Inside The Box: Big news day in the NHL as Crawford takes leave of absence, Stars shutdown

Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s brand new daily bulletin, covering all the latest news in the NHL and highlighting the content you need in your lives.

Welcome to Inside The Box! Starting from today, we at Puck Prose will be bringing you our insights and analysis on the latest news and going-ons in the NHL every single day!

It will be a bit of a mixed bag as some days we’ll focus on the hot topics dominating the National Hockey League that day, other days we’ll deal with any breaking news that comes our way and we will also be doing plenty of unique looks into every facet of the game, from five players that stood out the night before to Head Coaches who could be on the hotseat after a rough start and much, much more.

We’ll even answer some questions from you, our loyal readers.

Inside The Box will bring you a little bit of everything every single day.

It has been a busy and significant news day in the NHL with Corey Crawford stepping away from the New Jersey Devils on a temporary basis, while a COVID-19 outbreak has hit the Dallas Stars.

We’re going to delve into the Crawford news first before taking a look at the situation now facing the Stars, and then we’ll highlight a few other notable tidbits happening in the NHL today, in addition to shining a light on our 2020-21 NHL team previews.

But, first, let’s now jump right in and see what is exactly going on with Corey Crawford and the New Jersey Devils…

Corey Crawford (50)

Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Leave of Absence

After missing practice a few days in a row, the good old internet site that is hockey Twitter exploded with all kinds of speculation and rumors pertaining to the whereabouts of Corey Crawford.

Well, today it was announced by the New Jersey Devils that the goaltender had been granted a leave of absence due to personal reasons.

Now, the Devils used the word “indefinite” and it does appear as though they will have to plan for life without their offseason addition for the foreseeable future.

However, one thing we won’t do here is speculate and we can only hope that all is well with Corey and his family because, let’s be honest here, family and health are paramount and especially in the world we live in right now.

It is obviously a blow for the Devils who signed Crawford to a two-year, $7,800,000 contract during Free Agency in the hope that he would form an elite goalie tandem with Mackenzie Blackwood, but that dream will have to be put on the shelf for now.

Blackwood was likely going to be the No. 1 starter for New Jersey in 2020-21 after going 22-14-8 with a 2.77 Goals Against Average and a .915 Save Percentage last year, but the Devils will need to find a new backup to at least start the 2020-21 season.

It is good news, then, that Scott Wedgewood is apparently impressing in Training Camp and the veteran, who hasn’t played in an NHL game since the 2017-18 season and is 7-10-5 in his career with a .903 SV% and a .305 GAA, looks to be the most likely candidate to backup Mackenzie once the puck drops on the 2020-21 season next week.

Whether Wedgewood is needed for the entire season remains to be seen and we will see what unfolds with Corey Crawford, who has dealt with concussion issues throughout his career, and we obviously wish the two-time Stanley Cup champion all the best.

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Here We Go

It was always going to happen and, without going all doom and gloom, get used to it.

What am I talking about? Well, if you’ve been sleeping today, then you would have missed the announcement from the NHL that the Dallas Stars had six players and two staff members test positive for COVID-19.

As a result, their practice facility was swiftly shut down and they will now not begin their 2020-21 season until at least Jan. 19.

The Stars were scheduled to open up against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 15, before playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 17, and Jan. 19, but those games will now be rescheduled in due course.

This grim and alarming news comes on the same day that 19 players, yes 19, did not practice for the Columbus Blue Jackets with those players held out due to “an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.”

Nothing has been said on whether or not the Blue Jackets will still open up the season against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 14, but it is going to be a situation worth keeping an eye on.

So, what does this all mean?

Well, the NHL were prepared for something like this happening, hence why there is some time at the end of the 2020-21 regular season for games to be made up if they need to be, although too many outbreaks and we could have a real problem on our hands.

Today’s turn of events in Dallas shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone though, given what is happening in the wider world right now.

The COVID-19 Pandemic isn’t slowing down, instead it is actually getting worse so positive tests are to be expected in the NHL given that they are no longer operating inside a Bubble.

I mean, the Cleveland Browns will have to play their first Playoff game in 18 long years on Sunday without Head Coach Kevin Stefanski who tested positive for COVID-19, while the NBA has now been engulfed in its own crisis after Seth Curry tested positive for the virus but was on the bench as the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Kevin Stefanski

Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The 76ers are now quarantining and conducting contract tracing in New York City, while Curry is quarantining from his young family and didn’t play in the game so hopefully a huge outbreak was prevented there.

But we saw throughout the MLB season and we’ve witnessed it during this NFL season that positive tests and outbreaks within teams are going to be a daily ritual of life when you aren’t living inside a Bubble.

So, after pulling off the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs inside two Bubble cities with great success, this is a new reality for the NHL and they will have to learn from the likes of the NFL, the NBA and MLB as they go along.

The reality is that, like the other sports leagues, the NHL will continue to march on unless they are faced with several outbreaks across the league but the fact that one team has had to shut everything down already and will now face a delayed start just hammers home the scary reality we are all living in.

And it also takes away some of the shine from the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, which is going to be very weird and fraught with difficulties.

But, buckle up because, without the security of a Bubble, news like this will be frequent throughout 2020-21.

Get Ready for 2020-21

The 2020-21 NHL Season is just days away and we at Puck Prose cannot wait to have actual hockey to dissect and talk about.

And, to get ready for all the action beginning, we have started to preview every single team by looking at the four biggest questions facing each franchise in 2020-21.

You can catch up on all the teams we have covered so far below:

We’ll have a load more up over the weekend too so make sure you keep following us on Twitter to get the latest on your team ahead of the new season!

Henrik Lundqvist (30)

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Three Stars

So, in this section, we’ll take a quick look at three other notable stories dominating the headlines in the NHL on each given day…

  • First Star – We did get some good news today with future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist revealing that he is recovering well after undergoing open-heart surgery earlier this week. The Washington Capitals goalie will miss the entire 2020-21 season after being diagnosed with a heart condition, but it is fantastic news that the former New York Ranger is on the mend and is in good spirits.
  • Second Star – The Buffalo Sabres made a minor move today after signing veteran forward Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $700,000 contract. The 29-year-old will provide the Sabres with some depth after they lost forward Zemgus Girgensons for the season with a hamstring injury.
  • Third Star – Patrice Bergeron was named the new Captain of the Boston Bruins on Thursday, in news that will shock absolutely no one. The veteran center takes over the “C” from Zdeno Chara who signed with the Washington Capitals in Free Agency, and Bergeron isn’t planning on changing his approach to how he conducts his business which, considering everything he has achieved in the game, seems a pretty wise strategy to us.

So, there you have it, that’s the first-ever edition of Inside The Box from Puck Prose, and we’ll be back with more insight from the NHL on Saturday.