Monday, February 22, 2021

Weekend rankings: An outdoor debacle, a bottom 5 shakeup, and yes, the Leafs

Well, it looked good. For a while.

You have to give the NHL credit for that much. After weeks of hype over just how beautiful the Lake Tahoe games would look, the real thing somehow exceeded expectations. The whole thing was jaw-dropping.

Then the game started and, well… you know the rest.

The Knights and Avalanche were able to finish the game later that night, and last night’s Bruins/Flyers game went fine, albeit in a new time slot. Still, there’s no point pretending that this weekend won’t be remembered as a failure. We’ll remember the sights of players tripping over divots and a frustrated Gary Bettman explaining that the clouds weren’t cooperating at least as much as the breathtaking pregame visuals.

The NHL is taking a lot of criticism over this, and criticizing how this league operations is pretty much half my schtick. But I don’t think I can join in here, at least to the same degree that so many fellow fans and media seem to be. I don’t see this weekend as being an example of incompetence, or Bettman forgetting that sometimes the sun shines during the day. Rather, I see a league that took a risk and got burned when they pushed a little too far. An outdoor game being waylaid by weather was always a possibility, and after over a decade, something close to the worst-case scenario finally played out. That’s bad, but I’d still rather have an NHL that takes the occasional big swing rather than the conservative, play-it-safe version we get with almost everything else.

On to this week’s rankings, where the top five looks familiar but the bottom five gets a makeover…

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