So, that magical midsummer day is over. Okay, maybe not “magical”, but it was Canada Day, so that made it feel kind of special.
July 1st has come and gone and all the pretenders have tried to become contenders by throwing money at a (for the most part, in my opinion) badly over-hyped crop of free agents. The New York Rangers, it has to be said, managed to land two quality fish in this year’s tournament. Both Gomez and Drury are quality players who have shown themselves to be character guys in the early portion of their respective careers. The Blueshirts will be a more potent threat up front than many of their Eastern Conference rivals. I would suggest it is a mistake, however, to label the Rangers “instant contenders” as some have done. There are glaring holes on defence that will be exposed come playoff time ’08 unless Slats gets some help fast. Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers are better and have virtually assured themselves a spot in the big tournament if only through the attrition suffered by their rivals, notably New Jersey (hey, Devils fans – ouch!), the Sabres (hey Buffalo fans – that smarts!) and the Islanders (hey Islander fan – you two, Mr. and Mrs. DiPietro – you have our condolences); but teams don’t dance the final dance on the card unless their are proven and capable defenders able to carry the load.
In that regard, don’t you just hate the Red Wings? They lose a guy like Mathieu Schneider, who admittedly played a key role in the Wings’ playoff run and whose absence after he was injured hurt them more than any Leaf fan with a memory could possibly imagine – and promptly fill the hole with Brian Rafalski. Do you mind? For those of you uncertain of my meaning, imagine you are in the parking lot at Wal-Mart, and your ’92 Dodge Neon gets clipped by a delivery truck. The company is apologetic, they offer to fix your car, pay for the damage and get you a loaner while you wait for the return of your vehicle – and the loaner is a Ferrari Testarossa. Um, and you don’t have to give the loaner back. Actually, given the Red Wings’ embarrassment of riches over the last few years, the metaphor would be better like this: Lance McCoolguy, the all-city quarterback for your high school football team, is driving in the parking lot of some cool nightclub that you’ve never even heard of, when the club owner accidentally knocks over some post attached to the velvet ropes that keep people like you out of the club, and the post hits Lance’s cherry red Ferrarri Testarossa, which the owner offers to replace with – a brand new Ferrari Testarossa! I hate you, Lance, and I hate the Red Wings too! Do you see how I have used the power of metaphor to make you the subject of scorn and derision, driven mostly by insane puerile jealousy?
Finally, with respect to my beloved Leafs, I am somewhat encouraged. The Leafs’ need for a scoring forward to roll with Sundin has been obvious. I am glad the person designated to fill that role is NOT Daniel Briere, who I thought disappeared through critical portions of the Sabres’ recent playoff loss to the Rangers. Any fan of any team would have liked to see Ryan Smyth don the local jersey, but I think the Avs overpaid for him (as the Rangers probably did for Drury, too). The player the Leafs did get, Jason Blake, seems like a good fit and it appears as though the Leafs got him for a reasonable price. This coming on the heels of the acquisition of Vesa Toskala – an upgrade in the goaltending department – is almost enough to wash the bitter taste out of my mouth from draft day – you know, the one that began around the time that the Hawks picked first over all and kept growing and growing until sometime THE NEXT DAY when John Ferguson, Jr. finally picked our first player, the future former professional hockey player Dale Mitchell like 74th overall.
But please, JFJ, remeber that sitting on your arse all day at the draft only makes sense if you are going to win NOW. Because if you don’t win NOW, and you have sat on your arse at the draft, we won’t be winning later either.