08:36:08 pm on
Wednesday 28 Jun 2017

NHL Start 2016
Bob Stark

"Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope." Aristotle

In Greek mythology, Icarus, the son of the master artisan, Daedalus, wanted to attempt to escape from Crete. To do so, Daedalus builds wings from feathers and wax. Icarus is warned, first, of complacency, and then of hubris; that he fly not too low nor too high, so the sea would not clog his wings or the sun's heat melt them.

In the long tradition of rebel youth, Icky decides, 'screw that,' and completely ignores his father's wise instructions. His last words, of bravado, might well have been, "Hey Daeddy-O, Watch This!" Icky flies too close to the sun, the wax in his wings melts, he falls into the sea, ending up deader than a diving gooey duck; service at 11:00 am.

Well, as the ole modern day adage, which Icky did not survive long enough to embrace, goes,  "When I was 17 my father was dumber than a hockey puck; when I turned 18, I could believe how much he'd learned in a year".

Ah yes, we all remember it well and hopefully fondly the complacency and hubris of youth. The world being our oyster, cracked open and swallowed in one swoop. "Na, na, na, live for today."

Hard being a millennium in today's childish sandbox political milieu. Please 'youts' of the world, temper the complacency, but do not lose the hubris. Reach for the sun. Sporting better wings is an idea.

Better skates might work, too.

The trend in the NHL is certainly embracing a hope-based youth movement, no more evident perhaps than in Edmonton, with 19 year old Connor McDavid and in Toronto, with 18-year-old, Auston Matthews, both considered 'generational players', like Sid the Kid and Ovie.

Well, hope springs eternal in the fall, but usually springs a leak in spring; how about last year when all seven Canadian teams missed the play-offs. Is there any optimism for that changing this year?

There is no doubt that many of the regular elite teams may be dropping back a bit, while many of last year's bottom-feeders have improved their on-ice product. My own view is that there may be more parity, but maybe not enough to ensure significant changes at the top of the food chain.

Let's not fool ourselves, the twenty-three year Stanley Cup drought for Canadian teams is likely to keep going. Yet, there are always surprises, so let's look at the prospects for our seven hometown teams, in order of potential success.

Montreal Canadians. Obviously, Carey Price has to be healthy all year. Shea Weber will provide better defensive coverage. Radulov is a risk but if he is interested and on his game and doesn't pout, advantaged gained. Galchenyuk at Centre will also be a blessing. He is their youngest player at 22. A few other youts but school is out n comparison to the McDavids, et al. Montreal will finish second in their Division, behind Tampa Bay.

 Calgary Flames. Perhaps the Flames biggest acquisition in the off-season was signing ex-Blues goalie Brian Elliott. If he can play well on a regular basis, Calgary will have a shot, at a wild card spot, at the very least, because of Sean Monahan, Johnny 'Hockey' Goudreau, Sam Bennett and rookie Tckchuk. Mercy, me. I remember seeing an interview with Stones guitarists, Keith Richards, on Ron Wood having a good go at each other regarding which of them was the better player. After a good fun bashing, Richards suggested neither of them was the best guitarist, in comparison with others in the industry; together they were the best tandem. My point is that not one of the above noted Flames is Connor McDavid, but over-all Calgary is the better team upfront, by far. The Flames have a rock solid defence, new coach and one problem: the division in which they compete. It’s hard to foresee them moving up enough in the standings to pass San Jose, Los Angeles or Anaheim. Even if they finish fourth, they could be out pointed by two teams in the other Western division, but let's be optimistic. The Flames will compete with Arizona for a spot but could well bump-out one or even two, of the top three. The Flames will make the dance, one way or another.

Ottawa Senators. There’s a new coach and almost enough talent to make a vast improvement; Brassard is a local boy that makes good, but Ziggy who? Key, for the Senators, is to stay healthy. The Senators have an excellent mix of vets and still improving youth. Bobby Ryan; it's now or Neverland. As Montreal, the Senators are in a division that gives it a chance to make the Top 3. Detroit is very questionable to begin the season. Florida has a couple of key, possibly long-term injuries. Louie is a year older, as is Jagr. The time is right Ottawa for dancing in the streets, er, snow-covered though they may be.

Now it gets dicey!

Winnipeg Jets. Another Western team bolstered by the promise of youth, in Scheifele, Ehlers, Lowry. They're still big, but faster. The drawback is the Trouba situation. He wants out; the Jets will trade him. This leaves the defence in Winterpeg more suspect, depending on what player or players they get back. Two young goalies are fighting for numero una. Not a bad thing, at all, but both may struggle if the D can't protect them. The Jets are in a tough division against the Hawks, the Stars, the Predators and the Blues, for starters. The best bet for the Jets is to finish the season, fifth, ahead of Colorado and Minnesota as well as ahead of the 4th Place finisher in the other division. Yikes!

Vancouver Canucks. Oh. I know, I’m being a homer again! Well, we're supposed to be talking about optimism, not necessarily the same as 'reality.’ The Canucks hired one of the best free agents, Loui Erikkson, to play with the Sedins; one of the better goalie tandems in the league. Goaltending was not the problem last year. The Canucks may not be able to match Calgary and Edmonton regarding quality, when it comes to the youth movement, but they sure do in numbers! They have more kids than a horny nanny goat. Sutter is a key, as a 'vet.’ Three potential good lines that all need to score more. The Twins are aging and faded last year. Will Loui E revive them for one more crack at Lord Stanley's famous mug? A decent contingent on the blue line with guys in the wings if needed. Who knows; if the coach doesn't, he'll be gone, early. Only if Calgary falters or the other division is so competitive, the Canucks sneak in.

Edmonton Oilers. It’s ten years and counting since making the dance. The eternal youth movement has been a colossal failure. Out goes top player/scorer Taylor Hall. Milan Lucic and Adam Larson arrive as 'improvements.' The defence is tentatively better. Lucic will be a bust. Talbot is in his second year between the pipes. Draisaitl I'll call 'Mr D' so I get past the spelling monitors. He’s a real talent, currently under the radar of Conner McDavid. Keep your eye out for him folks. The Oilers are definitely an improved team, but not good enough to make the dance, yet again.

Toronto Maple Leafs. The team has seven young rookies, with Freddy Andersson in nets. He’s another goalie of the future. Auston Matthews is a great player but hardly a panacea. There will be mistakes. Next year they'll have another top draft pick. Go Jays.

Who's your surprise team?

Out West, it could be Avalanche or more certainly the Coyotes. In the East, long shots are the Hurricanes and the Sabres.

It’s game time!

 

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

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