Monday, March 8, 2021

Weekend rankings: Panic rising, Flames changes, Wilson’s suspension and more

We had a running joke around these parts in the opening weeks of the season: It was always too early. Nobody knew anything, no conclusions could be drawn, we probably shouldn’t have been ranking anyone but it was all in good fun.

We’re almost two full months in to the season and [looks around the flaming wreckage of the league] yeah, I think it’s safe to say it’s not too early anymore. And for a lot of teams, none of this is fun anymore.

Where to begin. Let’s start with some good news: The Canadiens had what may have been their first genuinely good game in a month, rolling the Jets 7-1 on Saturday. The win was their first in three weeks that didn’t feature somebody getting fired in the middle of it, so that’s progress.

Montreal’s week turned down the temperature slightly on a season that was in danger of falling apart. It also saw them lose their distinction as the only team to fire a coach during the season, as the Flames joined that club by icing Geoff Ward in favor of Darryl Sutter. Yes, that Darryl Sutter, the one who led the team to a Stanley Cup final back in the pre-cap days and won two rings in Los Angeles but hasn’t been behind a bench since 2017. This is GM Brad Treliving’s fifth coach of his tenure, and if the change doesn’t spark something, you have to wonder if it’s the last.

Sutter wasn’t behind the bench on the weekend due to COVID protocols, but is expected to join the team today. He presumably watched his new team cough up a 2-1 third period lead to lose to the Oilers in regulation on Saturday before getting a point in a shootout loss to Ottawa last night. He’ll inherit a team that hasn’t won two straight in four weeks, dropping X points back of a Montreal team that holds three games in hand for the North’s final playoff spot.

Here’s the thing: There are a lot of teams who’d look at the Flames right now and think “Man, I wish we had it that good.”

The weekend started with dueling GM press conferences in Buffalo and Vancouver, two teams that entered the league together five decades ago and have managed to wind up in virtually the same spot today. Two furious fan bases, two coaches on the hot seat, and now two GMs trying to buy some time. Kevyn Adams went with the “not good enough” approach, but his lukewarm defense of Ralph Krueger only made a change behind the bench feel even more inevitable. As for Jim Benning’s request for two more years of patience in Vancouver, well, I’ll let Thomas Drance take a carving knife to that performance.

Look around the league, and the hits keep on coming. The Devils have forgotten how to score. The Predators are ready to burn it all to the ground. It’s starting to fall apart in Columbus, and we’ll get to that down below. The Stars can’t get right, the Oilers are still trying to figure out what happened against the Leafs, the Sharks still can’t get a save… about a third of this league is a serious bummer right now.

History tells us that a few of those teams will find their footing and make something out of the season, even if that just means a failed playoff run. Others will make changes in the coming days and weeks. Some will insist on staying the course all the way to the bitter end. And they’ll be joined by others, the ones that save their collapse for the second half.

It’s depressing if you root for one of those teams, and maybe a certain kind of entertaining if you don’t. It’s a lot of things. But it’s not too early. Not anymore.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

(Want to read this post on The Athletic for free? Sign up for a free trial.)

No comments:

Post a Comment