–I think there is value for some in continuing somewhat on a normal track for Canes and Coffee. Sports and the Canes specifically for this group are a fun hobby that makes our lives more enjoyable. More than ever we need hobbies and diversions that are rightfully de-prioritized behind bigger world issues, and more than ever we need our communities even if they are online groups of people who have never met.
–Not sure if it will take or not, but I hope to reopen a more formal version of ‘The Coffee Shop’ to offer a place for new people to join the conversation and thereby offer another Canes outlet for those who want or need it right now.
–I have not figured anything out (open for suggestions via email, in comments or on Twitter), but I hope to find a way or two to use Canes and Coffee and our community to do some good in the broader world right now financially or otherwise.
So below is a pretty regular Daily Cup of Joe that considers the impact of the NHL suspension on the Carolina Hurricanes. I will also post Brandon Stanley’s latest update on the Charlotte Checkers during the day on Monday. And either Monday or Tuesday I will put up the first ‘Return of the Coffee Shop’ post with some polls and discussion questions.
Impact of the suspension on the Carolina Hurricanes
The ultimate schedule and path for concluding the 2019-20 NHL season is pure speculation even for the league itself right now. As of Wednesday night which is somehow only four days ago, the NHL was planning to play games on Thursday. Fast forward to Sunday night and schools on a state-wide basis are announcing closings already set into April and the Center for Disease Control is now recommending no gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks. That seems to push an NHL restart to at least early May if the trajectory gets significantly better and not worse and has the potential to push the 2019-20 season deep into the summer if it is not canceled altogether. Below are some impacts on the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 2019-20 playoffs
The latest rumblings for the playoffs has the league considering a 24-team format with byes, shorter series and other changes. Such a format would benefit the Hurricanes in the sense that it gets them off the bubble, but it would also dump them into the battle royale of teams with a long path to the Stanley Cup. There are pros and cons, but getting off the bubble and definitely into the playoffs would be more positive than negative.
Returning after a layoff
The extended layoff will have multiple effects on how the season and playoffs play out if they occur. First, many players who are out of the lineup with injuries will return to the lineup. The Hurricanes will benefit in this regard with James Reimer and Sami Vatanen likely to return and Dougie Hamilton also likely in the picture. Brett Pesce would seem to be still out of the picture, but I have to imagine the sudden change in possible schedule has the medical staff at least considering what is possible for his return if the season stretches deep into the summer. At first glance, many would jump to what seems like a simple conclusion that the layoff is a positive in this regard. But that is not so much a function of who the Canes get back in the lineup but how that compares to the gains for other teams who get the same benefit. That could make it a wash. Reimer was close anyway. Hamilton would be a significant gain. But other teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets will gain much more from players returning from injury. So it is difficult to say if the Canes really gain more than the field in this regard.
The other huge wild card is how teams emerge from a long layoff to play high stakes playoff hockey maybe with only an exhibition game or two to get ready. More so than level of hockey talent, that wild card could play a huge role in determining which teams go deep in the playoffs. In that regard, history suggests that this could be a significant positive for the Hurricanes. Through two years, Brind’Amour’s teams have started strong in preseason hockey and also in the regular season. Two seasons is a small sample size, but from watching how the Canes seemed to dial up to game speed faster than other teams, I think there is something there.
Also factoring into the wild card of a long layoff is how teams prepare for a return. Right now, teams are not allowed to practice even informally I believe. So the onus is on players to find a way to stay as close to game shape as possible in home gyms or whatever. But at some point if players are already to skate in small groups informally, a significant contributor to playoff success could become how well teams do this.
Beyond the 2019-20 season
There will also be impacts beyond the 2019-20 season. The thing that jumps out at me first is the impact on the 2020-21 NHL salary cap. The regular season games remaining are about 18 percent of the regular season. If the playoffs are shortened, that would be another hit to 2019-20 revenue. Prior to the pandemic, estimates were that the salary cap would increase by $4 to $7 million after a strong revenue increase for the NHL. Doing oversimplified math, if one assumes that the NHL loses 10 percent of the projected 2019-20 revenue, that would pretty much wipe out the expected salary cap increase.
That would be an advantage for the Hurricanes. The team gets some cap relief with Patrick Marleau and the kept portion of Justin Faulk’s salary coming off the books without the need to replace a player. And the Hurricanes have the majority of the top half of the team’s lineup already under contract for the 2020-21 season. That could prove to be a significant positive for the Hurricanes in two respects. First, a flat salary cap could significantly hamper other teams’ ability to improve or even maintain the status quo. A secondary effect of that could be an incredibly good buyers’ market for the Hurricanes make an addition or two during the summer with many teams very limited budget-wise.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What would you like to see Canes and Coffee do/cover during the suspension of the season?
2) If the season does resume, how do you see the layoff impacting the Hurricanes positively and negatively?
3) Do you see the potential hit to the 2020-21 salary cap as being a big positive for the Canes? What other positive or negative impacts do you see looking at the 2020-21 season?