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Not Done Yet

As if we needed more reminders of how COVID has turned our lives upside down and that we’re not close to being done with it yet, we got some when Edmonton Oilers’ GM Ken Holland made himself available to reporters this morning as the team’s 2021 main training camp opened.

What we found out from Holland is goaltender Alex Stalock will likely miss the season because of a heart condition – myocarditis — related to getting COVID before last season. After being medically cleared at the time, Stalock did a two-week quarantine. He then spent the 2020-21 campaign on the taxi squad. “I don’t anticipate that he’ll play hockey this year,” Holland said.

Aside from the news about Stalock, Holland revealed during his news conference the Oilers have one unvaccinated player — he later identified the player as Josh Archibald. Holland said Archibald could miss 30 games because of quarantine requirements in place for crossing the Canadian/U.S. border. As an aside, that 30-game estimate looks pretty conservative.

The news about Stalock and Archibald came on the heels of the revelation veteran defenceman Duncan Keith is in quarantine after getting vaccinated and will miss the first week of his first camp with the Oilers. According to Holland, it took Keith some time to decide to get vaccinated, thus his quarantine will take him to next Friday.

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WHAT HE SAID

“It’s been an easy decision for some, and it’s been a difficult decision for some,” Holland said of Keith. “It was a difficult decision for Duncan . . . he eventually made the decision to get vaccinated. He’s now in quarantine. He’ll be here next Friday.

“I have no concerns. I expressed that to him. I totally support him. Would I wish he made the decision two months ago and we weren’t going through this? No, but I respect it was a very, very difficult decision . . . ideally, would we like to have him out there? Yeah, I wish it were a perfect world. It’s not a perfect world. There are no perfect people. There are no perfect decisions. I’m happy he made the decision. I support the decision. I look forward to seeing him here.”

As for Archibald, Holland said:

“I would anticipate that we’ll have one player that’s unvaccinated. I’ve talked to him a few times. I’m not sure where he’s at. I’ve got to talk to him here in the next day or so, but I would anticipate that possibly one player would be unvaccinated.

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“There’s a team or two out there that have made a decision that unvaccinated players are not welcome at training camp. I have not made that decision as of this time because I think the player is going through a process to decide because it’s a difficult decision, so I want to give the person the appropriate time.”

Simply put, the challenge for Holland and coach Dave Tippett isn’t just the 30-or-more games Archibald would miss because of quarantine, it’s the constant juggling of the roster that would be required. “Obviously, it’s going to be very difficult,” Holland said.

THE BOTTOM LINE

To understate in the extreme, the circumstances Holland talked about this morning are less than ideal with on-ice sessions yet to begin. They are yet another reminder, as if we need one, we’re not finished with COVID yet. What happens inside the rink is simply a reflection of what’s going on outside it.

The important matter at this point regarding what Holland told us is the long-term health of Stalock. After that, here’s hoping we can get back to debating line combinations and defence pairings, who belongs where, who looks good and who doesn’t. That’s what training camp is supposed to be about. 

Previously by Robin Brownlee