It’s November 27th; the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. With just over a month left in the awful year that 2020 has been, word from the NHL on the 2021 season has seemingly dried up. Oh sure, there’s been bits and pieces here and then about trying to keep the January 1st start date, the salaries of players and realignment (all handily recapped here in one article), but in terms of clear communication for moving forward, there’s been a lot of room for improvement.
It just feels as though a setback is inevitable at this point, because there isn’t a clear plan yet (at least not one that has been shared publicly), and training camps usually start roughly a month before the season. Right now, we don’t have any training camps going, and no teams have mentioned them starting anytime soon. Including our New Jersey Devils.
The Devils, for the organization’s part, have done their best to stay active on social media and to provide fresh content to their fans. While a lot of it has been related to past Devils teams, it makes sense due to their being no tangible evidence of a season (or even pre-season) start date. The only news we have that seems to indicate training camps and a season could be upon us is Jesper Boqvist being recalled from his loan.
In terms of actual hockey updates since then, however, the Devils have gone quiet too. MacKenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt are seemingly important pieces of the team’s future, yet Tuesday will mark the beginning of December and both of these players are still without a contract. While they are restricted free agents, and not really in danger of being lost, it’s surprising that with how few other moves the Devils made, that they didn’t lock up what should be key future pieces within the past month and a half.
While I firmly believe there will be a 2021 season, it’s a matter of this almost radio silence that makes me feel as though there’s going to be a delay. With only 34 more days in this calendar year, there’s still a lot of variables and logistics that have not been addressed in terms of the season itself, let alone all of the usual necessities that take place prior to a season.
And there’s also the matter of safety, which we’ve yet to bring up. In the above article featuring all of the league news, Bruins GM Don Sweeney mentions a possible vaccine, which would be one way to help protect the players. The issue is that timeline is also uncertain, leaving a need for other ways to keep players and staff safe. When the NHL restarted this summer, the players were all brought to two cities to play out the season as we all know. Now teams will be travelling as they did previously (albeit to fewer locations) which could see more potential exposure. Anyone who has followed the NFL or MLB has seen how an outbreak among a team can derail even the best laid plans.
I think the NHL is taking their time here and they’ve purposefully gone dark for a bit in terms of the season start because they’ve seen how other leagues have dealt with these issues. The NHL seemingly prided themselves on how well they tackled a Covid-19 world when they were in the bubble, and I feel they want to be as close to that success as possible with the 2021 season. There’s definitely care being taken; but the lack of transparency for fans is still a bit worrisome, as any uncertainty surrounding what is a favorite sport for many of us usually is.
As per our Devils, if they could go ahead and sign the guys pictured above to new contracts already, yeah, that’d be great. In seriousness, I think the Devils need a solid start date for camp worse than some other teams. Not just because last season was an utter bust, but because there’s so many new parts (including a coaching staff) to be incorporated. The Devils need as much time as possible to see what works and what doesn’t while also again navigating any new protocols for this year. 2021 will be a challenge for sure, but hopefully it will be way better than 2020....both less importantly in terms of the team’s on-ice performance and more importantly in terms of global health and safety.
What are your thoughts on the current lack of news surrounding the 2021 season? Do you think there will be a start date delay or worse? Would you like the Devils to get Bratt and Blackwood under contract ASAP? How important is it for the Devils to get training camp going soon? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!