A new year brings new questions to answer. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win a playoff round? Who's landing highly coveted prospect Shane Wright? The Zone Time crew tackles those topics and more.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK, I want to throw out some other-- some other questions that we could all deliver our predictions and guesses on. I wrote a line about the Leafs, because we have to find a way to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs on this show.
Is this the year they actually win a round this year? Is this the year they finally deliver on their promise? You can just give me a "yes." You can give me a "no." You can give me a "Maybe so." Or, I guess, a--
Well, a shrug, I guess, might do for Momar, I guess.
OMAR: I don't know. I don't know, man.
I don't know. They were supposed to win a round last year, and what happ-- I don't know, man. You've just got to wait.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Who was the opponent? Who was the opponent? Right?
OMAR: Like, I don't know.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, who'd they lose to? How'd they--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: OK, let me-- let me look at it right now. OK. So if the playoffs started tomorrow, the Leafs would face the Panthers. Do I have confidence that we'd beat the Panthers? Absolutely not. So I don't know.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Really?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I don't know. I don't-- yeah. I don't--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Who do you have more confidence in the Leafs beating, the Lightning or the Panthers?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Ooh, that's hard. Ironically.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Wow.
OMAR: It is-- wait--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's hard?
OMAR: Is Vasilevskiy playing or not?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Why wouldn't he be playing?
OMAR: OK, well--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah.
OMAR: OK, if Vasilevskiy playing, then I'd rather face the Panthers, obviously. Because Vasilevskiy is just frickin' unreal. And also, Lightning fans-- [LAUGHS] Lightning fans have seen a world without Vasilevskiy, and it's not pretty.
[LAUGHS] Did anyone watch that game with all those goals that-- that got--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah.
OMAR: That was brutal.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah.
OMAR: I don't know. I don't-- I don't know. And I think that's the-- that's the-- the fascinating thing about the Leafs. And this isn't to be funny. It's just like--
You know, Paul MacLean last year said something, you know, that's so true. Like, they have demons, man. They have demons.
They have all this negativity. And as much as they want to say that, you know, like-- oh, like the past teams have nothing to do with them, like-- I think someone asked him about the 2013 team that lost the first game 7. The first.
And then I think, like, Marner and Matthews was like, oh, well, you know, we weren't on the team back then. So it doesn't matter. And then what happened? Like, the-- like, obviously it wasn't as dramatic, but still, you know? Losing game 7's to Boston.
So it's like they-- they-- they will win a round when they win a round. And I know that's not, like, the best analysis, but we've seen them do good-- great things. We've seen a lot of great things from a lot of great players.
I think players like Sandin and Liljegren have really stepped up in a great role. But, you know, there are a lot of question marks. Is Jake Muzzin going to be back to his regular self? Is-- can Jack Campbell continue doing what he's been doing the entire season, which literally just putting up Vezina numbers? Who knows?
So a lot of factors come into play. And I think it just eventually is going to come down to whether they actually get that killer instinct that they talked about at the end of last season. And if they can do it-- if they can get past the first round, then I think the fan base will finally be ready to actually start legitimately having some optimism as to what they can do on a longer term.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Avery, do the Leafs win a round this year? Yes or no.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Uh-- [BUZZES LIPS] wow.
OMAR: See? That's what I said.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: I'm going to say yes. But it'll be funny, though. If they play the Panthers, the Panthers get their first playoff win in 26 years over the Leafs.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: They haven't won in so long!
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Like, they've not won a playoff series since the '90s, and if their first [INAUDIBLE] would come against the Leafs--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Since the year they were in the final in '96!
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Yeah! Shoutout-- yeah, shoutout to Uwe Krupp. But if they don't win against the Leafs-- like, if they-- oh my.
Omar might just cancel his show if the Leafs lose again in the first. He might cancel his show. He might just say, I'm done.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yo. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
OMAR: Time out. Time out. Time out. I just--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Whoa, whoa, whoa. This bro--
OMAR: Hold on.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: This brother just got his show! Let's not will-- let's not put that out there. [LAUGHS]
OMAR: Hold on.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: I'm saying-- no, I'm saying Omar might do it himself! Because, you know, the pain will be too much. [LAUGHS]
OMAR: Hold on. I just-- is that-- is that true? The Panthers--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, that's true.
