I Don't Like Mondays — November 2, 2015
We started off the NHL season by introducing the Loonie League, the bracket of the seven Canadian teams in the league. We’re going to rate them throughout the season relative to each other. Here, at the end of the first month, let’s revisit our first analysis and see who’s up and who’s down. Our first ranking is in parentheses.
- Montreal (2) We knew the Habs would likely be near the top of the domestic product, but I doubt anyone — including the Canadiens themselves — saw the awesome start they’ve laid on the league. It took them ten games to finally lose in Vancouver, a skein that was all regulation wins — a rarity in the shootout era. The most surprising aspect of Montreal’s miracle start (a club record and just one shy of the NHL record for wins at the start of a season) has been the offensive production. With 50 goals in 13 games, they have a staggering +26 goal differential already. Carey Price is out for a week so the Canadiens may plateau. But they showed Winnipeg on Sunday they’re not cooled out yet.
- Winnipeg (3) In the ultra-tough Central Division being fifth sounds worse than it is. But the Jets are just three points off the Division lead, and that’s enough to be elite in the Loonie League. Always a tough out, the Jets’ 15 points on Sunday would have them leading the Pacific and one point back in the Metrosexual Division. Sorry… Metropolitan Division. Then integration of Nik Ehlers and Mark Scheifele continues apace. Goaltending — thought to be a problem — is so far stout. The tallest and heaviest team in the NHL, they couldn’t solve Montreal, however, on Sunday.
- Vancouver (6) We didn’t like the Canucks’ chances longterm — we still don’t— but so far there’s enough left from the Gillis/ Vigneault era tradition to stay ahead of the dross in the Pacific. Best news for the Nucks has been the arrival of youth in the presence of Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton, Jake Virtanen, McCann and now Brendan Gaunce. The key here is the health of the defence, which has depth issues. Hutton has been a godsend. See us in December for a real evaluation here.
- Ottawa (4) Things drop off pretty quickly in the Loonie as Ottawa’s 12 points through Sunday are the best of the rest. With a goal differential of -1 through 11 games, you’re looking atteam trying to find answers without disappearing in the standings. Goaltending is still a riddle, but the youth in Mark Stone and Mika Zibenejad augurs well for a booth in the postseason diner.
- Edmonton (7) Connor McDavid is as advertised, a game changer. But it has so far not translated to the rest of Team Underachiever. There were some nice hints at progress in the comeback against the Habs this past week and the defenestration of the Flames in Calgary. But the last-second loss to Calgary on Saturday was a reminder that coach Todd McLellan has more teaching to do.
- Calgary (1) We loved the Flames defence and youthful scoring before the season. So did a lot of people. Wrong. The win Saturday in Edmonton is the only ray of light in an October of darkness. Goaltending has been a void, offence fitful beyond the first line and defencemen like Dougie Hamilton has been lost much of the time in a new system. The Edmonton win on Saturday briefly cooled the trade/ firing story lines, but expect them to return if things don’t improve drastically. Soon.
- Toronto (7) We said they’d be bad. They are. No one cares this year— except coach Mike Babcock. With the Blue Jays gone now there’s no hiding in Hogtown. Problem is that Anaheim and Columbus are giving them a run in the Abysmal Sweepstakes for the No. 1 draft pick. Proceed with caution.
While we’re making lists, how about 7 penalties the NFL can lose from its bulging rulebook. With games lasting forever due to innumerable penalties, anything that speeds up action should be welcomed. Here we go….
- Covering up eligible receivers: this illegal motion call is supposed to be about identifying eligible receivers. But everyone knows who the receivers are, and if there’s a question they report in to refs. This is the compusory figures of football. Stick it!
- Not Enough Men On Line Of Scrimmage: As above. The defence has no mandatory number of players on the line. Why not the offence? Stick it!
- Ineligible Man Downfield: Who cares if someone who can’t catch is downfield? Offensive coaches don’t want a roadblock so they won’t exploit this. Let the buffalo roam and Stick It!
- Man Not Set Before Snap: Just go CFL with unlimited motion by more than one offensive player. Stick it!
- Using Teammate As Boost On Field Goal: Why? Safety? It’s creative, for the love of Mike. Give me strength. Stick it!
- Can’t Advance A Muffed Punt: Really? You can advance other fumbles. Why not punts? Stick it!
- Any celebration foul: It’s entertainment. It’s fun. If we want sour old men we’ll go to an owners’ meeting. Stick it!
Chris Berman may think that the San Diego Chargers’ powder blues are the classic NFL jerseys of all time. But, like the Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions and the old Houston Oilers, no team wearing a light blue jersey has ever won the Super Bowl. Judging by the travails of the Lions, Titans and Chargers, it’s going to be up to the Panthers to break that schneid. Oh and Boomer… get a haircut, man.
Tiger Woods' former caddy, Steve Williams, has broken his silence on his old boss. Williams professes to be ignorant of his boss’ sexual peccadilloes. But he does bitch that Woods’ habit of tossing clubs at him make the burly New Zealander feel like “a slave”. A slave who made over $10 million on Tiger’s bag. No doubt the slave remark will go entirely unnoticed.
Williams also said Woods had a bad temper and left big loogies on the green when he missed a putt. Somehow I don’t think Steve Spielberg will be making a golfing Amistad anytime soon about Williams’ bondage and spit control.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster