• By: Dave Gross

It’s hockey and there are injuries, get over it.

As the late, great Omar Little (played by the late, great Michael K. Williams) would say: “It’s all in the game, yo.”

The outstanding character from the outstanding crime-political-drama The Wire likely never watched a hockey game, but his words ring kinda’ true here. If you’re playing at the game’s highest level, you’re going to see plenty of injuries.

It’s all in the game. 

I look at our three geographically-closest clubs – Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and get a whole lot of back-up on this theory.

Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris, arguably Ottawa’s top offensive weaponry, are out long-term (seemingly for Stutzle at this juncture). As is Artem Zub, not arguably Ottawa’s top defensive defenceman.

David Savard and Mike Matheson are currently sitting for the Habs. Two high-end veterans on a blueline rife with untested talent. Brendan Gallagher and Sean Monahan are also sidelined.

The Leafs’ predicament is well-documented. They’ve played stretches without both their No. 1 and No. 2 goalies due to injury; they’ve played a long, long while without their best three defencemen, although T.J. Brodie just returned.

Toronto’s a whole bunch thicker in the proven-talent department than its rivals, hence the Leafs ability to stomach the speed bumps. Credit coach Sheldon Keefe for getting his entire team to buy in to a ‘defence-first philosophy;’ these are not the same Leafs we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

Fractures, bruises and sprains are a reality. Negotiating rough seas is part of growth. We’ll see what the Habs and Senators have in them as well as we roll towards the Christmas season.

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: There’s some real heat building now concerning the Senators ownership story. Gary Bettman – with that Cheshire Cat grin – said this week there were “more than a dozen parties” interested in a purchase . . . Reportedly the NHL would like nothing more than having actor Ryan Reynolds involved with the eventual buying group. It’s called ‘profile’ and something the franchise desperately needs . . . Something the Arizona Coyotes might want to plug into as well. Anyone who says this franchise is anything but an absolute dog – with apologies to dogs, especially mine – is smoking the bong (Hi Gary?). A complete failure on the ice, the team stinks as a draw as well. Playing at a sizzling seating capacity of 5,000 at the Mullett Arena, the team can’t even sell that out, averaging just 4,600 per game . . . Ottawa’s numbers aren’t great (averaging just over 15,000 per game) but are much stronger than last season . . . For some reason, with a good, young club, Buffalo is last in capacity percentage (72.7). Maybe it’s the snow . . . Vegas leads the pack (102.9%) . . . New Jersey is coming down a bit after a sensational start. But because it was so sensational, the team sits second in the Eastern Conference . . . This is why getting out of the gate in a hurry is vital for NHL teams . . . Hello, Ottawa . . . ESPN ranked the best lines in the NHL right now this past week and Ottawa’s Tkachuk-Stutzle-Giroux unit nailed down sixth spot . . . ESPN: “The results have been stellar: They get 63.8% of the expected goals, 65% of the high-danger scoring chances and are giving up just 1.63 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play.” . . . Top marks went to Dallas’ trio of Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski.

More, more, more: So much for the dreaded ‘trap’ game for the Maple Leafs Tuesday night against league-worst Anaheim (man, are they bad). Toronto stomped the foot to the pedal in a 7-0 crushing . . . If I’m voting for the Hart, it’s Mitch Marner (cue the out-cry) . . . This is of course with amends and atonements to Connor McDavid. Given that Connor’s only 25, this could be a load of apologies if my streak continues in this vein . . . Ignoring the point streak, Marner’s become one of the league’s best and most responsible defensive forwards. The guy’s got hustle . . . Erik Karlsson’s comments while on an east swing last week were interesting to say the least. Asked what the NHL’s defence scoring leader ‘wanted’ as far as an immediate future, EK said he wanted a place where he could ‘win.’ That won’t be in San Jose . . . One of my favourite hobbies is re-examining drafts. It’s still very early but looking back to the Tim Stutzle (2020) draft you have to wonder whether New York then LA would like a do-over after picking Alex Lafreniere and Quinton Byfeld ahead of Stutzle . . .  Montreal grabbed a good one with Kaiden Guhle at No. 16 . . . Still think there’s at least 10 youngsters from that 2020 first round that are going to be absolute NHL studs . . . By the by, Stutzle’s scored 114 points so far. His closest competitor? My guy Lucas Raymond (Detroit, 73) . . . When I’m in a really good mood and want to get out of it, I just hop on Twitter for five minutes. 


Wednesday, Dec. 14: Montreal at Ottawa (7 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 17: Ottawa at Detroit (1 pm)

Sunday, Dec. 18: Ottawa at Minnesota (2 pm)


PHOTO: Courtesy TSN.ca