OMAR: --the Panth--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The Panthers ha--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The Panthers have not won a playoff series since 1996. That was the point I was trying to make.
OMAR: So what you're telling me is that if the Leafs and the Panthers met in the playoffs, it'd be two teams who are desperately trying to win a round?
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Yes sir.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yes. And the Panthers, like I did that one episode--
OMAR: OK, so we lose. We lose. We lose.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: In that one episode I was trying to make, the Panthers-- like, everyone makes a big deal about the Leafs not winning a round in, like, 17, 18 years. The Panthers have not won a playoff round since 1996.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: I was 3.
OMAR: Leafs lose. Drop to the wild card and face someone else.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: [LAUGHS]
JULIAN MCKENZIE: [INAUDIBLE] Cuthbert-- Cuthbert--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: The difference, I guess, between the two droughts is that the Leafs do, or least recently, make the playoffs. I know the Panthers made it last year. But the Leafs have that heartbreak built in with all these first-round losses in a row.
It just-- you know, I don't know. It heightens the importance of winning the division. If they win the division, they win a round, I think. I don't think they could beat Tampa in the first round. I think they could probably handle Florida.
My prediction, I said it on radio last week, was that Leaf fans are just happy to be Leaf fans again next summer, or this coming summer. They were embarrassed to be Leaf fans last summer.
And to be proud to be a Leaf fan again, I think something good has to happen, or I know something good has to happen in the playoffs. So I think it's going to happen, because I think they're going to win the division. And I think if Boston is waiting there for them, it would be the greatest catharsis if the Leafs could beat Boston as a wild card in the first round of the playoffs. And I do think that's a possibility.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK. How about this next one? Which team ends up with Shane Wright in the draft lottery this year? It's a little bit tough to tell, I know, because we don't have the full scope.
But it seems as if there are some obvious teams that aren't going to make the final. But you could throw the Edmonton Oilers in that discussion if you so chose. You know?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I'll answer your question with a question. Does it really matter? Uh, with the way he played at the World Juniors, are we lining up to get Shane Wright? Maybe we are.
Maybe we shouldn't draw too many conclusions based on that. But I know which con-- I know which prospect I want, and that's Connor McDa-- Bedard. So it'll probably be better--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh, me too.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: --or it'll probably be worse next year to try and be in position to get Bedard. But Arizona. Arizona is the worst team in the league.
If the ping pong ball fell-- falls their way, it'll be the Arizona Coyotes, because they're that bad. And Wright probably won't help them all that much, which kind of sucks for them.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Avery?
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Yeah. I'm going to also say Arizona, too. And you know what? Even though the Coyotes sucked for a nice little bit, hey, you know what? Mark Duchene writes to the Phoenix area.
Give him, you know, your star for the Phoenix area. At least give him some joy, having the first overall pick. But yeah, I think he was Arizona as well.
And hey, at least when you're in Tampa-- sorry, when they are in Tempe, now with the new arena in 2024-ish, there you go. You can market him in your new-- in your brand-new building there with Shane Wright.
OMAR: Uh, I just did the-- I just did the draft lottery simulator, and Buffalo won. So I'll say Buffalo. They feel like they'd be cool.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh.
OMAR: That'd be a-- that'd be a nice-- that's be a-- because imagine, the Wright power. Oh, that'd be sick.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Ooh.
OMAR: That'd be cool.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: "Wright Power."
OMAR: "The Wright Power." That'd be cool.
Hey, why not?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Arizona's executing a perfect tank job right now--
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Mhm.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: --but I'd like to see him go to Buffalo.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think the Canadians are going to get it. I think--
OMAR: I mean, that would be cool for them, too. Like, it's there.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. It's there. It's in the draft. I mean, they're-- I don't think they're going to be nearly as bad as the Coyotes are. But I think they're going to be bad enough that they're going to be, like, one or two. So they're going to end up with Shane Wright, or they're going to end up with someone else.
