Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love.
A new hockey season wouldn’t be complete without rumours surrounding a few disgruntled players. This season’s drama features the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pierre-Luc Dubois. A first line centre. 22 years old and still rising. A 27-goal season already under his belt. Not too shabby.
Dubois wants out of Columbus, and Coach John Tortorella is busy winning friends and influencing people, as per usual. The situation is messier than a gallon of manure in a quart jug.
There isn’t one NHL team that couldn’t use Dubois. But few have the assets necessary to acquire the game-breaker. Two Canadian teams are reported to be interested.
The Winnipeg Jets have their own disgruntled star in Patrik Laine, and a swap of the two has been proposed by insiders. I’m not buying it. Columbus needs a centre coming back in the deal, and the Jets would be well advised to use their coveted trade chip on a top 4 defenceman.
The Montreal Canadiens also have the kid on their radar. Dubois reportedly prefers to go home, and any time a local kid wants to play in Montreal… well, that’s a little like finding blood in the proverbial turnip. But for the first time in about a century the Habs are good, and they’re set down the middle. A tough call for the guy in charge. Something to keep an eye on for sure.
A week and a bit into NHL action, here’s a quick look at how I saw each Canadian team, from east to west.
The Montreal Canadiens are reaping the benefits of an industrious off-season. They can score goals with aplomb, which the Habs have lacked since Moses was in the basket, and rookie Alexander Romanov is showing potential to become a top pair defenceman.
In Ottawa, the Senators are playing with a chip on their shoulder. Projected to finish last in the division, the Sens upset the Leafs and took the Jets to overtime. There may be a surprise or two from this well-coached mishmash of high picks and reclamation projects.
If you were to listen to the locals the Toronto Maple Leafs have already hoisted the cup and we missed the parade because our masks were riding high. What actually happened? Austin Matthews hit the ground running, while rookie Nick Robertson is out for four weeks after suffering a knee injury.
Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine suffered an upper body injury in the first week and is day-to-day in a season where every single day counts, and in the last season of his current contract. The Jets have two overtime wins early.
In Edmonton the Oilers are missing Oscar Klefbom, and GM Ken Holland missed the memo that goalie depth might be a good idea for a compressed season.
The Flames in Calgary were lit with a blasty bough and they have two wins and a loser point in an overtime loss to start the season. New arrival Jacob Markstrom is the story there, with a .935 save percentage in his first three starts.
The Vancouver Canucks watched a significant contingent of their team head to Calgary in the off-season. This year their story is youth. They skate like the wind, but their record reflects some growing pains.
The Toronto Raptors have been able to string together some wins and are slowly climbing up from the basement. Fred VanVleet appears to have woken up nicely, and OG Anunoby has been reliable defensively.
The Raps are lacking depth up front. Coach Nick Nurse said, “I think there’s still some depth concerns… I think it’s a bigger-ish type player that we would look to add at some point.” Sounds like the guys they let walk in the off-season.
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays landed the biggest fish on the free agent market this past week, signing elite centre-fielder George Springer to a six-year $150 million deal. Known for his homerun prowess, Springer is also expected to strengthen the Jays outfield. Springer was the 2017 World Series MVP for the Houston Astros and has been an important fixture in the Astros line up since 2014.
The deal is not without controversy. Springer was involved in the Astros sign stealing scandal from the 2017 and 2018 seasons, leading to severe sanctions from MLB including heavy fines and the forfeiture of top draft picks.
Toronto also came to terms with relief pitcher Kirby Yates on a one-year deal and are reportedly in the market to add a starting pitcher.
It’s that time of year.
The road to the Super Bowl is clearly mapped out with NFL Conference Championship games being set. On January 24th the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in Green Bay to face the Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs will welcome the Buffalo Bills.
In the NFC the storyline is Tom Brady, wearing Buccaneers Red instead of Patriots Blue, going up against another elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. The QB duel for the AFC Championship was undetermined at press deadline. The question lies in whether Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes will clear concussion protocol, or if the Bills’ Josh Allen will face a back up.
By the time you’re reading this, you’ll know who is meeting on February 7th for Super Bowl LV, and this seems like as good a time as any to remind local grocers to load up on wings.
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, in particular about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.