I Don't Like Mondays — February 22, 2016
When is a tank not a tank? The Toronto Maple Leafs are about to prove the case as they jettison anyone who might possibly get in the way of them grabbing the top draft pick overall from the clutches of the Edmonton Oilers.
If the Buds can deal captain Dion Phaneuf, then anyone can be traded, right? In case you missed the point, Team Shanahan has now dumped several more of its soldiers on unsuspecting teams the past few days. The lottery system is supposed to prevent teams tanking, but the Leafs act as if they want every ticket in the draw. Look at it this way: If they get the top pick and Steve Stamkos it will be the first things they’ve done right this decade.
Will the Phaneuf to Ottawa deal be the biggest of the silly season known as the trade deadline derby? Or is it just the appetizer to a bigger feast? There is no shortage of possibilities for big deals (although Steve Yzerman says Stamkos is staying put in the 819), but when all is said and done, it’s likely that more will be said than will be done about stars being traded.
That’s because the NHL, in its infinite wisdom, bought into the salary cap python, which squeezes teams into one great meal of mediocrity, never able to break out for greatness or drop too far into incompetence (although Edmonton has made a run at defeating the squeeze). With a postseason berth tantalizingly close, there will be too many owners unwilling to tell season ticket holders that it’s over with six weeks to go.
The middle of the Eastern Conference looks like a juicer just before you press the pulverize button. There’s a little more air in the Western Conference, but that’s only relative to the East. Ten teams still have a reasonable shot at the hockey you won’t see on TSN.
There is one noticeable exception: The four-team ballast at the West’s bottom is the four Canadian teams who should all have the “sell by” prominently displayed. But don’t count on it. They’ll talk about being willing to listen to talk about Andrew Ladd, Jiri Hudler or Jordan Eberle but they’ll attach price tags that would make Milina Trump blush.
That means large passages of ennui from the TV dudes who’ll be doing party games to pass the time next Monday. So if you want a good drinking game next week, just take a drink each time a panelist talks about the effect of the diving Canadian dollar. You’ll be blotto by 11 AM.
NOTE: We’ll have a Tuesday version of I Don’t Like Mondays next week to chart the efforts of the Loonie League in their lamentable effort to have a record zero teams in the postseason.
If the NHL has the President’s Trophy for the team with the best record, shouldn’t it have an award for the team that claims the top draft pick as well? Can just see Gary Bettman stepping up this June to announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, for the fifth time in seven years, the winners of the Edmonton Oilers Prize are the Edmonton Oilers. You’re on the clock.”
Pitchers and catchers have reported to MLB camps. Hosanna. We’re told Gregg Zaun saw his shadow and so summer can’t be more than 20 weeks away in many parts of Blue Jays Nation.
Speaking of baseball, it popularized the idea of the Hall Of Fame back in the 1936. Cooperstown has the most stringent requirements for enshrinement. But lately the traditional Hall of Fame is fraught with more politics than the Republican primaries. PED users, gamblers, liars and outright vendettas reduce the annual induction stream to a trickle. Plus, it helps to be American.
Enter the World Baseball Hall of Fame. Brainchild of Canadian Bruce Prentice (who helped launch the Canadian Baseball hall of Fame) and several more stalwarts, the WBHOF seeks not to replace Cooperstown but to chart a different course. Namely, honouring the global nature of the sport. So in each of its first three years the WBHOF has included inductees from across the breadth of the baseball world
From Babe Ruth to Sadaharu Oh to Ferguson Jenkins the WBHOF choices represent the global span of the game. Plus a little controversy with the addition of Pete Rose in Year One. And this year adding MLB Players Association director Marvin Miller (the man owners loved to hate) as winner of there Alexander Cartwright Award as a builder of the sport.
This year the six inductees answer the same criteria with Ty Cobb (USA), Connie Mack (USA), Fernando Valenzuela (Mexico), Hideki Nomo (Japan), Luis Tiant Jr. (Cuba) and Willie Mays (USA) coming into the Hall. They join the initial 24 names on the WBHOF Facebook site. The hope is to soon have a permanent spot in Hoboken, N.J., Cincinnati, O., or Columbus O. to list the greats of the game.
In addition the WBHOF plans to award the International Player, Pitcher and Management Figure of the year in each season. This year it starts with José Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays winning the inaugural International Player of the Year. Next year they will roll out the International Pitcher of the Year.
Give them a look at their Facebook site as you wait for spring training games to start.
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).