Bulls & Bears: Dumba gives NHL heartfelt lift, but lottery and hub city host teams drop ball

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Bulls of the Week

The NHL was slow out of the gates in its interpretation of social and racial justice issues. Yet by delivering a heartfelt opening-round speech and raising his fist in the air during the anthems, Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild helped the NHL recover on that front and became a hockey household name in the process.

The NHL also put itself in a difficult-to-rationalize spot with the way it opened up the draft lottery to several of its better teams. The league is fortunate the New York Rangers won theAlexis Lafrenière sweepstakes, rather than recent lottery winners such as Toronto or Edmonton.

Despite those slip-ups, the NHL is bullishly basking in the glow of its made-for-TV Stanley Cup tournament.

In almost every respect — including its return-to-play format, the smart decision to build around two Canadian hub cities and the elaborate staging of the games without fans in the stands at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Rogers Place in Edmonton — the league has exceeded expectations and has received praise from even its most fervent of critics.


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It still has two months ahead of it — including the transfer of two teams from Toronto to Edmonton for the conference finals and ultimately the Stanley Cup Final — but the NHL is certainly shining in August.

Bears of the Week

Among the biggest losers in the business of sport this week were the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.Neither could survive the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup tournament that is being held in their respective hub cities.

The modified home-ice advantage of hosting the NHL bubbles — presumably familiar surroundings — didn’t translate into any breaks for the Leafs or the Oilers; just more post-season ineptitude.

For the Oil, it means they’ve burned another year of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl without anything to show for them in the playoffs. Edmonton has only one series win (against Anaheim in 2018) since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, the year after the lockout killed the 2004-05 campaign.

And that spring of 2018 is the only time the Oilers have made the playoffs in 14 years. That’s a very dry spell for the team that dominated the NHL in the mid- to late-1980s.In Toronto, the frustrations date back to the last Stanley Cup win by the Maple Leafs in 1967, more than a half century and three generations ago.

The Leafs — the second-richest franchise in the NHL at a Forbes magazine valuation of US$1.5 billion — haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. That’s 16 years and counting for the team that is built around Auston Matthews, captain John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander and has zero salary cap room to play with.


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The early exits by the Oilers and Leafs also represent a huge disappointment for Rogers Sportsnet as Canadian national television rights holders, as is the departure of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins for NBC south of the border.

Pittsburgh has consistently ranked among the top two regional TV markets in the U.S. since the Crosby-Malkin era began 15 years ago. And Toronto needs no introduction as the largest media market in Canada and the third-largest in North America.

• The Sport Market on TSN Radio rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport-business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Tom Mayenknecht at: Twitter.com/TheSportMarket

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