Finally, at long last, the NHL exhibition has come to an end. The media, the fans and even some of the players were starting to take these games way too seriously.
Many times over the past couple of weeks I've had to reply to the same question, always with virtually the same answer: "No, I did not watch the game last night. Who won?"
I can't care about exhibition games because they're aren't important to anyone but some fringe player trying to make a team.
One quick thing about Phil Kessel: loved how he protected himself like a little fella should against a big meanie – by wielding his stick like a lumberjack attacking a hardwood tree. A good stick, utilized with the appropriate amount of force, is an equalizer, whether on the ice or even on the street. What's Kessel supposed to do, let John Scott beat the heck out of him? A two-hander to the legs isn't going to hurt anyone too severely.
* * *
Want to know what's going to happen with the Canadian-based NHL teams this season?
Here you are…
Vancouver Canucks: We'll see if they got it right by dumping goalie Cory Schneider in favour of Roberto Luongo. Problem with the Canucks is… well, for starters they have to live in Vancouver, but also they have to worry about how the Sedin brothers will do if and when the declining Canucks get to the playoffs. Too often in the playoffs, the Sedin twins have played like the Olsen twins.
Forecast: Make playoffs, gonged first round.
Calgary Flames: We can root for Pictou County native Joey MacDonald between the pipes for the Flames, but he will be watching a bad team in front of him, a team now in full rebuild since finally trading Jarome Iginla last spring.
Forecast: No playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers: They are young and talented – especially up front – and ready to blossom. The Oilers haven't sniffed the playoffs since 2006, but that will change.
Forecast: Playoffs, pull off an upset in Round 1.
Winnipeg: They have to be better, if only because Leafs' castoffs Kyle Wellwood, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky are no longer in Winnipeg, no longer sucking up the oxygen and sucking at playing hockey.
Forecast: narrowly miss playoffs.
Ottawa Senators: Dangerous team, but one that needs Jason Spezza healthy and production from Bobby Ryan, or else the Senators will have huge trouble scoring goals. Craig Anderson was arguably the best goaltender in the NHL last season, so they have that in their favour.
Forecast: Playoffs, lose in first round.
Montreal Canadiens: Give Daniel Briere credit for having guts: a Quebecer who embraces the challenge of bringing glory back to the rouge, bleu et blanc, instead of shying away from the pressure (somewhere, Maurice "Rocket" Richard is rolling his eyes at Vinny Lecavalier right now). P.K. Subban winning the Norris is still a puzzler, but there's little doubt he's a difference-maker for the Canadiens; Carey Price has to stop letting in so many bad goals.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are Canada's best chance at ending the 20-year Stanley Cup drought here in the Great White North (seriously, they are). They won't have problems scoring goals, they added solid off-season pieces in David Clarkson, Dave Bolland and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and their defence corps is going to be very good, especially as the season wears on.
Forecast: Make playoffs, win first round.
Stanley Cup final: Pittsburgh/Los Angeles.
* * *
Baseball thoughts: If the Cleveland Indians squeak into the playoffs, they will enter as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Isn't it time fans in the great city of Cleveland have something good happen, instead of the usual bad somethings?
And isn't it also the nice the New York Yankees aren't in the playoffs (only the second time in 19 years, which is truly remarkable, even in the watered down MLB playoff system)?
World Series matchup: Atlanta/Cleveland.
Kevin Adshade is a sports columnist for The News.