The concept of "can't" hasn't really applied to the NHL during the COVID-19 pandemic. When faced with adversity, it has shown undeniable and admirable ingenuity.
This is a league that halted its 2019-20 season, restarted it in two Canadian "bubble" cities and rewrote its postseason rules to allow 24 teams to participate while temporarily adding an entirely new round to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is a league that, as an encore, realigned its 31 teams into four new divisions while scrapping conference play in 2020-21. It reduced its regular season to 56 games, changed its schedule to intradivisional play and once again rewrote the rules for its postseason format on a temporary basis.
The NHL doesn't hesitate to shatter traditions to get things done.
Unless that thing is allowing its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing while also finding a way to make up postponed games in the 2021-22 regular-season.
I agree with Brad Marchand: It's beyond frustrating to watch a league that just made stuff up on the fly for two seasons refuse to find solutions in order keep a (CBA-negotiated) Olympic promise to its players.
"The NHL and NHLPA can change the rules of the CBA to add a taxi squad so that they don't miss any games and don't lose any money -- which has already been agreed upon that the players will pay back in escrow until the owners are made whole from what they have lost during this pandemic, regardless of how many games are missed," Marchand, Boston Bruins star and expected Canadian Olympian, wrote on Twitter this week.
"Yet they can't do a taxi squad during the Olympics so they can honor the agreement they made so the NHL players can go [to Beijing]," wrote Marchand. "Please tell me that's not bulls---."
The focus here has been on "taxi squad," but I think that misses his larger point: That the NHL and NHLPA have made several in-season changes to the CBA in a time of pandemic crisis to allow teams to ice competitive teams this season. That includes emergency goalie recalls and emergency player recalls, as long as that player makes under $1 million. That includes the return of taxi squads of reserve players, through at least the NHL All-Star break. Not to mention changes to testing protocols announced this week.
Marchand's "yet they can't do a taxi squads during the Olympics" is shorthand for "yet they couldn't bend the supplemental roster rules so players could go to Beijing while their teams make up postponed games while they're gone?"
Of course they couldn't. Because they didn't have to. Because they wouldn't want to.
But I agree with Marchand: They should have.