Love the all Canadian division


Randy Russon
By
April 25, 2021
Sault boy Kyle Dubas of the Toronto Maple Leafs

I have often wished that the National Hockey League would re-align and have an Original Six division of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.

And while that has not happened — and likely never will — restrictions on travel relative to COVID-19 has created, temporarily at least, the formation of an all Canadian division of Montreal, Toronto, the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators.

I am loving the set up.

In fact, for the first time in many years, I am really, really into the NHL — and it’s because of the all Canadian division.

And with an abbreviated 56-game regular season, coupled with the seven Canadian teams only playing each other, it is more like a playoff atmosphere, especially with so many successive games of cohort play.

The fact that Toronto is in first place with Winnipeg and Edmonton in a battle for second and third and Montreal trying to hold off Calgary for the fourth and final spot has only served to heighten the drama and intensity of activity with the regular season now into the stretch run.

And how about those Maple Leafs?

Much has been said, written and made into a national debate of the fact that the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967. The 1996-1967 season was the last for the NHL as a six team league as it expanded to 12 teams for the 1967-1968 campaign with the addition of the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals.

Oh my, yes, the Oakland Seals. Remember those lovable losers?

At any rate, so long ago since 1967, the Maple Leafs of 2021 are again being touted as a Stanley Cup contender with a team put together by Sault Ste. Marie lad Kyle Dubas as the general manager and coached by Sheldon Keefe.

It was Dubas, when he was general manager of the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, who hired Keefe as his coach. And it was Dubas as GM of the Maple Leafs who hired Keefe as coach after the two had won an American Hockey League championship together with the Toronto Marlies.

And the Maple Leafs connection to Sault Ste. Marie goes well beyond Dubas and Keefe with a number of former Greyhounds on the playing roster including aging former superstar Joe Thornton, who is one of the nicest individuals that there are in the game.

Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter

Meanwhile, the Montreal v. Calgary saw-off for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Canadian division could go right down to the wire.

Led by mid season head coach addition Darryl Sutter, the Flames are breathing down the necks of the Canadiens, who are dealing with the concussion issues of their world class goalie Carey Price.

Montreal, after a 7-1-2 start to the season, made its own coaching change midway through the season and it is now desperation time for the Habs as they try to extinguish the Flames and their playoff hopes.

As a fan of the NHL since I was but a young lad playing road hockey (I was a goalie) on Maple Street in the Sault’s downtown area, this season has been one of the most enjoyable for me in many years.

As I said, I am loving it — and it is a nice, clean diversion from COVID-19 and those who are putting politics ahead of health and dire situations.

Meantime, is this the season for the Maple Leafs? Can boy wonder Dubas bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto?

Can another Sault boy, coach Paul Maurice and the Jets of Winnipeg create some playoff turbulence?

And what about Montreal? Just what will happen if the Canadiens can’t turn away the Flames?

Have a barbecue. Get a beer. And then turn on the TV.


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