Here’s what you need to know about the sports you love for the week of Feb. 15, 2021.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s time for the first quarter report for the 2020-21 season. Here are some good signs and bad omens for each Canadian team, from the basement to the attic.
Hockey pundits predicted the Ottawa Senators would finish in the basement of the Scotia North Division. With a 2-11-1 record to start the season, the Sens are looking up to the basement from that dirt cellar space where your grandfather kept his turnips.
Good signs – The Sens have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, and some kids are already paying dividends. Tim Stützle, the 3rd overall pick of the 2020 draft, is the real deal.
Bad omens – That strong prospect pool needs veteran support, and those added in the off-season are not working out as planned. Braydon Coburn has already been waived while Derek Stepan has asked for a trade.
The most surprising team may be the Vancouver Canucks with a 6-10-0 start to the season. I don’t think they’re making the playoffs.
Good signs – Brock Boeser. That kid is a true offensive weapon.
Bad omens – Elias Pettersson had a slow start and Quinn Hughes is a sieve in his own end. The kids could use help, but even if there were immediate options available, GM Jim Benning doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. The Canucks are in cap hell.
With a 6-5-1 start to the season, the Calgary Flames look like they will compete for the final playoff spot in the North.
Good signs – While they started slow, the Flames have been improving with each game. Sam Bennett, he of the early season trade request, has settled in on the first line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Monahan.
Bad omens – Consistency is this team’s biggest issue, and that last spot for the playoffs will be a toss up between two or three teams.
The Edmonton Oilers are the tragedy of the NHL. They own the best centre tandem in the league, in their prime, and four GMs have not been able to build a team around them. They opened the season with an 8-7-0 record and will battle for the 4th playoff spot in the division.
Good signs – Jesse Puljujarvi is settling back in and Kailer Yamamoto picked up where he left off. The big three – Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – are still carrying the team offensively.
Bad omens – The Oilers D was never a juggernaut but losing Oscar Klefbom for the season created a giant hole in front of the weakest goalie tandem in the North. An injury to Mike Smith left Mikko Koskinen carrying a bigger load than he’s built for.
Despite their fair share of distractions, the Winnipeg Jets are off to a 7-4-1 start.
Good signs – After all the jigs and reels, the Jets have a fantastic punch down the middle of the ice. Nicolaj Ehlers has had a brilliant start and is making up for points lost with Patrik Laine’s departure.
Bad omens – The Jets may have the best goalie in Canada in Connor Hellebyck, but that D group has more gaps than a lobster pot.
With and 8-3-2 record to start season, the Montreal Canadiens are the most improved team in the division. I expect them to compete with the Jets for 2nd place in the North.
Good signs – Everything Bergevin is coming up roses. Forward additions Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson lead the team in goals. Jake Allen has four wins as back-up. The kids – Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans and Alexander Romanov – are filling big roles. Corey Perry has proven useful from the taxi squad.
Bad omens – The Habs usually start well – even bad Habs teams. They were less than dominant in their first 2-game series against the Ottawa Senators, which ended up giving fans the fits. Questions also surround veterans in contract years who find their roles changing.
At the top of the North Division are the Toronto Maple Leafs with an 11-2-1 record. The Leafs are favourites to win the division.
Good signs – The mustache may be creepier than a leech in your drawers, but it’s hard to criticize the start from Auston Matthews. That, combined with the strength of their power play, has the Leafs expecting to win every night.
Bad omens – They’ve already experienced several significant injuries with few options to replace from within. The Leafs cap situation is tighter than a frog’s arse, which we all know is waterproof.
After a tough start to the season, the Raptors are 12-13 and in the thick of the playoff hunt. It’s been a while since they’ve had to sneak in the back door, but this season they’ll take any door to the post-season. In the coming weeks management will need to decide if they can afford to be buyers at the trade deadline.
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays are due to open spring training on February 18th. Dunedin, Florida is the home of their spring training facility and players are gradually making their way there. Significant questions remain about where they will begin their regular season. With the Canadian border closed to international travel, it is doubtful the Jays will be able to play their home games in Toronto.
Funny isn’t it? The Jays want to stay home and the rest of us are scratching to get out.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly for hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.