By Lori Bennett
‘Tis the season, and NHL teams have already sent their letters to Santa Claus.
Père Noël makes his first stop in Montreal, and the Canadiens are wishing for another lottery win. This young team is competitive every night, and that means they are too high in the standings to land a top pick, and too low in the standings to take the playoffs seriously. Continuing a fun developmental season that ends with a lottery win would certainly bring Joy to the World and, since they also own Florida’s first rounder, they will have two chances to have their name called.
The Ottawa Senators were tempted to ask for a veteran defenseman, but chose to play the long game and have asked for a new owner that wants to bring a winning team to the National Capital Region. Former owner, Eugene Melnyk, who passed away in March, was known for being a tad frugal, so the Sens have a big spender on their wish list.
Kris Kringle has heard from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they had a couple of items on their wish list. The first wish was that Mitch Marner’s point streak, at 23 games as of press deadline, will continue until the Leafs win a cup, which brings us to the second wish. GM Kyle Dubas asked Santa for success in at least the first round of the playoffs this Spring.
The Winnipeg Jets asked Santa for some players who fall in love with Winnipeg and stick around to support Rick Bowness in getting the team sorted. The chilly Manitoban capital is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the fan love in Winnie is real. Perhaps Jolly Old St. Nick can sway Pierre-Luc Dubois to commit long term to the Jets.
Santa Claus received an odd request from the Edmonton Oilers. It was the only letter that Santa received from an NHL team that did not include the signature of the GM. Connor McDavid penned the Oilers letter and it included one wish. McDavid asked Santa to respond to any letter from GM Ken Holland with a confirmation that it is indeed time to go all in.
In Calgary, the top Christmas wish is for chemistry, for Santa to bring that special ingredient that will bring all its great parts, several of which were acquired this past summer, into a unified team that consistently performs up to potential. The Flames are also asking Santa for a Jacob Markstrom resurgence.
The Vancouver Canucks have asked Santa to deliver trade partners. Brock Boeser and his large contract have been on the market for some time and his agent has recently gotten involved in the shopping. So far, the Canucks have not found a taker for Boeser.
This week news broke that the final offer to Captain Bo Horvat was rejected by the player. The pending unrestricted free agent will almost certainly be dealt before the trade deadline.
Nonetheless, Vancouver has not fully committed to a rebuild, so they’re asking Santa for trade partners willing to send back pieces to help them compete.
The latest chapter of the Hockey Canada saga dropped this week with the release of the names of candidates who are expected to form the new board of directors. Members were due to hold a vote on Saturday, expected to be somewhat of a formality, after the search committee supplied the list of nominees following a reportedly exhaustive process.
Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Olympic Gold Medalist and Sportsnet broadcaster, is the most familiar name on an impressive list that includes five women and four men. A retired judge from the Ontario Court of Justice, Hugh Fraser, has been nominated for the position of board chair. Marian Jacko, who is from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and is the former Children’s Lawyer for Ontario, is another noteworthy nominee. The entire group of nominees includes legal, communications and media executives.
This impressive list is the gift Canadian hockey fans needed heading into the IIHF World Junior Championship, a beloved Canadian Christmas tradition.
Blue Jays Babble
Christmas came early for the Toronto Blue Jays as GM Ross Atkins dipped into free agency this past week.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, news broke that the Jays had signed centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier to a deal pending a physical. The 32-year-old is a three-time Gold Glove winner with the Tampa Bay Rays who is known for his defensive game more than his bat. Kiermaier is a left-handed batter, one of the targets for the Jays heading into the off-season. He has had some injury issues, which explains the deal being contingent on a clear physical.
Then on Monday the Blue Jays added a starting pitcher. Right-hander Chris Bassitt is known for his consistency, a variety of pitches, and the ability to force batters into ground balls. He is expected to join a rotation that includes Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios. Atkins may look for another late-rotation starter or hope for a rebound year from Yusei Kikuchi.
Atkins is not done, and another present may still arrive ahead of the man with the bag.