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.
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.