Answer: the rest of the Northeast Division (minus the Bruins)
The Senators, now in a golden age of Reasonable Expectations, can only compare positively to most of their Northeastern brethren.
As I’ve already written about on this blog, the Sabres stink. Not just as a matter of luck, but to their very core, as if to stink is to answer an existential quandary. It’s their identity. How else do you explain their blind faith in Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier after so many years of mediocrity? The commitment to players like Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad and the disgusting Patrick Kaleta? Pegula might get around to firing Regier, which then makes the firing of Ruff possible, but the damage is already done. They’re only in the first year of those brutal Erhoff and Leino contracts. Imagine how much more awful this team will be with about $10M coming off the cap next year. I can’t wait for them to pay Alex Semin all that money, only to conclude once again that “it will all depend on Ryan Miller!”
In Toronto, Brian Burke needs about four assistant GMs so that he can continue to make asinine decisions based entirely on his all-important sense of integrity, whether it be not to avail himself of the mechanisms permitted under the CBA, or to impose restrictions observed by no other team, or to, ludicrously and hilariously, renew Ron Wilson’s contract for absolutely no discernible reason beyond their apparent friendship and shared values. For this he is the highest paid GM in the history of the sport. If they miss the playoffs again by a few points, their story will become the stuff of Greek tragedies.
And then, finally, there’s Montreal, AKA Bizarro Land, where some actually fantasize about bringing back the GM who traded for Gomez, and signed Camalleri and Gionta, and where it falls well within the confines of etiquette and reason to set police cars on fire no matter what the results of a game. Every decision they make this season results in a worse team than the day before. Two more months and they’ll be having discussions about buy-outs and blowing it up. Except that it’s Montreal, so they’ll talk about Rocket Richard and then also put in a bid for Alex Semin.
Toronto and Montreal are both subject to the same temporary insanity we’re accustomed to with all large market teams. Philadelphia and New York act no saner. Theirs are systems with tyrant leaders, whose intuition is treated as scripture, whose credibility in the old boys’ world of hockey is capital. That Buffalo now aspires to be one of this group is just amazing. Let them sit at the popular kids’ table and eat each other alive.
If it wasn’t for Boston, who right now are basically invincible, the Northeast would be the most schizophrenic, irrational, hopelessly lost in all of hockey. And as Ottawa enters the 2nd year of their accelerated rebuild, we should pause and give thanks. They’ll be right where they are now as our window of contention opens, living their perpetual crisis. I can’t wait for it.