Leave 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.