Canada’s NHL Teams Suck.

Don’t even try to deny it, my fellow Canadian hockey fans. There’s no sugarcoating the truth. Regardless of which Canadian team you cheer for, this season they suck on toast.

Yes, my fellow Canadiens fans, that includes our team too. I know, they’re the only one currently holding down a playoff berth and are all but ensured to clinch. But let’s be honest, in your heart of hearts, do you really believe they’re a Cup contender this season? Even if they do pull off some upsets in the East and march to the Cup Final, they’re sure to face one of those Western Conference beasts who’ll quickly make short work of the small Habs.

And please, don’t gimme that “anything can happen in the playoffs” nonsense. I’ve been hearing that pie-in-the-sky babbling for the past twenty years. Apart from riding a hot goalie to the 2010 Conference Final, the Canadiens have done very little since their last Stanley Cup championship in 1993. Forgive me if I don’t buy into playoff fairy tales anymore.

Yes, yes, this year’s version of the Canadiens is better than most we’ve seen over the last two decades. Then again, so was last year’s version, and the upstart Ottawa Senators exploited their size advantage and Carey Price’s shaky goaltending to bounce Les Canadiens from the first round.

Look, I like Price. I was thrilled with his solid performance for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics. I realize Montreal wouldn’t be in playoff contention without him, but his overall playoff record is ugly with a capital “Ugh”. Until his postseason play significantly improves, I don’t see Price carrying the Habs to Cup glory anytime soon.

It's been over 20 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.

It’s been over 20 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.

No, my fellow Canadians, all seven of our teams suck to various degrees. The Canadiens are merely the best of a lousy bunch.

There’s the downright horrible Edmonton Oilers, who have succumbed to a culture of losing. Then there’s the endlessly hopeful but always underachieving Winnipeg Jets. We have this season’s implosion of the once-dominant Vancouver Canucks, brought low by shoddy management.

The Calgary Flames sucked for several years because of stubborn management shortsightedness. This year, in the first season of a long-overdue rebuild, they still suck, but in a likable, hope-for-the-future way.

This year the Ottawa Senators crushed their fans hopes after two years of a promising rebuild. Amazing how average goaltending reveals defensive weaknesses, isn’t it?

Speaking of which, hello there, Toronto Maple Leafs. Their crappy defensive play this season was offset by strong netminding until their starter got hurt and their backup lost confidence.

It’s been over twenty years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. I don’t see that streak ending in the foreseeable future.

Why are Canada’s teams doing so poorly? As I noted in this space earlier this season, blame years of rotten management. For the past eight years Canadian teams had a great opportunity to build into perennial contenders thanks to the salary cap and a strong Canadian dollar. The playing surface was supposed to be level, not tilted in favor of American teams. No more would Canada’s teams be the poor cousins to their rivals south of the border. This time it was gonna be different.

Except the Leafs missed the playoffs seven straight seasons from 2006 to 2012 and could miss them again this year. Since 2005-06 the Canadiens, Canucks and Senators missed the playoffs twice, with the latter two poised to miss again this season.The Oilers last made the playoffs in 2006, the Flames in 2009. The reborn Jets have yet to make the postseason. 

At times in recent years some of these Canadian teams looked like contenders. Since 2004 the Flames, Oilers, Senators and Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. However, within a couple of years of reaching the Final they fell apart, victims of their own mismanagement.

Sure, there are American teams with similar problems. And yes, there are more American teams than Canadian ones. But the ratio of bad American NHL teams to good ones isn’t as severe compared to Canada’s teams.

The seven Canadian NHL teams are believed to account for over one-third of the league’s revenue, yet at any given season perhaps half qualify for the playoffs, with most usually getting eliminated before the Conference Finals.

With this many Canadian teams doing this poorly this often, it’s obvious they’re badly managed. Maybe those in the front office succumb to intense pressures from their bosses and their fans, leading them to make bad choices. Maybe they have the best of intentions but lousy application. Or maybe they just suck at their jobs.

Whatever the reason, the greatest hockey nation on earth hasn’t been well-represented by its NHL teams. I don’t hold out much hope for improvement anytime soon.


  1. Preach it, brother!

  2. Hi Lyle,

    Interesting article. I can’t speak from facts, but I don’t think that mismanagement is the main problem. I believe that the main problem is the players have too much freedom to choose where they play. The no-movement and no-trade clauses and free agency have given too much power to the players.

    If I was a hockey player, I would want to play in the States too. I get to make my money, be anonymous, live in much more cosmopolitan cities, some of which that have fantastic weather, and pay less tax. While the Canadian teams may have been playing on a financially even playing field, all the intangibles make it much more appealing to play in the States. And, I think that is wrong.

    I believe that the team that drafts a player should have his rights for life and trade him to whoever he wants to.

    • with Good luck with that one. Bring back the C form – bury a kid in the minors if he pisses off the owner. Let’s here it for the good old days. Ask Gordie Howe about the good old days.
      Let’s lay the blame for lousy Canadian teams where it really belongs – with the owners. Any Leaf fan can recite, chapter and verse, the terrible owners they’ve had to endure, beginning with Harold Ballard and Stafford Smythe and on down the years to today’s greedy sob’s, Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment. We’re talking serious greed here and unforgiveable fan abuse.
      But the franchise that takes the cake these days is the Vancouver Canucks. These guys could screw up a one-car funeral. How anyone can take a contending team in a beautiful city with passionate and loyal fans, and drag it down to mediocrity in two years is unbelievable.
      Fire the owners first and find people who actually care about the fans, and maybe, just maybe, things will improve.
      As a Leaf fan, I remain dubious.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. High profile agents are going to American teams. Just look at the recent trade deadline. Vanek going to the Canadiens was a fluke. See if he resigns with Montreal in the off season. How many big name free agents have went to Canadian teams? Iginla to Pittsburgh, then the Rangers. St Louis to the Rangers. Callahan to the Lightning. As long as younger free agents can determine where they go, Canadian teams will suffer. Big name free agents will not go to Edmonton, Calgary or Winnipeg. Bring back the old free agent rules when they were not free agents until their late twenties. Big business has won out in the NHL, and Canadian teams are suffering.

  3. Those are all examples of trades, not free agents choosing where to go. However, Martin St. Louis chose NYR because he wanted to play with Richards. Last year the Leafs got the most sought after free agent in Clarkson (not saying it was a good move because it wasn’t lol… but it did happen). How was vanek going to the Canadiens a fluke? They just offered NYI the best package… and Garth Snow agreed lol

  4. take away what we pay to these yanky owners every year. lets see which ballpark we play in.give us our old hockey back. why should the Canadian teams have to pay for garbage down south. keep your cap but why should we be supporting crap the states,really do they give a crap in carrolina. they would rather see cars go round and round. just flush some scittles in a toilet u see the same race every time

  5. I believe Paul has a point. If I was a player and had the choice of Edmonton (cold winters, rabid to the point of being invasive fan-base, media scrutiny, huge travel time, losing culture) or Anaheim (nice weather, winning culture, living anonymous) which would I choose? The choice is obvious. While mismanagement plays a part, I personally believe it is the incredible scrutiny and pie-high fan expectations that do in many promising teams and players in here in Canada. Media swoops in on these guys every game questioning every move these players have made on the ice, making them second-guess their skills and decision-making as they know, in the back of their head, every bad decision these players make on the ice will follow them long after the game is done. And if they have played in a more marginal market, don’t tell me these guys long to live in greater anonymity with far less scrutiny. I think fans have made it darn-near unbearable for some of these players to live and play in Canadian cities as a result.