The emotions and outcomes experienced at either end of Bremner Boulevard in Toronto couldn’t have been more opposite Thursday night. To the east, a scurrilous late-game comeback capped off a golden generation of Canadian hockey dominance. To the west, a foreboding and frustrating sense of immense opportunity perhaps soon to be lost.
Canadian hockey fans need to realize that they are being spoiled by the greatest generation of players this country has ever produced. Crosby. Toews, Price. Doughty. Go down the list. It’s not always going to be like this. I won’t go over the impressive numbers this group has posted since 2010, they’re well documented.
While defeating Team Europe in two straight games to win the World Cup may not be close to one of the most celebrated hockey moments in Canadian history, Brad Marchand’s short-handed goal with 43 seconds left after Jonathan Toews took on three European defenders to set up his perfect drop-pass was certainly memorable, and will be talked about well into the future, as it should be. It’s one of the most clutch and picturesque goals you’ll ever see.
My message to Canadian hockey fans is enjoy this. Savour it. Because the young Americans are coming. And in the years to come, Canadian victory will become less inevitable. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing for hockey.
The Team Europe/North America concepts need to be given due consideration for a return in 2020. The NHL needs to listen to the feedback from the European players, who say their success has had a positive impact in raising the game’s profile in their individual countries. Yes, the Canada/Europe final didn’t inspire the interest of traditional fans…but if it, in an unintended way, made new fans overseas, then that’s a success of debatable magnitude.
At the other end of the street, the Toronto Blue Jays were squandering another opportunity to put themselves in a position to at least grab a share of a wild card berth. Thursday’s 4-0 loss to Baltimore leaves them tied with the O’s for the top wild card, with the Tigers 1 1/2 back, and the Mariners 2 back — both have much weaker teams to play over the final weekend. Fans, in their shock, seemed to fail to recognize this could have been the final home game in Blue Jays uniforms for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
The Blue Jays fate remains in their hands. They own the tie breakers with the Orioles and Tigers. Win them all the top wild card is theirs. They need one win to likely grab a share of something (wild card or tiebreaker), two also gives them a good shot at hosting the wild card. But being swept in Boston, who’s still playing for top seed in the AL playoffs, surely smells blood and a chance to eliminate a formidable rival from the post-season picture. The Blue Jays really need to take advantage of the pitching mismatch Saturday, with 20-game winner JA Happ going against lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, 3-8 with a 4.68 ERA. This game may decide the Jays’ eventual fate.
Given the troubles this team has experienced over the past month, today’s Toronto Sun article outlining a siege mentality and tensions in the clubhouse shouldn’t surprise anyone. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/09/29/whats-going-on-inside-the-blue-jays-clubhouse There are competing agendas there, no question. But to a man, no one wants a final week collapse and subsequent “choker” label that will follow on their resume, whether their contracts are up or not.
Should the 2016 Blue Jays end up being this generation’s Back to the Future version of the 1987 team, it will give Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins the impetus to make substantial changes. ‘ll save what those should be for another blog…which could come as early as Monday unless the Blue Jays can find the equivalent of a four-leaf clover in Beantown this weekend. Let’s just hope the Jays aren’t leaving town in a DeLorean.