Half the NHL teams in Canada have emerged as genuine Stanley Cup contenders. The Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames all are quite capable of post-season success.
The other half of this country’s NHL teams are hideous.
The Maple Leafs, for example, are afflicted by a stunning dearth of talent and have spent most of the season deluding themselves by pretending to be legitimate. Even with Mats Sundin, a classy-but-aging star, this is a squad going nowhere but to next-year country, again, and my understanding is that the next rebuilding attempt will be orchestrated by a general manager other than John Ferguson Jr.
In Montreal, the Canadiens also are devoid of potential. And the Edmonton Oilers are the most inept NHL squad in Canada, maybe in the league.
Since trading star forward Ryan Smyth, the Oilers have lost 10 consecutive games and are in jeopardy of equalling the longest losing streak in their history. They lost 11 in a row in 1993. Tonight, they play the Canucks — good luck — and could drop to No. 12 on Wednesday night when they face the Colorado Avalanche.
Seriously overpaid by the Oilers this season: Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani, Joffrey Lupul and Petr Sykora, who’ve wasted ice time and brought shame to a city that not long ago embraced its teams with pride and joy. Now, Edmontonians have the Oilers and the Eskimos — sickly teams in dire need of resuscitation.
•Rumblings are strong that agent Steve Bartlett soon will replace the beleaguered Ted Saskin as chief of the NHL Players Association … There’s talk in the CFL that, in 2008, the schedule will move up a month so the season would start in early June and the Grey Cup would be played in late October … And conjecture is increasing that legendary Larry Brown will resurface next season as Charlotte’s coach, with Vince Carter playing for the Bobcats.
•The Raptors were wretched on the weekend, surprising perhaps no one but their homer broadcasters and shortsighted fans … I admire Phil Jackson, who might give up his $10.5-million-a-year job as coach of the inconsistent Lakers. Asked if L.A. can improve once certain players return, Jackson said: “Jesus Christ could come back and not save this team.” … Isn’t March Madness wonderful? … And I look forward to providing some spring training coverage for you soon because, first, I like Florida and, second, I’ll see Tony LaRussa’s new tattoo. The manager vowed to decorate his upper body if his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. He kept his word.