I Don't Like Mondays — January 25, 2016
There are a few new governments in Canada that must be wondering what they did to deserve coming to office at precisely the moment when the economy dropped like Ronda Rousey taking a spinning kick from Holly Holmes. The loonie’s at 70 cents, oil is scraping by at $30 a barrel and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre picked a fight with the West over pipelines.
Canadian hockey teams are paying salaries in U.S. dollars while making their ticket revenue in Canadian dollars. That’s not a reason why the Loonie League has collapsed, but it’s a nice metaphor for the abject state of the seven NHL clubs based in Trudeaupia. Going into play Sunday, not one of the domestic teams is in a playoff position. None.
There are many reasons, but even in a league known for enforced parity, the Loonies are just not good enough. Some are re-building, others are trying to hang on, and others are dealing with injury issues. But they are all simply not good enough at this moment. Let’s take a detailed look at how they rate.
1. (1) Montreal 24-20-4: The collapse of the Habs from best in the league to out of the playoffs is stunning. The Habs problems start with the absence of all-world goalie Carey Price, injured much of the season. For a team that needs to play 2-1 games, it takes impeccable goaltending to survive. Montreal’s goalie replacements have been acceptable. What has really happened to the dropping Habs is that the offence, with the exception of Max Pacioretty, has gone drier than the Gobi desert.
Everyone in Montreal wants to fire coach Michel Therrien, the cold technocrat, in place of someone more entertaining behind the bench. But GM Marc Bergevin has assembled a bag of hammers for his coach, a thin mixture of small skilled guys and pluggers who can’t supply secondary scoring. Who can do better with that?
And this is the Loonie League’s leading light. Tabernacle.
2. (2) Ottawa 23-20-6 In the land of the blind a one-eyed man can be king. So it is the Sens are second in the Loonie League. Despite a mediocre 5-5 mark in the past ten games and a -15 goal differential on the season, the Sens are just three out of a playoff post in the Leastern Conference. As always they’ll go only as far as Erik Karlsson and their corps of young forwards take them. But first they have to improve on the second-worst goals against in the East.
3. (4) Vancouver 20-18-11 We at IDLM keep waiting for the Canucks to keel over. While they’re looking from outside the playoff tent in the West, it could be a lot worse. Especially with Henrik Sedin hurt. But they do just enough with their hybrid mix of 2011 leftovers and newcomers to out- perform the expectations. They’ll still push for third in the Pacific, but Arizona and San Jose show no signs of backing up. A team in search of an identity.
4. (3) Winnipeg 21-24-3 This lowly position has to be a bitter pill for the Jets and their fans, who expected a real run at a postseason berth. But the Jets can’t score enough or sufficiently dominate home ice. While they’ve played two more games than Calgary and have the same points we’ve given them the higher rating for playing in Murderers Row, aka the Central. Like most of the Loonie’s lower tier it looks like “wait until next year” as they dangle Dustin Byfuglien and others for futures.
5. (5) Calgary 21-22-4 Despite a band of glittering young stars like Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, the Flames just don’t score enough to overcome their defence — third most porous in the West. Calgary rarely gets blown out, but can’t summon enough of last year’s magic to overtake the 11 teams above them. Their lousy road record doesn’t help either. Trailing a playoff spot by six points, it’s time the Flames brass began looking to next year — and that means peddling some assets at the trade deadline. It’s a re-trenchment year for the Flames and a Top 5 draft pick would be worth a postseason miss this year.
6. (7) Toronto 17-20-9 Perhaps only the Leafs expected their season to go this way as Mike Babcock installed his system and the club waited on a decision from Steve Stamkos. After an impressive spurt in December, Toronto is back to an uninspired 3-5-2 in their past 10. Experts think only a handful of the current players will even be in place in two years, but there have been enough flashes under Babcock to give hope. Watch how Lou Lamoriello wheels at the deadline.
7. (6) Edmonton 19-26-5 Year One of the Connor McDavid era has been a lot like Year One of the eras of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Eliminated from the playoffs weeks before the pack. They play an entertaining style, but can’t go head-to-head with the big boys. It’s hard to swallow the Oil in line for another overall No. 1 draft pick, but there’s optimism with a healthy McDavid next year and the new management team maybe making some clever moves at the deadline and the draft.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).