Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love.
Last Sunday, Patrick Kane made the highlight reels when he scored his 400th NHL goal. Kane was drafted 1st overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007 and joined the team for the 2007-08 season. He scored 72 points in his rookie year and received the Calder Memorial Trophy awarded to rookie of the year.
Kane has been consistently dominant for Chicago. He has Hart, Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophies to his credit, and was vital to three Stanley Cup winning teams. He was also a Silver Medalist in the 2010 Olympic games.
Kane is one of those athletes whose personal life casts a long shadow over professional accomplishments. But there is no doubting the impact he has had on the Blackhawks franchise, and he is evidence of how a team can draft their way out of ugly. Chicago’s window is closing now, but Kane continues to be a force.
Speaking of drafting their way out of ugly, that’s what the Buffalo Sabres have been trying to do since they drafted Jack Eichel 2nd overall in 2015. Despite adding talents that include Jack Quinn, Dylan Cozens and Rasmus Dahlin, the Sabres are in the basement of the East division. That’s not sitting well with Eichel, who is as contented as a cat in a jacuzzi.
The rumour sharks can smell blood in the water, and there is much speculation about whether Eichel could end the season in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, or… What about Canadian teams? Both Ottawa and Montreal are teams rich in trade chips that can hardly be considered established at the centre position.
Speaking of rumour sharks, we are five weeks away from the NHL trade deadline and the rumour mill is warming up. Losing teams are considering who they can move to improve for the future. The Nashville Predators have already established their clearance section, and it includes guys like Mattias Ekholm and Mikael Granlund. The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly ready to listen to offers on Filip Forsberg and Hampus Lindholm.
Players who signed one-year deals in the off-season – guys like Taylor Hall and Bobby Ryan – are googling moving companies.
I’ll be watching GM Jim Benning and how he handles the deadline in Vancouver. It’s looking like playoffs will be off the table for the Canucks, and several bad contracts are shining an uncomfortable spotlight on Benning. If he’s still employed on trade deadline day he may be wheeling and dealing to try and keep his job, and that could be entertaining.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be paying attention to who may have a goalie they can add for a playoff run. Would Ryan Miller in Anaheim or Pekka Rinne in Nashville appeal to the Leafs as a veteran option behind Andersen? Or is the plan to ride Freddie like a rented mule?
Speaking of goalies, on Tuesday during the second intermission of the Habs and Sens game, the Montreal Canadiens fired goaltending coach Stéphane Waite. In Habs circles we call this The Cammalleri, calling to mind the night of January 12, 2012 when Michael Cammalleri was traded in the middle of a game.
In most markets, this news would be as exciting as an episode of The Littlest Hobo. But this is hockey-crazed Montreal where expectations are high, and the team has been under-performing. That includes their $10.5 million goalie, Carey Price, whose performance has seen dramatic peaks and valleys in recent years. Sean Burke has been named the Director of Goaltending for the Canadiens and has inherited a big task under bright lights.
The Toronto Raptors experienced their first coronavirus game postponement this week. On Monday night the NBA announced that Tuesday’s game would be tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday night due to positive test results and the necessary subsequent contract tracing. The Raptors had become more consistent in recent weeks and were in a tie for 5th place in the conference when the interruption was announced.
In the meanwhile, The Toronto Star reported this week that Kyle Lowry’s North Toronto home had been sold pending a home inspection and financing. This should not be shocking for fans as Lowry’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season, and the team is unable to play games at home for the rest of the year due to the pandemic. But the development does fuel speculation that Lowry will be moved at the trade deadline.
Blue Jays Babble
Grapefruit League – the name given to exhibition games played by teams who run their spring training in Florida – is underway. The Toronto Blue Jays have started well, but these games are about assessing the roster in a real game situation so that decisions can be made ahead of opening day.
The decisions that remain are significant. The outfield is packed like sardines in a can, while legitimate options for the starting rotation are sparser. But the good news is that Spring training will be followed by Summer ball, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief for that.