But they could also end up in four, which isn't the end of the world. Because the Detroit Red Wings picked fourth, and they got Morit Cider out of it.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Mhm.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think they got Lucas Raymond in a similar situation, too.
OMAR: Yeah. And imagine they end up with, like, their two top centers, both right shots. That's be pretty cool.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: [INAUDIBLE]
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Because Suzuki-- I'd say finish the descent next summer and put yourself in position for Connor Bedard.
OMAR: Literally. Literally.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh yeah.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: That would be the game-changer if you're--
OMAR: Oh yeah.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I'm with Cuthbert as well. Connor Bedard is the guy you want in 2023.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Final question for you guys. Will the National Hockey League end its season on time? You know with the COVID postponements and the way the season's going-- who knows how that's going to go for teams going on with the COVID cases.
Are we going to be a situation where we're going to see teams just not able to finish their seasons? Are they going to be able to see st-- are we going to see teams just ending at, like, 70 games. Or are we going to be in a situation where, you know, the Stanley Cup is going to have to be awarded, like, a week later? Like, how do you think this could shake out?
OMAR: I think it just depends on how those three weeks in February go. Right? That's what they're using, kind of, as, like, the catch-up period.
So I think if they can get a lot of those games redone in that time period, then it might be looking good. But, you know, if we're at that point and they're postponing further games, even in the spot where they're supposed to they're supposed to be making games up, then I think it's-- I think it'll be pretty tough.
And then you get into the conversation of, OK, well, do we base the season on points percentage instead? Then you have instances like the bubble, where, like-- I think-- wasn't it, like-- oh my gosh.
I think like Buffalo and the Habs, they had, like, the same points percentage. But, like, the Habs got in for some-- I don't remember what the rules were. But you get instances like that, where you have teams who are in playoff spots, or in specific position because of points percentage, as opposed to actual points.
And then then, you know, the Stanley Cup gets awarded, and you have all these "what ifs" and stuff. So I think the three weeks in February will be pretty telling as to whether we end on time or not.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: The league the league cannot afford to have a third straight season that is shortened [INAUDIBLE] COVID. So I think they will find a way to push on. And if that means having a team that's 80% NHL guys, or ECHL guys, they will do it, because it's money. They can-- the revenue in there of having another season shortened will hurt in a major way.
So I think, yes, it will finish on time. And it could mean a Cup Final between the Utica Comets and the Bakersfield Condors, or--
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: You know? You might get two NHL teams in a Cup Final. But the league will say we've got our dates to fix. We've got to make some money on revenue in arenas.
So you might get an ECHL final. But the league will say, hey, we made it to the finish line. Everybody played all their games. It was worth it for them in their mind.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Wait, Utica versus Bakersfield.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: OK, Utica versus--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Are you saying we're getting-- are you saying we're getting a New Jersey Edmonton Stanley Cup Final?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Put your money down now.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: I'd put-- I just put two teams out there, Julian. Don't quote me on that. I just put two teams out there. Don't quote me on that, Julian! [INAUDIBLE] out there.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I don't know. You picked two really interesting, age-old franchises there. I don't know.
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Fine, I'll-- fine. I've been--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: We'll circle back. We'll circle back. [LAUGHS]
AVRY LEWIS MCDOUGALL: Fine. Laval-Abbotsford. How about that? Laval-Abbotsford Cup Final. [LAUGHS]
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Vancouver and Montreal? Really?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Maybe third time's a charm for you there.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] OK, Cuth, go ahead.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Other than the Stanley Cup pick, though, Avery's right. Big business will prevail. The hockey might be bad, but if they're playing hockey games now, when COVID's probably at its worst, I think with improved weather, that three weeks, and just the desire to play, that they're just going to trudge forward.
And the hockey might not be great. It won't be Laval in the Stanley Cup Final. But we might see more of Laval and their ECHL team, for that matter. But yeah, the games get in. The games get in.