As this regular season draws to a close, here’s a brief take on each of the Canadian non-playoff teams.

Just wanted to clarify something for Flames fans regarding my THN.com column advocating their team trade Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff this summer. I bear your team or those particularly players no malice. Indeed, “Iggy” and “Kipper” are two of my favorite players, and in a fair and perfect world, it would be appropriate for them to retire as Flames.

But the Flames world is far from fair, or perfect. They’ve missed the playoffs the past two seasons and are poised to make it three in a row. Even if they do squeak in, the odds are long they’ll advance beyond the first round.

The sad truth is the Flames have been slowly but surely deteriorating, and are badly in need of an overhaul. Given the lack of depth in quality forwards and goalies in this summer’s UFA market, Iginla (if he’ll accept a trade) and Kiprusoff could fetch solid returns for the Flames to begin that rebuild in earnest.

 

As a Canadiens fan, I’m disappointed in their poor performance this season, and acknowledge this is a team which needs serious changes if they’re to ever get back into Stanley Cup contention.

Those changes must come in the front office and behind the bench, and with the recent announcement of the firing of GM Pierre Gauthier, it’s apparent those changes have begun. The Canadiens need to bring in a savvy general manager who can build this team up, and a smart head coach who can mould them into champions.

Narrowing the field for bilingual candidates doesn’t provide many options. If it were up to me, I’d recommend Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM (and former Canadiens “capologist”) Julien Brisebois for general manager, and former Avalanche and Thrashers coach Bob Hartley as their new head coach.

But of course, it’s not up to me, but owner Geoff Molson to find the right GM, who in turn will have to hire the right coach. I’ve heard candidates as diverse as NBC analyst Pierre McGuire to Quebec Remparts owner/GM/coach – and former Habs legend – Patrick Roy suggested for the general manager’s seat.

Molson not only has to hire the right guy, but will have little less than months to do so, in time for the 2012 NHL entry draft, where the Canadiens could have a draft pick in the top three for the first time since 1980, one which will be relied upon to become part of the current foundation (Carey Price, PK Subban, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais,Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec, Erik Cole, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin) upon which to rebuild.

 

When the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Brian Burke as their general manager, most Toronto pundits sung his praises, considering him the best man for the job of finally turning the Maple Leafs around and ending their lengthy Stanley Cup drought.

Three-and-a-half years later, the Leafs roster has been overhauled, but the results haven’t changed, as they’ve continued to miss the playoffs, poised to become the only team over the course of the current CBA not to gain a post-season berth.

Now, many of those pundits who sang Burkes praises are putting the blame  -justifiably -upon him, and a few are suggesting his tenure as Leafs GM could come to an end if the club fails to turn around next season.

With over $57 million tied up in 18 players for next season, and assuming the salary cap for next season remains around the current $64.3 million, Burke won’t have much cap space to bring in a quality starting goaltender, a first line center, and some experienced grit on his checking lines.

He’ll have to wheel and deal, which could mean shopping defenseman Luke Schenn or, if he were to listen to the pundits, top scorer Phil Kessel.

Whatever Burke does, there’s no denying he’s entering the most crucial summer of his tenure as Leafs GM, one which could determine not only the Leafs long-term future, but his own with the franchise.

 

The Edmonton Oilers will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year, and could once again be in position for a top-five draft pick.

Having picked Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in the last two entry drafts, speculation is starting to bubble over what they’ll do with this year’s pick.

Do they keep it and select the highest touted prospects, in this case being forwards Nail Yakupov or Mikhail Grigorenko? Do they pursue defensemen like Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba or Griffin Reinhart? Or do they shop the pick for perhaps an established defenseman or scorer?

It’s likely to keep fans and pundits guessing right up to the first round of this year’s entry draft, but in the meantime, management has other serious issues to consider with this roster, like determining if Devan Dubnyk is finally ready for prime-time as a starter, landing an established second-line scorer, and shoring up their blueline depth.

Yes, the Oilers are showing some improvement over the past month, but as an Edmonton Sun columnist recently observed, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this show, where an Oilers team out of playoff contention finished strong, giving rise to false hopes of improvement just around the corner.

 

It would’ve been icing on the cake for Winnipeg Jets fans if their club made the playoffs in their first season in the Manitoba capital, but alas, it was not to be.

Still, the Jets will get a pass from their faithful fans, who are still enjoying their honeymoon with the club.

The Jets have several quality players on their roster upon which to build for next season, and build they must, as the Jets remain as they were when they were the Atlanta Thrashers a year ago: a team with promise still lacking depth and maturity to make the post-season, who really struggle on the road.

Re-signing Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec shouldn’t prove difficult, especially with $36 million committed to 13 players for next season, but GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will also need to find a suitable backup for Pavelec, perhaps an experienced stay-at-home defenseman, another good top-six scorer, and some experienced checking line forward with leadership ability.

The Jets kept their payroll a little over $3 million above the mandatory cap minimum for this season of $48.3 million. The cap floor could drop in the next CBA if there’s a widening between it and the cap ceiling, which would of course make it easier for the Jets to get over that mandatory minimum.

That being said, they cannot skimp by just hovering above the cap minimum if they hope to improve for next season. They’ll have to spend around the mid-point (whatever it may be) to accomplish this.

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2 Responses to Some Thoughts on the Non-Playoff Canadian Teams.

  1. me says:

    Not sure about false hope in Edmonton the ALL year stats do not show that. 14th overall in scoring, comparing to 28th overall last year. Improvement in goals against, PP, PK, goal differential.

    When you improve in every single statistical category, chances are the team is getting better.

  2. Captain Ahab says:

    I disagree with trading Kiprusoff. Maybe there is value in trading Iginla but as the Leafs have proven, without great goaltending you are going nowhere. The Flames without Kipper would be dead in the water. He needs to stay.
    A coaching change along with moving a few players would do more to rejuvenate the Flames that dumping Kipper and Iggy. Sutter’s style and way of motivating players has gone the way of the dinosaurs and someone more progressive should be behind the bench.

    Whoever gets the GM’s job in Montreal will have some tough decsions to make. They will have a hig draft pick and need to use it for their future or trade it for right now. Gomez needs to go. A couple of other players should be sent packing as well. Price, Cole, Subban are young and have great futures as do a numb of other players. Bring in some talent and whoever coaches next year should have a good team to work with.
    With Price in net you already have a major piece of the puzzle. Many other teams would like to have that to start with…just look at Toronto.

    With Wilson fired the Leafs continued their losing ways and so to me anyway, it shows that it was the product on the ice the coach had to work with rather than the man.
    Burke’s butt is on the line and he will make changes rather than standing pat as he did at last years trading deadline. Goaltending will be addressed and possibly Roberto Luongo could be headed to TO which would give them stability in net and allow Reimer to blossom as Schneider did in Vancouver. Kadre will have a chance next year rather than being sent down every time he slipped up. The defense must be addressed and anyone who has played for Carlyle either plays defensive hockey or they sit or move on. Lupul will be back and hopefully Rosehill will be farmed out. In this day and age, there really is no place for a tough guy who can’t play well.

    The Oilers need a defenseman and whether they pick one in the draft or trade for one doesn’t matter, they need one.
    Rumours still abound about a new coach and coaching style in Edmonton. If a new coach comes in can you Imagine how happy he would be looking at all that talent and thinking of the Oilers of old and that style of run and gun hockey.
    I look for Edmonton to be middle of the pack next year.

    Winnepeg. Canada’s “new” team. They played hard and their fans got their money’s worth every game. Too bad Canada’s “old” team can’t do or say the same.
    The Jets have been embraced in Winnepeg and with the addition of one or two players of the summer they could easily be in th et half of the league.

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