What does the upcoming season have in store for Canada’s NHL clubs? Let’s take a look.
This season marks the 23rd anniversary of Montreal’s last Cup win, which doesn’t sound like an important milestone, but dammit, they’re the Canadiens, so they’ll find a way to celebrate it with a trilogy of four-hour pre-game ceremonies. Any car designed by the Habs would be all rear-view mirror.
The Cup drought won’t end this season—not when Montreal’s off-season masterstroke was signing Alex Semin to a one-year contract. Yes, that Alex Semin: the guy who backchecks so infrequently that he’s technically a member of One Direction. On the positive side, Semin is likely to lead the league once again in a number of advanced stats, including unforced naps and shrug percentage.
It’s so great to see the people of Edmonton experiencing the sensation of genuine hope. It’s like watching a puppy touch snow for the first time or Don Cherry reach the end of one sentence before he starts the next one. So rare and magical.
Don’t let the dream die, Edmontonianites! Continue to imagine the possibilities: The new coach and GM will work wonders! Connor McDavid will score 100 points! The defence will consist of something other than six strategically placed pylons!
We do have one problem—McDavid’s nickname. There’s been no consensus. So far he’s been called “The Next One,” “The Anointed One,” “Big Mac” and “McSaviour,” among others. These are all terrible. Anyone in Edmonton who refers to McDavid as Big Mac should be banished to the most remote, unforgiving outpost in all of professional sport and—oh, right.
Let’s look to the NFL for inspiration. Recently on Monday Night Football, Trent Dilfer called Anquan Boldin the “Ultimate Chain Mover Point Scorer.” So let’s agree to henceforth refer to McDavid as “The Ultimate Puck Mover Goal Scorer Playmaker Who Also Skates and Seems Really Nice.” Rolls off the tongue.
Listen, things got a little crazy last season, OK? The team got hot toward the end of the year, and we all did some things we now regret. Some of us tossed hamburgers on the ice to celebrate the improbable run of goalie Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond. One of us signed Hammond to a three-year professional ice hockey contract and traded away the vastly superior Robin Lehner to Buffalo. Awkward, awkward stuff. If only we could turn back time…
My 14-year-old son, Will, is a big Canucks fan for some reason. He’s sitting over on the couch right now watching baseball on TV while setting his fantasy-football lineup on his phone. I couldn’t be prouder. Let’s bring him in to talk about the 2015–16 Canucks.
“They’re going to suck,” Will says, not looking up.
“But last year they had more than 100 points and—”
“And got crushed in the playoffs,” he says, not looking up.
“Then they traded away Lack, Kassian and my favourite player, Bieksa, for basically nothing,” he says, not looking up.
“They don’t know whether they’re trying to win or trying to rebuild. Which means they’ll probably suck at both.”
“So, to sum up?”
“Suck,” he says, not looking up.
It’s still hard to believe Calgary snagged Dougie Hamilton from Boston for so little in return. Smash-cut to Boston GM Don Sweeney wondering why those magic beans haven’t sprouted.
After such a surprising and enjoyable 2014–15, how will the Flames do this year? Here are some actual words that appeared in an actual hockey preview: “Only Buffalo and Colorado had a worse Corsi For percentage than Calgary last season, but an elevated PDO helped the Flames mask some problems.” Are we talking about a manual transmission? A communicable disease? SPEAK HOCKEY, NERDS.
According to The Hockey News, the Leafs have a 0.2-percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup. Or as they call it on Toronto sports radio: “Parade-plannin’ time!”
The departure of Phil Kessel leaves a void on the wing and in front of the waffle maker. But no one cares right now—everyone is focused on Mike Babcock, who over the summer agreed to coach the Leafs in exchange for $50 million, which is great because now we’ve established a clear benchmark for the value of a human soul.
So far, Babcock seems to be focusing on making the players feel better about themselves after a demoralizing season. “Can you imagine coming to the rink every day and never feeling good about yourself? I can’t even imagine.” Give it until November, Mike—it’ll be all too real and vivid. To compensate, Babcock is trying to make every player feel feelings. He’s the puck whisperer! “[He’s] basically telling me that I can be as good as I want to be and that the sky’s the limit,” Nazem Kadri said, presumably while colouring a rainbow or a unicorn.
I almost forgot about Winnipeg. Seriously! I knew something was missing from this column and I was like: “Four, five, six… hang on, aren’t there seven Canadian teams? Hmm… [thinks hard for two entire minutes]… wait, the Jets!”
But isn’t that the way most of us feel about the city of Winnipeg as a whole—vaguely aware of its existence, but otherwise meh? Sure, the Jets are a fine team or whatever. The roster features such household names as Dustin Byfuglien and Other Players. But I can’t think of a single thing to say about the Jets. No one can. It’s entirely possible they are not an NHL team but rather an elaborate Banksy art project on human indifference.