UPDATE: Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for the coronavirus. The original article is below.
Recently, I wrote a post about the Washington Wizards’ estimated team valuation in the NBA. In the comments of that post, some of you mentioned that principal owner Ted Leonsis may be spread thin because he also owns the Washington Capitals NHL team.
As you all know, Washington is a hockey town during the winter because they won an NHL Stanley Cup in 2018 and have been perennial title contenders for a decade. That’s even though I noted that the Wizards are still the most valuable team within Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s portfolio, and even if the D.C. area has a great base of youth basketball talent.
Though the Capitals and Wizards are in different leagues and practice in different facilities, both teams have been hit hard by the coronavirus, or at least the rules to limit the spread. The Wizards are missing at least six games due to an outbreak that started last week.
The Capitals have also learned things the hard way when players don’t wear face masks when around each other. On Wednesday, the NHL fined the team $100,000 for breaking protocol after several players were found to be socializing, not social distancing and not wearing masks.
In a statement later on Wednesday evening, the Capitals acknowledged that several players were not in a team-approved area of a hotel while on a road trip, presumably between Jan. 17 and Jan. 19 when they played the Pittsburgh Penguins in back-to-back losses (though in a shootout and overtime, respectively) to one of their arch rivals. In addition, team captain Alex Ovechkin acknowledged that he was one of four players reported to be responsible for the incident.
The other players were Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov, according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin (!), Ilya Samsonov of @Capitals are all on the NHL "COVID Protocol Related Absences" list. Wow.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 21, 2021
Ultimately, all four Caps players are out and cannot practice due to the NHL’s coronavirus protocols. It’s unclear how long they will be out assuming they don’t test positive, which Greg Young of Japers’ Rink noted yesterday.
What can the Wizards and/or the NBA take away from the NHL and the Capitals?
To me, I think it’s just a bad coincidence that the Wizards AND Capitals have multiple players under coronavirus protocols at the same time. The main difference is that the Wizards have worn the masks at all times when they aren’t playing and haven’t broken NBA protocols while the Capitals have broken NHL protocols.
But I think the NHL has something the NBA didn’t consider before the season: a multi-player practice squad. NHL teams can have four to six players on a “taxi squad” just in case a team is short handed due to the coronavirus or other matters. These players still practice and travel with the regular roster.
The NBA currently allows all two-way contract players to be on their NBA teams as opposed to a G-League affiliate for up to 50 games this season so they sort of have a taxi squad built in. But as we learned in the Wizards’ situation, two or perhaps even three two-way players may not be enough to replace players who get the coronavirus or are under protocols. That said, perhaps NBA teams should have a “taxi squad” that doesn’t travel with the team UNLESS players get injured or get the coronavirus, etc.
Basketball isn’t the same as hockey, but the main takeaway I’ve received from the teams’ situations is that it’s impossible to have a normal season of NHL hockey or NBA basketball during a deadly pandemic in the winter.
And if there is nothing else the Wizards can take away from the Capitals from a roster point of view, they can look at their NHL brother team as an example of what NOT to do during this pandemic. So wear the masks, social distance and stay in your own hotel rooms.