We’re in that tweener stage of a new season.
It’s late enough that the TV-sports dullards have stopped making those “Joe Left-wing is on pace for a 246-goal season” comments but not yet far enough along in the campaign to stop questioning such phenomena as whether a coaching change is really all that was needed for Dustin Penner to release his inner Mario Lemieux.
You can put into the “Need More Proof” category the decidedly un-pedestrian play of the Northwest Division.
Heading into the season, the Northwest congregation featured a defending champion that had lost Mattias Ohlund to
Next you had a
Then you had
The Northwest as a whole certainly didn’t get much love in this space heading into the season and Matt Fenwick over at The Battle of Alberta recently ruminated:
This crossed my mind a few times in the past couple of weeks: I wonder if the NW Division is the new SE Division. It certainly seems, early on here, that every team has serious flaws — the NW may spend this season getting bootstomped by the other two divisions, and have one of those races where the div champ gets the 3rd seed and the runner-up finishes 9th.
Well we may all prove to be right yet, but at the approximate one-eighth point of the season, three Northwest outfits occupy the top three positions in the Western Conference points standings.
Seriously, who out there knew that the Joe Sakic Era in
In Edmonton, Pat Quinn is making really old-school references left and right — in no particular order, he’s worked 1940s figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott, 1961 film The Hustler and the break-a-stick-over-an-opponent’s-head era of hockey into conversations — and the Oilers are playing a little throwback hockey when it comes to the win-loss column.
Even with the staggering Wild and the limping Canucks, the Northwest had a sparkling .607 winning percentage in inter-divisional games including a flawless 7-0 mark against the Eastern Conference (a huge thank you, Montreal Canadiens).
Meanwhile, the Pacific winning at a .514 clip outside of its own division while the Central, even with perennial powerhouse Detroit and a trio of clubs that were viewed as being on the rise, has a mere .471 winning percentage in non-divisional play.
Can the Northwest keep it up? Check out Ryan (Career High 70 Points And That Was Nine Years Ago) Smyth in the No. 5 position in the NHL scoring race and ask that question again.
In the meantime, enjoy tonight’s third installment of the 2009-10 Battle of Alberta. Countdown to a Big Ern/Smack-intyre fight in 10, 9, 8, 7 . . .