Don Cherry's wild predictions: Maple Leafs make the playoffs, Coyotes move to Winnipeg


doncherry1.jpgLeave it to Don Cherry to make sure our summer isn’t totally devoid of hockey talk or humor for that matter. The star of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada recently spoke with Ken Pagan of the North Bay Nugget in Ontario (one of the best newspaper names of all time might I add) and it appears that “Grapes” is already in mid-season form with some of his thoughts just a month away from the start of training camp.

One of two teams, along with the Florida Panthers, that have yet to reach the playoffs in the post-lockout era, the Maple Leafs should qualify for the post-season this year, Cherry said.

“I think they should make the playoffs,” he said prior to signing autographs for fans lined up in the restaurant. “I think (goaltender J.S.) Giguere is going to have a better year starting off there. They have one of the best defence groups in the league, but the problem is, they can’t score. They really don’t have the forwards. There are some tough guys on the third and fourth lines, but they’ve got to get those top six guys who can score and get somebody to play with Kessel and help him score.”

While the Leafs are the only one of Canada’s six NHL teams not to play a playoff game since 2004, there will soon be another NHL team in Canada, Cherry said.

“It’ll happen in Winnipeg,” he said. “I would say Phoenix will be the team. If you’ve watched Coach’s Corner, I’ve guaranteed within two years, Phoenix will be in Winnipeg. They have to go. They’ll never draw in Phoenix. They had a winning team this past year and they still didn’t draw. They can’t do much better than they did, to make the playoffs and still not draw. So they will be in Winnipeg and they’ll jam them in there.”

If these bold predictions had come from anyone else that works at CBC or anywhere else in the hockey media, these might come off as completely insane. Coming from Don Cherry, however, makes them a bit more fun and endearing, especially when you know that Cherry will argue with you up and down about how he’s right.

Calling for the Leafs to be a playoff team this upcoming season, with the way the team is made up at this moment is very bold. While Cherry is spot-on about everything that he’s said, projecting that lineup to be a playoff team is a very tall order. The Leafs are going to be very young up front and some of their off-season additions at forward are total wild cards in that we don’t know what they could add goal-wise.

As for his feelings on Winnipeg and the Coyotes… Who knows how that situation might end up. We know that if the league or the City of Glendale can’t find a buyer for the team sooner than later, David Thomson in Winnipeg is ready and waiting to be given the opportunity to buy the team and bring them back to Canada. Whether that happens or not remains the subject of nightmares for people in Arizona and the thing of dreams for fans in central Canada.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.