In some relevant news that Hasan hinted at without mentioning the name of the Devils’ player, Mackenzie Blackwood has confirmed that he’s not yet vaccinated.
When asked by Devils reporters why he hasn’t been vaxxed, Blackwood said, “I have a couple of health concerns, health reasons why I’m working through it a little slower. I have a couple of boxes I want to check off and not rush to do it.”
In February when the Devils had an outbreak of positives for COVID-19, Blackwood was among the list of players who missed time. Following a win at the Rangers on Jan. 19, he didn’t start again until nearly a month later at the Rangers on Feb. 16. Also a win.
The 24-year old is expected to be the starting goalie for the Devils like the shortened ’21 season. In his third year, Blackwood appeared in 35 games (all starts) going 14-17-4 with a 3.04 goals against average (GAA) and .902 save percentage. Thus far over his three-year NHL career, the former Devils ’15 second round pick has won 46 games while posting a 2.83 GAA, .911 save percentage and six shutouts.
Signed for two more years for an average cap hit of $2.8 million through 2023, Blackwood still has time to get vaccinated. However, as Hasan noted, the state of New Jersey hasn’t mandated the vaccine. How that relates to the Devils I don’t know. I would imagine they want all of their players fully vaxxed.
We’ve already seen a few players and coaches who didn’t get the shot, unable to participate in training camp for other teams and the upcoming ’21-22 NHL season. So, it’s an issue. We’ll see what the Devils decide to do. At least Blackwood wasn’t banished like Islanders prospect Bode Wilde was by Lou Lamoriello, who assigned him to a second tier Swedish League.
In regards to what Blackwood said, I don’t have a problem with his reasons for being hesitant to get the vaccine. If a person cites health considerations, that’s a valid concern. We don’t know if he has a preexisting medical condition that has been discussed with his doctor or the team doctor. However, I’d imagine those answers are coming.
Should Blackwood get it? Probably. He’s going to be around a lot of people. If you play a sport, you’re at a higher risk of testing positive. Something we saw during last season. We know that even if players and coaches are fully vaxxed, they can still get Covid. However, the cases aren’t as bad. I can’t think of one in a professional sport that wasn’t asymptomatic.
There’s a reason each league have Health and Safety Protocols. To make sure each player quarantines, doesn’t come into contact with anyone and tests negative before being medically cleared. That is smart. Especially with how things now are.
Hopefully, things will go smoother in ’21-22. Don’t forget it’s a full 82-game schedule. I hope there won’t be any postponements that have to be rescheduled. Especially in a potential Olympic year. What they decide won’t be known until next year. There are so many factors that must be considered around the world.
Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald was smart by signing veteran Jonathan Bernier in the off-season to upgrade the backup goalie. He’s being paid $4.125 million AAV over two seasons. So, at least they have a capable netminder to fill in when Blackwood can’t play.
The Devils have been holding player scrimmages at training camp. They will play their first preseason game tomorrow night. They’ll take on the Capitals in Washington DC before returning to Newark to host the Rangers on Friday. In total, they have six exhibition games with the final one concluding against the Islanders at home on October 7. The season opener isn’t until Oct. 15 against the Blackhawks at The Prudential Center.
I’d imagine Hasan will have more on this story. Plus the team.