• By: Dave Gross

Brann muffins and Canada’s best Cup wager

ABOVE: Ottawa Senator defenceman Erik Brannstrom.

A somewhat captivating assortment of thoughts . . .


If Ottawa’s the town that fun forgot then Toronto must be the hockey team that fun remembered.

Say what you want about the Maple Leafs, and we know you will, but this year’s rendition is a joy ride amongst joy rides. Win or lose it’s generally wildly provocative.

Saturday night, the Leafs were at their – well – Leafiest. In a last-shot-wins roller coaster against Detroit, Toronto managed to fire 10 past the Red Wing netminder(s) . . . while buffooning to seven allowed. If netminding and tight defence wins in the playoffs, Toronto’s toast again in the opening round.

But I digress.

I often do.                                 

The point here is that the Maple Leafs might not be the supreme team in the National Hockey League, but they sure as heck are the most fun to watch.

Disneyland on ice.


Senator defenceman Erik Brannstrom has become Ottawa’s newest love-him-or-hate-him figurine. Doesn’t seem like there’s much in-between, you’re either pro-Brannstrom or anti-Brannstrom.

The pro-side loves the young blueliner’s mobility and puck savvy. It’s what enticed Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion when his hand was forced in trading Mark Stone.

Stone was beloved in Ottawa. A cornerstone that seemingly was interested in being a cornerstone elsewhere.

When Dorion swapped out the popular winger, he wanted something more than capable in return. Dorion put his faith in Brannstrom.

The pro side will tell you the defenceman is getting the short shrift by the Senators’ coaching staff. Too many nights Brannstrom gets overlooked by a lesser talent, they’ll tell you.

The anti-Brannstrom faction will argue that he’s too undersized to be of consequence and not heady enough to get out of the road when steamrolling forwards target him for the end boards.

Either way you look at it one thing is for sure, opinions on Brannstrom are greatly dissimilar.


And this will be particularly true come playoff time.

The Flames’ brass has manufactured a heavy, well-structured and now, deep hockey team.

Calgary is Canada’s best bet come springtime for a run at the Stanley Cup.

Let’s pare it down.

Ottawa, Montreal? They’re on the outs and will be praying for a good spin of the wheel at draft lottery time.

Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver? All three are fighting for a playoff rung at this point. Edmonton runs hot-and-cold and still hasn’t solved its most pressing need: goaltending; Winnipeg is anyone’s guess. There’s plenty of inconsistency in Manitoba; and Vancouver continues its lusty run through the second half, but will it be enough to secure a spot?

Toronto? Well, see above. We’ve spent too many years thinking: “Yup, they’re going to turn it over this year. Toronto’s definitely headed for a lengthy playoff run.” Trouble with going that route again is it’s basically the same cast that’s failed lately. The Buds haven’t won a playoff series since 2004 and they’ll have to likely plow through either Florida or Tampa in this year’s first round to move forward.

That leaves the Flames, the team no one wants to play. Calgary holds all the elements for a shot at the Cup – skill, depth, grit and most importantly, great goaltending.

Could see some magic out of Alberta this year.

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: The temporary lull in the schedule for Ottawa is now ‘lull-less.’ The Senators hit the ice five times in the next eight days, all on the road . . . How about 11 games in 19 days? Yup, that’s the sked for Ottawa . . . Gives new meaning to the word march, or March . . . Did anyone get that? . . . Interesting discussion this past week regarding Thomas Chabot. The question being would you put him on the roster of an all-Canadian team? With the general lack of stars available for an all-Canadian defence, it’s an easy decision, no? . . . Watched the Capitals/Rangers game this past week. It’s a great rivalry to be sure but what really stuck out was how much in love the game-callers and analysts are with heavyweight champ Ryan Reaves . . . I still can’t understand why or how Pittsburgh gave Reaves away to Vegas back in 2018 (for a 4th-round pick). Ask the stars in Vegas and now New York what the big fella’ brings to the table . . . There’s no denying Detroit’s table is set with its pair of uber-rookies in Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Raymond, 19, and his 42 points could very well end up being the steal of the 2020 draft . . . The thing that impresses me most about Raymond is his strength and he’s listed at only 5-foot-11 and 182-lbs.


Tuesday, March 1: Ottawa at Tampa (7 pm)

Thursday, March 3: Ottawa at Florida (7 pm)

Saturday, March 5: Ottawa at Arizona (4 pm)

Sunday, March 6: Ottawa at Vegas (8 pm)