It’s time for another Screen Shots column, in which we take a brief look at a few hockey topics. Let’s get right to it:
– It’s disappointing to see the two professional womens’ hockey leagues – the mostly American-based Premier Hockey Federation, and the more Canadian-based Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association – remain unable to get past their differences and create one league for the best female players in the world. Per a report in The Athletic, the PWHPA unanimously voted to end negotiations with the PHF, and the PWHPA is resuming its mission statement to create one league for all of North America.
The failed talks between the two organizations came after reports the NHL asked them to meet. While it’s still unclear what the main contentious issues are, the bottom line is the women’s game is being hurt by this territorial battle, and a bridge needs to be built as soon as possible. If that means bringing in non-players to take on the big financial picture and figure out a solid road ahead, so be it. Everyone involved has likely had enough of this two-league business, and egos have to be put aside for them all to move forward.
– It didn’t seem possible at the start of the season, but the Buffalo Sabres have scratched their way back up the Atlantic Division standings, and now are poised to push past the awful Detroit Red Wings and occupy fifth place. Normally, this would go against my usual policy of advocating non-playoff teams be as bad as they can be in order to get the best odds at a high draft pick, but the Sabres are a different animal. In the past month, they’ve beaten current playoff-spot teams including Calgary, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Carolina and Toronto, and that’s what’s needed to give their long-suffering supporters some hope for next year.
As I’ve said before, I still expect Buffalo to be on the outside of the playoff picture again in the 2022-23 campaign, but it isn’t out of the question to see them give, say, the Boston Bruins a serious challenge for the fourth spot in the Atlantic. A real-life playoff race would be terrific for morale, even if the Sabres ultimately come up short. Buffalo could always use more high-end talent in the draft, but they do have some key pieces in place now, and the next step has to be about on-ice improvement, not praying to the lottery draft gods they get a No. 1 overall pick.
– It’s looking possible that the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames meet in the first round of this year’s post-season. Calgary basically has first place in the Pacific Division locked up; they’re nine points ahead of the second-place Oilers, and the Flames have one game in hand on Edmonton. It’s also possible the Oilers hang on to second place, and wind up taking on either the third-place L.A. Kings, or the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Flames square off against either the Kings, Golden Knights, Nashville Predators or Dallas Stars.
However, we can always dream of another Battle of Alberta, can’t we? It’s always memorable when arch-rivals go nose-to-nose in the playoffs, and while it’s also possible the Flames and Oilers both win their first-round series against another team and meet in the second round, it’s a little bit better to kick off the playoffs with an emotional series like a Flames-Oilers showdown would undoubtedly be. Who would you choose in an Edmonton-Calgary series? The Flames, who’ve been excellent all year, or the Oilers, who’ve rebounded from disaster to look better and better of late?
No matter who you root for, you’d just have to be happy they’re both solid teams again. A post-season without an Oilers-Flames series – much like a postseason without a Montreal-Toronto series – always feels a little bit lesser. Hopefully, that will change this year.