If you are not a hockey fan then toss this week’s column in the trash now.
In our upside down world where nothing is like it was, everyone is discombobulated, and not a lot of stuff makes much sense – at least there is hockey again. And this season is being played while there is still snow on the ground.
Ironically, in a time of continual frustration and upheaval even some positive news or a glimpse at a partial return to normality is partially tainted by negative comments or naysayers. Some are miffed the NHL is allowed to return to action.
To a degree I comprehend the frustration of some business owners, minor hockey players, and beer league puck pushers angry that the NHL is allowed to operate while they cannot. I share some of the argument, however I also see some of the rational in the decision. Compared to minor hockey and recreation leagues the NHL is a profession. Players take part under significant, highly regimented guidelines, protocols and monitoring and work within bubbles.
Of even greater significance is the role they play as an effective stress relief for the nation. For die hard hockey fans or even new fans, watching games back on TV inspires a sense of normality back into the home and provides something fun and positive to watch and talk about. A bit of a light in the dark tunnel of boredom and routine many feel while isolated and/or stuck at home due to the pandemic.
Regardless, I admit being thrilled the NHL is back. As a hockey nut and one safely hiding indoors as much as possible I’m excited. (Tez is too because when a game is on I stop moping around the house and hide downstairs in my hockey room yelling at the screen instead of her).
Out of necessity, chaos and adaptation sometimes wonderful opportunities arise. The Covid19’s forced adjustments to the NHL season has resulted in changing the divisional format – creating the new Canadian Division. Many hockey fans in our country have longed to see more games between Canadian teams and now we have it. This means lots more TV broadcasts of Canadian teams and a guarantee that one Canadian team will be among the final four clubs in the playoffs. That hasn’t happened in at least a dozen years.
With the return of the game I naturally return with my annual installation of that silly seasonal fridge game known as the Hodge Podge Clip and Laugh NHL Hockey Predictions. Maintaining a silly tradition repeated ridiculously for some 30 years now – this amusing little game is simple to play. I publicly admit (or foolishly submit) my predictions for the upcoming 2021 NHL season. You cut out the page and stick it on your fridge with some sort of tacky magnet. Periodically throughout the season you can occasionally glance at it and guffaw at my complete idiocy.
So here is how I predict the newly aligned four divisions will finish:
North (or Canadian) Division: Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa.
Vancouver’s trading of Jacob Markstrom to Calgary will blow up in their face. Quinn Hughes will remain amazing for the Canucks however Elias Petterson will be targeted by opponents much more this year and pay for it. Laine will lead the Jets in scoring. Edmonton’s weak defence and goaltending will hold them back.
Western: Colorado, Vegas, St. Louis, Minnesota, Anaheim, LA, San Jose, Arizona.
Colorado Avalanche are formidable with McKinnon and Makar ready to have remarkable years. McKinnon may beat out McDavid and Mathew for the scoring title, feasting on the other teams in that division. Avs are a logical choice to win the cup. Vegas will stroll into second spot. Injuries will hurt St. Louis The other five teams are among the weakest in the league. This division is the least exciting from a competition point.
Central: Carolina, Nashville, Tampa, Florida, Columbus, Detroit, Dallas, Chicago. Injuries will decimate this division especially Chicago and Dallas. Detroit will surprise with Bobby Ryan leading the team in scoring and finally having the success he deserves. Tampa will miss Kucherov, Columbus will rebel against their tyrannical coach, and Aho will be a stud for Carolina.
East: Washington, Philadelphia. Buffalo, Rangers, Boston, Pittsburgh, Islanders, New Jersey. Samsonov, a determined Ovechkin, and ageless Chara will lead Washington. Taylor Hall will lead Buffalo in scoring closely pursued by Jack Eichel. Both will finish in the top 12 scoring. Injuries and a recent lack of depth will cripple Boston, Pittsburgh and the Islanders.
Logic says the Stanley Cup final will be between Colorado and Washington with Colorado winning the cup. However I’m going with my heart which screams Toronto will win the cup – finally.
As stated last year my Leaf prediction is based on the fact that I believe God is a hockey fan, and more than that, a Leaf fan. The lack of Cup victories since the early 1960’s was merely punishment for the club allowing the evil Harold Ballard and the Smythe clan to take control of the team for so long. Now, however, it seems the club’s years of abandonment and suffering are over and players like Auston Mathews and Mitch Marner are poised to play Moses returning the club out of the wasteland.
Further proof God is a Leaf fan is acknowledging the Great Architect of the Universe’s sense of humour. Only the Maple Leafs could win the coveted Cup after more than 50 years and not be able to hold a victory parade or have fans allowed into the arena to cheer on the team.
So there you are. Grab your scissors and a magnet and have extra fun for the shortened season!