By Lori Bennett
Two weeks to the NHL trade deadline – let the craziness begin!
The Calgary Flames made a minor deal on Wednesday, acquiring AHL goalie Michael McNiven from the Montreal Canadiens for future considerations. The deal gives Calgary some AHL depth and frees the Habs from a contract as they pick up the pace on the wheeling and dealing. The teams connected on another deal in February when Tyler Toffoli was sent to the Flames for picks and prospects. The continued conversation has fans speculating about whether another big deal is in the cards.
The two faced off in Calgary on Thursday night and put on a show for a mixed audience of Habs and Flames fans. Ben Chiarot apparently wanted to be included in the Toffoli trade to Calgary, putting on a brilliant audition with two goals including the game winner. Andrew Hammond has revived his Hamburglar persona and is undefeated in the three games he has started since joining the Canadiens.
The Edmonton Oilers also made a deal, sending depth goalie Alex Stalock to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations. The Sharks were looking for depth after losing starter James Reimer to injury. Turning to the Oilers for goaltending is an ironic turn of events, indeed. One wonders if these are meaningless deals, or if teams are shifting around some contracts with a view to the deadline ahead.
With two-thirds of the regular season in the books, and another first round exit having a promise of rolling heads, the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting squirrelly. Long departed are the early season predictions that Jack Campbell may win the Vezina, replaced by musings about whether GM Kyle Dubas needs to trade for help in net.
Coach Sheldon Keefe is busy shuffling defencemen looking for combos that work. In a blowout against the Buffalo Sabres this week, Morgan Reilly and Rasmus Sandin were the pair du jour and it did not go well. The Leafs needed veteran help before Jake Muzzin went down to injury, and with his health an uncertainty, Dubas cannot let the trade deadline pass without adding to his blue line. Toronto is rumoured to be interested in pending unrestricted free agent Mark Giordano.
In the meanwhile, fans are clamouring for an addition to the forward group. They’re not wrong. The top line is consistently dangerous, but John Tavares needs help. Sports radio pundits are wondering if the captain is slowing down, and their concerns are valid. Willy Nylander will show up when it counts, but another forward to play with the duo seems wise. Max Domi is available in Columbus, and would make an interesting fit, but with so many holes it’s unclear whether Dubas will be able to bring in quality help anywhere.
While GMs are plotting how they will build their team for a playoff run, one of the most successful teams of the past decade is tearing down. The Chicago Blackhawks, who won three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015 are confirmed sellers at this trade deadline. In the Fall of 2020, management announced to their fanbase that the team would be entering a rebuild. Since then, considerable turmoil has surrounded the original six team, emanating from a sexual abuse scandal and subsequent lawsuits.
This week the Blackhawks announced their new GM, Kyle Davidson. Davidson had been the interim GM since the resignation of Stan Bowman following the investigation of sexual abuse allegations by former Blackhawk Kyle Beach. The new GM inherits a tainted culture to repair and some enormous veteran contracts to address.
The team that roared just a decade ago is reduced to a whimper.
The Toronto Raptors continue to lurk around seventh place in the Eastern Conference, which would qualify them for the play-in tournament to secure the seventh and eighth playoff spots. Their preference would be to improve their record and sneak into sixth place, thereby avoiding the play-in. But we’ll take what we can get. This young roster is performing above expectations.
Scottie Barnes, the prized rookie, is doing everything he can to reward the Raptors for selecting him in the first round. Last Monday night Scottie played one of his best games of the season, scoring 28 points and collecting 16 rebounds and four assists, while shooting 85.7% from the field. He shot ten straight in the first half, becoming the first rookie since Derrick Rose to do it. On Thursday Barnes was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for February.
Blue Jays Babble
The MLB-imposed deadline came and went, with no resolution to the player lockout. On Tuesday, the MLB Players Association rejected what was referred to as MLB’s best and final offer. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred responded by cancelling the first two series of the 2022 season.
The Blue Jays were due to open their season on March 31st, but as of now it sounds like we won’t be hearing the crack of any bats for a while yet.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreational softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. Originally from NL and now based in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or debate, as long as it remains respectful. She posts game time thoughts on twitter as @lori10habs.