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New season, new beginnings

October 9, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

With the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons about to begin, there is a feeling of anticipation, excitement, and most likely nervousness, with the Canadian, especially Toronto-based, teams.

Over the NHL off-season, some big trades, signings, and retirements happened. But the biggest announcement was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing New York Islanders centre John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract. This signing was speculated for some time with the knowledge that Tavares would become a free agent on July 1, with many sports analysts calling it one of the biggest free agent signings in modern NHL history.

Tavares chose joining the Leafs because they are Cup contenders and playing in his hometown. He is regarded as one of the NHL’s best players, for his ability to read the play, leadership, and puck skill.

Will he provide that extra offence to push the team to new levels of success? Will all the scoring make up for a lack of strong defence? Can they finally get past the first round of the playoffs?

Unfortunately, the Leafs were not able to sign a top-tier defenceman in the off-season, something that needs to be done. Their performance against the Bruins, especially in Game 7, clearly shows where they need to work on.

Despite getting Tavares, we had to say goodbye to some of our own. Chief among those was James van Reimsdyk, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after recording a personal best 36 goals with the Leafs. He will definitely be missed, but I’m sure Tavares will make up for it, and then some.

Elsewhere, in the other six Canadian teams, the Vancouver Canucks are still looking to rebuild, and it will have to be without the Sedin twins, who both retired at the end of the season.

The Ottawa Senators, who two seasons ago found themselves on the brink of making the Stanley Cup final, have now found themselves in the basement. One of the biggest trades this summer was dealing captain Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks. Following a rather personal and difficult season with their captain – regarded as one of the league’s best defencemen – the Senators will need to pick up the pieces and push on.

The Montreal Canadians also traded their captain and star player, Max Pacioretty, to the Vega Golden Knights. Like the Senators, the Habs are in the process of a major rebuilding phase

The Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers had a more quiet off-season, as they seem to have the necessary tools to make a deep playoff run, and just need to be more consistent and tighter defensively in their play, namely the Flames and Oilers.

For those who aren’t hockey fans, there is always basketball, with the Toronto Raptors making some of the biggest changes in the off-season. Entering last season’s playoffs, they won a franchise best 59 games, but got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, becoming the first number one seed to get swept before the Conference Finals since 1969.

Coach Dwayne Casey, despite winning Coach of the Year, was fired shortly after their disappointing playoff performance, something several team members voiced their displeasure about.

Then, as the free agency began, star guard Demar DeRozan was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. Shacking things up both on and behind the bench certainly has fans worried on whether it will make a positive impact in this upcoming season.

It seems though we will only have hockey and basketball to enjoy, as the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC will not be making the playoffs.

The Jays are once again rebuilding. During the season, they traded Josh Donaldson and pitcher Roberto Osuna. When Osuna returned to Rogers Centre he was met with thunderous boos, due to being arrested and charged with assault earlier in the summer, and suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. And recently, it was announced that longtime Manager John Gibbons would not return after the end of the season.

The Jays have had a few difficult seasons since last making the ALCS Championship Series in 2016, giving Toronto sports fans in general hope that a championship would come to the city. Now those times seem so far away. It will be awhile before the Jays can recapture that glory.

The most disappointing team is The Toronto FC. Last year they set the all-time MLS regular season record for points with 69, and won the MLS Cup. Though they have four games left to play, they will need to win at least three to make the playoffs, and currently have less than half the points they got last year.

As some teams are about to finish their season, and two of Toronto’s biggest teams are about to begin theirs, all we can do is cheer them on, and see if the changes made in the off-season have made a difference.

         

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