I’ve made some pretty wild and outlandish claims in this space before.
Four years ago, I said Ottawa was the worst sports town in Canada.
Three years ago, I predicted the Atlanta Thrashers would win the Stanley Cup.
Two years ago, I said the Pittsburgh Penguins would miss the playoffs. (Thankfully, the only reached the Cup Finals and didn’t win the whole thing. Man, would I have looked stupid if they did).
But today, I am making my most ludicrous statement ever:
It’s officially time for Ottawa Senators fans to start cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the short term, Brian Burke’s bold acquisition of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere is the best thing that could happen to the Senators, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. It’s also the worst thing that could happen to the Bruins as they keep their eye on Toronto’s first-round pick.
Here’s a trivia question for you: When was the last time that a team from the Northeast Division had a pick in the top three in the NHL Entry Draft?
Answer: Ottawa in 2001, when they drafted Jason Spezza
And the only reason Spezza landed in the division was because Marshall Johnston hoodwinked the Islanders in the most lopsided deal since the Alaska Purchase.
You see, by some stroke of fluke, the Northeast has been spared from any major impact players being drafted into the division in the past decade. We don’t have to deal with deadly combinations like Crosby/Malkin or Kane/Toews. Heck, we don’t even have to worry about any Staal brothers because they all play in other divisions.
Ok… actually, it’s not really by a fluke. The secret has been the Maple Leafs “fake” playoff runs. You know the ones I’m talking about. Where they start winning a bunch of games in late February and early March, taking themselves out of the draft lottery, but missing out on the playoffs. Finishing in the 80-90 point range has been the Leafs pattern in every year since the lockout. They are the only team in the Northeast to not win a division title – yet they’ve been unable to land an impact player through the draft.
If you’re a Sens fan, you should be cheering for another “fake” playoff run from Toronto right about now, so that their first round pick (which Boston owns), is devalued from a lottery to a mid-level pick. If the Bruins get their hands on a Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin or a Cam Fowler because the Leafs finish 29th overall, that is bad news for the rest of the division. Boston is a team with a decent core, so adding a blue-chip prospect like that could be dangerous.
If the Leafs had traded their next two first rounders to a team like Nashville or Carolina, I would be all for Sens fans cheering against them. But because this could impact the Sens so closely, I would suggest taking a different approach.
So try and remove that residual anger towards Travis Green and Shayne Corson. Start embracing Alex Ponikarovsky and Nikolai Kulemin. Stand up and clap the next time Rickard Wallin scores a goal… whenever that happens.
And cheer for the Leafs to make a dramatic rise in the standings – no matter how painful it might be.