Monday, March 22, 2021

Weekend rankings: It’s officially time to be scared of the Avalanche

We marked the season’s midway point last week, even as several teams hadn’t quite reached the mark yet. That’s no longer the case, with Dallas crossing the 28-game mark in the weekend’s final game to become the 31st member of the halfway-home club.

So… how are you feeling about this weird season?

I don’t mean about your team, because we can probably guess that by the standings and/or the Sabres tattoo that seems to have been recently scrubbed with a brillo pad. I mean this season in general, with all of its oddities. And specifically, where are we at with the division-only, baseball-style scheduling?

It’s been two months of seeing the same teams over and over again, usually several times in a row, and I think it’s fair to say that the novelty has worn off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does put us at a point where we can start to figure out if this is working or not.

For a lot of fans, I’m guessing the answer is that it depends. When your team has three of four in a row against their biggest rival, it can almost feel like a playoff series. When it’s back-to-back against some team you don’t care about, not so much. It’s the same sort of vibe when you’re looking around at the rest of the league. It’s fun to watch the good teams and there’s a certain can’t-look-away appeal to the truly bad ones, but then you get to the mushy middle teams and there’s only so many Coyotes games you can think about.

That’s if you think about that stuff at all, which is another piece I’m wondering about. If you’re a diehard fan of one team in particular, are you even paying attention to the teams in the other divisions that you know you’ll never even see until three rounds into the playoffs? Or are you just kind of vaguely aware that there are other teams out there and that some are good and some are bad, but beyond a few highlights or star players the other divisions are all just kind of a shrug emoji?

I don’t know, because I’m a national writer which means that it’s my job to pretend to pay attention to all 31 teams. But I’m guessing that some of you are still loving all of this, while others have had just about enough and are ready to go back to the old way. Which apparently we are, according to Pierre’s latest, in which Gary Bettman all but puts an end to any hope that the all-Canadian division might stick around.

That’s a very NHL way to think about things – the gravitational pull from “sticking with how we did it in the past” feels overwhelming for this league. But maybe they’re right. I’m genuinely curious. Let me know in the comments where you’re at with this schedule with half a season to go. Are you still on board, or dreading your next four-game series with some team you don’t care about?

OK, enough philosophy questions, let’s get on to this week’s rankings, where an old friend is back in the top five…

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