It’s Monday morning, the Habs are out and I am slightly confused as to how I am feeling. If Marty McFly came to see me August 1st and told me where we would be today, I would be livid, but here we are and I am anything but. The Habs may be out, but the NHL playoffs move onward, the NBA First Round has begun and the NFL is around the corner. What a time for Sports!
Where do the Habs stand now?
Watching the Canadiens play for almost a month was a thrill, and mainly because for the first time it was fun to watch again. Almost every single negative narrative coming into the bubble was forgotten, at least for now. Carey and Weber did not look their age, but neither did Suzuki or Kotkaniemi. The mix of youth with elite veteran leadership carried this team a long way and their play was the most encouraging part. With the benefit of hindsight, the Habs essentially moved back seven spots in the draft to gain valuable playoff experience.
Not just playoff experience but a lot of lingering questions that hung over this team for years may have been answered. Do the Canadiens somehow now have depth at Center? Not just depth but a solid 1-2 punch of the future with Suzuki and KK, complimented by one of the best two-way guys in Danault. Any doubts about Carey and Weber’s ability to maintain their elite form as they age have been answered, for now. At the end of the day the biggest take away, for me at least, a rested Carey Price is a dangerous Carey Price.
The Habs go into the off-season with close to $20M in cap space and they are returning almost their entire roster. Max Domi, Hudon, Mete, Ouellet, Evans and Juuslen are all RFAs to go along with Weise, Folin and Kinkaid as UFAs. There are more RFAs obviously, but these are the six I expect the Habs to make qualifying offers to, and well, all three UFAs will walk. With a flat cap for the 2020-21 Season, I fully expect the Habs to be active in the market, possibly trying to take advantage of teams that are up against the cap already.
More importantly this team has one of the best prospect pools in the league and with 14 draft picks this year (25 over the next two years), Bergevin has a lot of chips to play with. In the ideal world, I would like to see that Habs bring Max back, acquire a third pairing left defenseman like we had with Jordie Benn and pick up some depth on the wing, preferably a right handed winger like a Kovy again, but with the cap space we have, just don’t sign Hall.
Remaining Bubble Bandwagons
For Canadiens fans, their season may be over, but hockey is far from done which begs the question: whose bandwagon should you jump on now?
Well if you are going to lose, might as well lose to the eventual Champs right?! The Flyers are one of the deepest teams in the league, and they have a ton of Canadian and Quebec ties on the roster. They have two Quebec born coaches to go with a couple of Quebec born stars like Sean Couturier and adopted Quebec native Claude Giroux.
A popular destination among the infamous Montreal Snow Birds is Tampa, and probably has been the most skilled team in the league for a couple years now. Montreal native Alex Killorn plays an important role on this team and his Dock Talks are hilarious. It’s unfortunate that Stammer is injured but despite that, can they get over the hump and finally claim the Stanley Cup?
New York Islanders
The Islander may not be fun to watch but they are effective and they are really good. They have a ton of Canadian content in that roster. With guys like Matthew Barzal, Jordan Eberle and south shore native, Anthony Beauvillier. If you love defense, this is your team, hitch yourself up.
If you’re a Habs fan and you cheer for the Bruins then f*** you.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas makes a lot of sense to cheer for as a Habs fan. Former captain Max Pacioretty is part of that high flying offense along with a couple Quebec natives like Jonathan Marchessault and Marc Andre Fleury. If you are a Flower fan this may not be your team but they are very good and I hate that they are playing the Canucks.
I think this will not so quietly be the team whose bandwagon has the largest influx of fans join the ranks! There are more than likely a few fans who still have a connection to the Roy trade, however of all the teams in the league the Avalanche had the largest rise in the rankings and it is much easier to cheer for a team that has struggled through a few years turmoil to get to the top. Oh and MacKinnon is awesome.
In a surprise upset in Game 1, the stars are on a roll now. Led by a couple of Canadian studs in Tyler Seguin and Jordie Benn, the Stars have all the pieces to make a run, they just have not been able to put it all together before. The team is on a five game win streak going into Game 2 tonight but they will be in tough against a very good Avs team.
Saving the best for last in my opinion, they are so much fun to watch. Full disclosure, I will probably be sleeping on the couch if I didn’t cheer for the Canucks in the playoffs but regardless they are young, fast, physical and everyone is buying in. Just watch Pettersson, he is mixing it up with guys like never before. His play along with Tyler Motte probably best personify this team and their culture.
Other Sporting Options
As I said at the start of this article, if you are sports fan, this is a great time for viewership. Trying to find a silver linings during the Pandemic may seem like an exercise in futility but like they say in Zombieland, enjoy the little things (Rule #32). Outside of the hockey world all four major leagues are either playing or are about to start their season. MLB is only a few outbreaks away from ending an already abbreviated season, well not really but I hope they can get to the playoffs to start bubbling their players to keep them safe.
The NBA playoffs are in full swing. Just like the NHL they adopted a bubbles strategy down in Orlando and it is working as of now as they have not reported any positive cases since entering the bubble. When it comes to basketball I tend to follow players more so than teams and I usually always jump on the Lebron bandwagon because he is my favourite player as cliche as that is. The part that kills me the most is that my second favourite player is Dame Lillard. The only two NBA snap back I have that get worn on a more consistent basis are my old school Vancouver Grizzlies hat and my Trailblazers hat. Suffice to say the winner of Lakers vs Portland will be my team moving forward! Let’s see if they meet the Heat in the finals.
Finally, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALLLLLLL!
While the NFL may not be adopting a bubble strategy (for now?), to me there is too much money to be made for them to fail. TV contracts alone dwarf every other pro sports league in North America, and after the success of the virtual draft, there is no chance the NFL does not have a season. They wasted no time getting some marquee matches in Week 1 starting with a Brady vs Brees show down. I really hope that the NFL has better luck that the MLB did with players testing positive, but maybe the reduced travel with only one game a week helps the league minimize their player’s exposure to the outside world.
As a Vikings fan I really have no idea what to expect, we have had some major loses in personnel on the defensive side of the ball specifically, but Mike Zimmer doesn’t have bad defenses. Cam Datzler is a name to watch for as a X-factor on defense if he can keep up what he is doing in camp. Will this be the year that Kirk Cousins puts himself in the elite QB conversation? I have never been a Cousins fan since the signing and it really has everything to do with his contract more so than his skill. If you are going to get paid $30M in guaranteed money, making you a top five paid QB, you better play like it. For that amount of money, you should be a QB that needs 0 pieces to be successful, you need to be that piece that makes everyone else around you better. I don’t think Cousins is that guy but he most definitely has the skill set to do so, he just needs to finally do it himself.
I forsee the Vikings finishing 9-7 with a chance at the second wild card spot, but I like our boy Will’s ranking better! He has the Vikings winning the NFC North and taking the third seed in the NFC.
Whatever your sporting cup of tea may be, you have your choice of whatever you like. The sporting calendar may never be this great again in our lives to help distract us from the chaos going on around us. At the end of the day, never forget Rule #32…..