Final quarter will be interesting

First published in the Lethbridge College Endeavour, March 4, 2009

Unfortunately, with the impeccable timing of today’s noon NHL trade deadline, by the time you read this, all transactions will be final. Therefore, it makes little sense for me to predict what has already happened.

However, if any Leafs fans are reading this, I sure hope you are basking over all the dead weight Brian Burke just shipped out. And Habs fans; I sure hope Glen Metropolit wasn’t Bob Gainey’s last acquisition of the year.

Moving on.

Regardless of who was picked up by whom, the playoffs are fewer than 20 games away and it should prove to be a very exciting homestretch. There are great races ahead at both ends of each conference. There are feel-good stories, and of course, there are even some feel-not-so-good stories — as if the media would allow anything less.

In the Western Conference, literally no one is out. The division winners seem set as Detroit, Calgary and San Jose have seemingly insurmountable leads. Speaking of San Jose, excellent work picking up 97-year-old Claude Lemieux. Not only will he provide amusing anecdotes with grumbled phrases like “back then, we didn’t have remote controls…” but fellow senior Jeremy Roenick finally has a bridge partner.

While we’re on the subject of the elderly, Mats Sundin has begun to pay off for Vancouver. Their slow start after his arrival will likely keep them from challenging the Flames for the division but I can guarantee you one thing: Sundin will get the Canucks at least as far as he got the Leafs.

As for the rest of the West, I don’t much care how it plays out as long as it’s entertaining. But if this conference produces a Cinderella story, as it loves to do, and that story comes from a place beginning with ‘Minne’ and ending with ‘sota,’ I’m writing all my columns about professional darts until the Cup is won.

The Eastern Conference contains more of the league’s bottom-feeders than the West, but the next 20 games might just be more interesting closer to the Atlantic. A photo finish looks quite plausible at the top of the standings, where Boston looked to have things sealed last August. When New Jersey lost Marty Brodeur, most of us figured the Devils would drop in the standings, at least a little. Instead, the living legend undercuts his recovery time by a month and then waltzes into the dressing room of the division leaders. Oh and he’s 3-0 with two shutouts since returning (pending Tuesday’s game). I wonder if anyone made a move today bigger than getting back the best goalie of all time?

Heading into last night’s affair versus Brodeur, the Leafs had won four in a row. A beat reporter for the team asked head coach Ron Wilson if, now that they are only eight points out of the playoff s, they should abandon their plan to sell veterans for prospects and picks. I don’t know what comes out of the faucets in Toronto but if it mixes with coke and ice, I’m going.

The little honeymoon that Ottawa fans were enjoying after switching coaches seems to be over. Can we please just put this team to rest already? If someone brings me a trumpet, I’m pretty sure I remember how to play Taps.

The New York Rangers solidified their hilarity as an organization by jumping at the chance to grab Sean Avery. Is this their answer to a free fall? Put a loudmouth player on the bench with their new loudmouth coach? Once they rid themselves of Avery last year, was it really a good idea to get him again? I didn’t think people actively pursued cancer.

Anyway, enjoy the last quarter. It just might be a crazy one.

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