I Don't Like Mondays — December 14, 2015
Last time we peeked into the NHL’s Loonie League, the Canadian version of the Group of Death, the Montreal Canadiens were healthy and the rest of the domestic division was on life support. A month later, it’s the Habs hurting while the Alberta boys are resurgent. Even the Leafs have life.
Without further ado (previous rankings in parentheses)...
- Montreal (1) After being the NHL’s best team much of the first half, the Canadiens are finding the price of living without Carey. OK, shoot me. But after dodging reality the first time their excellent goaltender was hurt, it hasn’t been as nice this injury hiatus juggling Dustin Tokarski and Mike Condon. Montreal’s gone 5-4-1 lately, and the pack in the Eastern Conference is suddenly breathing down the Habs’ necks. Price won’t be back anytime soon, so they’ll need more wins like the clutch win over Ottawa Saturday to keep the ship upright before he returns.
- Ottawa (4) The Senators missed a big opportunity to spike the Habs’ guns at the Bell Centre Saturday, losing 3-1 in a game both teams needed. Ottawa’s offence went dry this past week, culminating in the single goal in Montreal. The Sens remain within the playoff peleton of the East, but the 5-5 record lately shows a team treading water as it heads to the Xmas break. Still, a bunch of the Loonie Leaguers wish they had Ottawa’s problems.
- Winnipeg (2) We have the Jets in the 3 spot despite their statistical tie with Vancouver because, well, see below out comments on the Canucks. As for the Jets, it was always going to be tough sledding in the Central for them. But after their impressive start they’re doing the hokey-pokey since. Left foot in the playoffs, left foot out of the playoffs. Their -9 goal differential says the start was a mirage, and the finish could always be just beyond the postseason horizon.
- Vancouver (4) While the Canucks are tied with Winnipeg and ahead of the Oilers, Flames and Leafs, why does it just feel worse than that? The Sedin twins have been revived this year, but the Nucks defence is decimated after Dan Hamhuis’ gruesome injury added to other dings. Vancouver’s 5-6-3 home record is a real worry, too. This team doesn’t impose itself on anyone. It still feels like a 6th or 7th in the Loonie League come April.
- Calgary (6) Something’s gotten into the two Alberta teams the past while— and it’s not fracking. The Flames ripped off a 7-2-1 streak to get themselves back in the playoff contention, just eight points out of third in the West. Johnny Gaudreau has been Kane-like during this current push, the defence has stiffened and they’ve settled on Karri Ramo in goal. There are signs last year’s chemistry is returning. It better be because…
- Edmonton (5) The Oilers are en fuego as well. Like Calgary, they’ve won five straight. Settling on goalie Anders Nilsson seems to have stabilized this potential-rich, results-challenged squad; he’s given up only 13 goals in those five wins. Wait till Connor McDavid returns from dry dock. The evolution of their defence will still tell the tale in the Oil Patch. The question here is whether management will pull the lever on a trade for a defenceman using Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugest Hopkins as bait.
- Toronto (7) The Leafs remain the tail gunners in the Loonie League. but there are signs Mike Babcock and the Leafs brain trust are having some effect on this squad. They’ve had their best 10-game stretch of the season going 5-4-1, and the maturing of Nazim Khadri is a nice development. Still, the goal here is respectability while maintaining a Top 5 draft pick next year and perhaps (shudder) signing Steve Stamkos as a UFA.
Speaking of which… Like the flu or a particularly virulent strain of athlete’s foot, Stamkos fever breaks out in Leafs Nation. The star forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a Toronto product, obsesses blue-and-white fans. They speculate endlessly on his free-agent status and willingness (insanity?) to sign with their blighted squad.
Occasionally Stamkos drops a hint that he might just go to Toronto, and just as quickly retracts it. Toronto, in the person of TSN and Sportsnet, lose their nut. The chance that any other team might have a say in this burlesque is widely discounted. Stories are done, panels are convened. Gradually sanity is restored. Till the next time it gets boring for the networks.
In a fascinating bit of news, the R&A (Royal & Ancient), the body overseeing golf in the UK, now has a political wing to go with the greens committees and tournament boards. The R&A says it has dropped the historic Turnberry course from its rota of Open Championship sites. Why? Because Donald Trump owns the resort now, and the Donald has been a bad boy.
In one of his periodic fits of bloviation, Trump mused about temporarily banning Muslim immigration to the U.S. till Americans can be assured that the ISIS and Al Qaeda-type operatives who shot up San Bernadino, California, are kept out of the country. There are all sorts of problems with the notion — except that to is motivated by a real fear in the U.S.
So why do the old biscuits at the R&A in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, feel they have oversight here? What does any of this have to do with golf? Nothing, of course. It’s optics, wind therapy for the BBC and the progressive scolds in Britain. Because hollow gestures are so effective in bringing about change.
Now that the R&A has laid down the law against Trump, however, can we be assured they’ll also stop doing business with firms controlled by the Saudi royal family, degenerate sheiks in the rest of the Middle East and various business thugs in South East Asia. No? Oh. They’re okay, because they don’t cause moonbats to phone the R&A to demand when they’re going got do something about an American political issue over which they have no jurisdiction.
I hope it rains ink all four days of on this year’s Championship.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster