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Division races should be hot

<p>I’ve repeatedly ripped the NHL for its unbalanced schedule over the past three seasons, but the league got one thing right this year when they put the itinerary together.</p>




I’ve repeatedly ripped the NHL for its unbalanced schedule over the past three seasons, but the league got one thing right this year when they put the itinerary together.





Teams will conclude the regular season with nothing but divisional games, which should make for fantastic finishes in a number of races including the Northwest.





The Canucks, Flames and Avalanche all enter play tonight with 84 points while the first-place Wild, at 87, are well within reach of all three rivals. These four clubs will all play one another both home and away, with the exception of Vancouver and Calgary which will square off three times. Up for grabs is first place in the division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.





The main beneficiaries? The fans. The final 8-9 games of the season will look more like the first round of the playoffs as players face off against their most reviled rivals down the stretch.





•Alain Vigneault subtly scolded the media this week in saying that the Canucks have not been given enough credit for what they’ve accomplished to this point of the season.





The coach says that while other teams (like Detroit) have gone into a tailspin in the wake of significant injuries, the Canucks have found a way to position themselves nicely for a post-season push.





While his point is well taken, Vigneault must realize that the lack of recognition is an equal mix of expectation and inconsistency. Based on last year’s over-achievement, most expected a far better start to the season than the 5-8-0 record fashioned by the locals.





Though the Canucks enjoyed an extremely productive November, the rest of the season has been equal parts hot and cold leaving most with no idea as to what to expect on a nightly basis.





The Canucks have not provided the masses with a consistent identity and while the results are there, the lack of momentum in achieving them has not inspired a great deal of confidence from those on the outside looking in.





•Nice job by B.C. Lions’ GM Wally Buono in getting an extension inked with reigning CFL Special Teams Player of the Year, Ian Smart. Built like a fire hydrant but explosive like a firecracker, Smart not only led the league in all purpose yardage, he also made big plays at crucial times which put the Lions in position to win a number of close games.





scott.rintoul@metronews.ca





Mix equal parts college athlete, sports fan and broadcaster. Shake vigorously. Serve chilled Monday-Friday on the TEAM 1040 from 6-9 a.m. or online at thetoulbox.blogspot.com

 
 
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