Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love!
The dust has settled following the NHL trade deadline. Players have made their way to their new teams and rosters are being solidified to finish the season and get ready for the playoffs. Teams have played 75 per cent of their games, so it’s time for another quarterly review. This one comes through the lens of how Canadian teams fared at the trade deadline and where that leaves them at the end of the third quarter.
Three teams were sellers in the North. Securely stowed in the basement like your Christmas tree tinsel from 1985, the Ottawa Senators have been sellers since the puck dropped in January. They traded three depth defencemen. Braydon Coburn went to the New York Islanders for a 7th, Mike Reilly to the Boston Bruins for a 3rd, and Erik Gudbranson to the Nashville Predators for Brandon Fortunato and a 7th.
The Vancouver Canucks have been wrecked by Covid-19, and their standing in the division is blurred by delayed games. They were also sellers and made three minor deals. Two of those were with the Chicago Blackhawks, exchanging Adam Gaudette for Matthew Highmore, and then sending a 4th to Chicago for Madison Bowey and a 5th. Just before the bell rang, they sent Jordie Benn to the Winnipeg Jets for a late pick.
The Calgary Flames are currently in fifth place and would have an uphill battle to make the playoffs. They made two significant sales. They sent goaltender David Rittich to Toronto for a 2022 3rd round pick, and finally moved on from Sam Bennett, dealing him and a late pick to Florida for Emil Heineman and a 2nd. Hard to imagine they recruited Darryl Sutter from his barn for this.
The Montreal Canadiens, currently in 4th place in the North division, are going into the playoffs arse first – you can almost hear the warning beeps like a dump truck in reverse. The Habs made two deals for depth defencemen, adding John Merrill from Detroit for prospect Hayden Verbeek and a 5th round pick, and Erik Gustafsson from Philadelphia for a 7th. These moves followed their earlier acquisition of Eric Staal from Buffalo.
The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets are neck and neck for 2nd and 3rd place in the North division. Both teams had a quiet deadline, each adding a depth defenceman. The Oilers added Dmitry Kulikov from the Devils for a 4th round pick and, as already noted, the Jets acquired Jordie Benn from Vancouver for a 7th. Neither of these moves should be considered a GM vote of confidence.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in first place in the North, and they treated the deadline like they are the favourite to come out of the division as legitimate cup contenders. The Leafs made multiple moves, including the trade with Calgary for goalie depth. The biggest fish landed was in a 3-way deal with Columbus and San Jose, where the Leafs walked away with Nick Foligno and Stefan Noesen, giving up a 1st round pick and two 4th rounders. They also landed depth defenceman Ben Hutton from the Anaheim Ducks for a 5th and Riley Nash from Columbus for a 7th.
So, with three-quarters of the season in the history books, the first round of the playoffs is shaping up to be Jets versus Oilers and Habs versus Leafs. It’s been long enough since we’ve seen that match up that you might want to rustle up a Dominion Ale or a Black Horse for old time’s sake.
The Leafs are the favourites to win the North division and move on to the final four. Won’t it be tragic if this is the season the Toronto Maple Leafs finally win the Stanley Cup and are limited to a virtual parade?
A couple of other deadline deals were noteworthy. The Tampa Bay Lightning, already Cup favourites, won the David Savard sweepstakes in another three-team deal that saw Tampa give 1st and 4th rounders to Columbus for the player and a 4th to Detroit to eat some salary. The Boston Bruins landed Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres for Anders Bjork and a 2nd round pick.
The deal I loved, and I must say envied for my Habs, was the buzzer beater that saw the Washington Capitals add power forward Anthony Mantha from Detroit for 1st and 2nd rounders along with Richard Panik and Jakub Vranek. That’s a bit of a ninja move from Caps GM Brian MacLellan.
The Toronto Raptors continue to hold position outside of a play-in spot. Focus in Toronto is shifting to the draft, and how they may handle their post-season. The Raptors have seen their performance plummet due to injuries, but at this stage it’s hardly worth it to burn more than is in your tank.
Blue Jays Babble
It’s very early in the season, but the Boston Red Sox are out to an early lead in the American League East standings. The other four teams, which include the Jays, Yankees, Orioles and Rays, are neck to neck to neck to neck.
If the Jays can ever get their pitching staff healthy, they’re going to give us a fun season to watch. Lord knows we’ve earned it this year.
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 about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs