I Don't Like Mondays — September 28, 2015
The NHL season opens within the week. How you feel about that probablyreflects how much you’re into the Toronto Blue Jays’ voodoo. If you wouldn’t mind the NHL delaying a couple of week, you’re probably a Josh Donaldson fan. If you want the puck brigade to start yesterday, you probably believe baseball is for losers.
For those with Zamboni dreams, let’s do our first flood of the year. NHL teams will be rated weekly throughout the endless slog of this season. Just because Gary Bettman thinks that Canadian teams belong in different divisions doesn’t mean that IDLM gives a woo-hah. We’re going to make it our solemn duty to follow the seven NHL teams in their own grouping this season. Even though none ranks in the Top 7 of the league.
Injuries and unnatural disasters at Canada Customs can always change things. But for now, here’s our preseason look at the Loonie League.
- Calgary. This will be controversial for analytics fans. The Flames’ tepid puck possession numbers last year defied their fine finish. But we have Calgary winning the Loonie because— as Chicago showed— defence is everything. You can win with an average goalie— which is what the Flames have. But if you can play T.J. Brodie on your third defence pairing you are going to be tough to beat. With a full year of Sam Bennett joining Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames should have enough offence to return to the postseason in the weak Loonie.
- Montreal: The Habs added prayers like Zack Kassian for grit and Alex Senmin for more skill. Good luck with that. Any team boasting Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Alex Galchenyuk and new captain Max Pacioretty is a contender, but Michel Therrien’s straight-jacket philosophy will again create boredom and frustration in the hotbed of Quebec. If they could only beat the Leafs more often… Safe pick, but the Habs lack the Flames’ defensive depth.
- Winnipeg: Tough Central division for the Peggers. But with skilled youngsters like Mark Schiefele, Nik Ehlers, Adam Lowry and Jacob Trouba coming onstream the Jets have the potential to make a big leap. Dumping talented but erratic Evander Kane is a plus for a team that has become tight. If Michael Hutchinson was a one-year wonder goaltending will again be a question mark. But hey, Chicago won the Cup with Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi. The Jets won’t surprise anyone, but if you can make it playing in the Central you can win the Loonie.
- Ottawa: The Senators were the hottest team at the end of the NHL schedule last year but lost to Montreal in the playoffs. Can they keep it going? The Sens made no significant additions in the summer, hoping that internal additions will keep the ball rolling. Much will ride on young players like Michael Stone repeating the second time around the league. There’s not a ton of depth here. If the Sens stay healthy they could make a run at Loonie leadership. GM Bryan Murray’s health issues could be a rallying point.
- Edmonton: Everyone sees the Oilers’ fixes in management and on the ice as the impetus for a leap in the Loonie. Connor McDavid joins a team of underachieving top picks, the latest rainmaker in a city that’s seen no sunshine in a long while. There’s still much potential. Can McDavid and coach Todd MacLellan turn it into production? The largest measure of variability in the Canadian pack.
- Vancouver: The Canucks finally are accepting the transition that got Mike Gillis fired when he recommended it two years ago. Ex-Bruin suit Jim Benning has been loading up on sluggos like Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett to transition to younger players like Bo Horvat. But none can hold a candle to the Oilers talent. The Canucks are a mess wrapped in a dilemma enclosed in a riddle. It’ll be a long time before the Nucks threaten, even in the mediocre Loonie.
- Toronto: Wait until next year. Or the year after that. Or pray that Steve Stamkos loses his mind and signs in Toronto next summer. Just don’t watch too closely this year as the hydra-headed management college of egos fights for Brendan Shanahan’s favour. How ‘bout those Raptors?
The CFL said many things in its acknowledgement that referees totally screwed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday with an incorrect call. With the Bombers driving for a tying FG or winning TD, they were called for illegal procedure for not having a proper formation. Or something like that.
As Donald Trump likes to say: Whatever. The call robbed the Bombers of a chance to pull out a game against a staggering Stampeders team in the final moments. Instead Calgary won, solidifying its hold on first in the West. . The one thing the CFL did not say in its news bulletin was “Sorry, Winnipeg”.
Not that it likely would matter in the Peg. That’s just how the CFL rolls.
Forget NFL elimination pools. We need to start an NFL QB Survivor Pool. The winner has the last starter in the NFL still standing. Sunday saw Ben Roethlisberger hit the deck for six to eight weeks. Big Ben joins a platoon of QBs either injured or benched after just three weeks. Saints QB Drew Brees and Lions QB Matthew Stafford both seem just one hit away from a trip to IR as well.
A look at the backups in the NFL reveals a shocking lack of depth. When Brandon Weedon is at the head of the pack of sub QBs, you know you’ve got a problem, Houston. And Cleveland. And Buffalo… It’s not likely to improve with salary-cap crunches caused by massive deals to starters and the desire to sacrifice a third roster QB to another position,
The onslaught comes at a bad time for the NFL because U.S. colleges are not turning out pro style quarterbacks. The spread and read-option game of the NCAA is not favoured by the pro coaches who favour conventional offensive models. Guys six-three or six-four with the big gun who can take a pounding.
Personally we’re putting our pool money on Jameis Winston. Just because. And the crab legs.
While IDLM rarely touches on the subject of the other football, at the urging of one of my fellow writers, it has come to my attention that people actually watch the sport in North America.
While we all worry about the state of QB's in this continent's most popular sport, news coming out of Spain is that the world's best player, Lionel Messi, screwed up his leg. He's out 7-8 weeks.
There, I covered soccer.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy #IDontLikeMondays