Though the seven franchises may all share a national boundary, there is nothing else linking them together. Should Canadian fans be vexed about this year’s Stanley Cup tournament. or just realize that sometimes random things happen?
It’s official: no Canadian NHL teams will be making the playoffs this season. We knew this in our hearts for at least a month, but now it’s written in stone. And other than the Rogers TV execs trying to remember which of their molars contains the cyanide capsule, there’s no need to worry if you’re a Canadian.
Why? Because it’s all just a weird coincidence. Nothing binds together the seven franchises – the owners don’t sit with each other at the draft, nor do they wind-surf together in the summer. They’re a bunch of rich people just like their American counterparts and their teams are bound by the same salary cap.
Taking a look back at our 2015-16 Yearbook, we had three Canadian franchises making the post-season: Montreal, Calgary and Winnipeg.
Montreal had the most obvious problem: Carey Price ended up injured for most of the season. Since the netminder was also named the best player in the NHL in our Yearbook, you can see why that may have been an issue. Without Price, the Habs fell apart. When he returns healthy next season, Montreal will be fine – especially since Alex Galchenyuk has ascended as the top center the team has needed for years.
Calgary snookered us. We knew the Flames were a bad possession team that got lucky last year, even getting to the second round thanks to a first-round match-up with dying Vancouver. But adding Dougie Hamilton and possession player Michael Frolik seemed like it would balance things out. Plus, Mark Giordano wouldn’t be missing a huge chunk of time due to injury.
The Flames did improve a bit in the possession department, but failed to get timely goaltending (another reason for last year’s success) and sit last in goals-against this season.
Winnipeg was just a disappointment. The Jets were a good possession team, but one of the worst in the NHL in one-goal games – so the fall was a bit fluky. But goaltending was also an issue, with Ondrej Pavelec putting up one of the worst save percentages among netminders who played at least 25 games. Michael Hutchinson was even worse, so you have to wonder how the Jets would have fared if they simply rode Connor Hellebuyck more.
Otherwise, you have a rebuilding team in Toronto that was clearly starting from the bottom – nobody expected the Maple Leafs to make noise in the standings. Heading down the escalator was Vancouver, which looked drab against the Flames in the playoffs and has continued to march off a cliff in the second half this season. Ottawa is pretty much what we thought they would be: good but not great, maybe a playoff team, maybe not. Misty, water-colored memories of The Hamburglar…
And of course there’s Edmonton – the worst team in the NHL.
Truthfully? I can see the Oilers making a run at a wild card spot next season. Healthy Connor McDavid, healthy Oscar Klefbom, continued growth from Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson – plus another very high draft pick this year. And I’m sure GM Peter Chiarelli will do something big in the off-season to balance out the lineup.
So we’ll see at least a couple Canadian teams back in the fold next season, pretty much guaranteed. As for the actual Stanley Cup being won by one of those franchises? That’s another blog altogether.