With the Jets and Flames each losing big games while their respective playoff chances hang in the balance, it’s time for fans in Calgary and Winnipeg to accept the fact that their seasons will likely come to an end on April 7, and not a day later.

With that realization comes another. If the Jets and Flames join the Oilers, Canadiens and Maple Leafs as teams who’ll be watching the playoffs from home, it will mean that only two Canadian-based teams will qualify for the playoffs this season (and that’s assuming the Senators aren’t on the precipice of a Leafs-like collapse).

You may be thinking, “so what, only two Canadian teams made the playoffs last year, too.” And you’d be right. But let me explain why it happening two seasons in a row is actually a big deal.

Between 1980 and 2010 – that’s 30 seasons of NHL hockey – a minimum of three Canadian teams qualified for the post-season every single year. After 30 years of having a minimum of three Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, we’re now closing in on back to back years with just two Canadian teams in the playoffs. That hasn’t happened since the 1978 and 1979 post-seasons.

So yes, it’s only two years, but based on recent history, this is officially a dry spell for Canadian hockey fans.

Links

  • I’m not the only one who thinks it’s “lights out” for the Flames. (Winnipeg Sun)
  • The Canucks are relying on minor miracles right now (Vancouver Sun).
  • The Maple Leafs signed Hobey Baker finalist and NCAA leading scorer Spencer Abbott on Wednesday (theScore.com). Don’t worry, Don, he’s a good old Ontario boy!
  • Pretty cool story on Abbott and his linemate/roomate at Maine, Brian Flynn (The Bangor Daily News). Abbott and Flynn could face each other this weekend when Abbott’s Toronto Marlies take on Flynn’s Rochester Americans.
  • Paul MacLean and the Senators have found a balance between rest and rust (Ottawa Citizen). Balance, schmalance. I won’t believe the Sens are a playoff team until they actually clinch a spot. They’re only four points clear of the Capitals and play three of their final five games against playoff-bound teams.
  • Is it time to change the NHL’s playoff seeding? (Detroit Free Press). The column makes a great point and voices an opinion that I’m sure most of us share. Winning a weak division shouldn’t be rewarded with a top-three seed and home ice advantage. Personally, I’d like to see a day when all a division title does is guarantee a playoff spot, nothing more. At the very least, go to the NBA’s format where a second place division team can earn a top-three Conference seed if it’s deserved.
  • Why the Stars’ future took a back seat to their present on Wednesday (Dallas Morning News). With four teams separated by just two points and the Ducks playing the stubborn spoiler, Pacific Division matchups are absolute must-watch games over the next 10 days.
  • The Coyotes’ playoff picture is looking bleak (Fox Sports Arizona). Outside of the fact that almost everything for that franchise looks bleak, for God’s sake, they’re still only one point out with five games to go, and are just two points out of the division lead.
  • Debunking the myth of “the hot team” heading into the playoffs (The Sporting News). If you really do put stock in teams that head into the post-season on a streak, or jump off the bandwagon of teams who struggle in March or April, this read should open your eyes.
  • The Top 10 “sickest NHL dangles” (Puck Daddy). Because who doesn’t like a debatable, entertaining, highlight reel sports countdown?
  • Speaking of highlight reels, have you seen theScore.com’s newest feature? “Power Plays” is a nightly feature that runs through the best plays of the night in the NHL. Here’s last night’s edition. (theScore.com)
  • Zdeno Chara is the Easter Bunny of your nightmares. I hope none of you were planning on going back to sleep after reading this.

Comments (3)

  1. I have argued, and will continue to argue, that the salary cap puts Canadian teams at a disadvantage, due to higher taxes, something that is not factored into the cap.

    So, for example, when Montreal lost Wisniewski there was an article that pointed out his 5.5mil cap hit in Columbus would be equivalent after tax earnings to something around 6.3 in Montreal (http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110702/mtl_habshub_habit_110701/20110702/?hub=MontrealSports)

    I’m not an expert on taxes, but I’m under the impression that income taxes, for the wealthy, are higher in Canada than in the US (of course, with the Conservatives in power that might have changed), and so I imagine players (and/or agents) would take that into account when signing deals.

    • The thing is that ancillary earning opportunities are higher in Canadian cities than they are pretty much anywhere in the US. Mats Sundin wasn’t doing those McDonald’s commercials for free, nor is Iggy with Scotiabank (and the myriad of other companies he pitches for). Those opportunities more than make up the difference from high end players. Since the Raptors have long figured out ways to minimize the tax difference for free agents, it’s assumed that all of the NHL teams did the same thing.

      Now, the bigger issue is asking whether a free agent would want to PLAY in Edmonton / Winnipeg irrespective of the tax situations. That’s a valid concern, and will become moreso as American players begin to take up a greater portion of the player share of the NHL. A kid from Ohio isn’t going to give the Oilers a “I used to watch them on HNIC” discount.

      But the Canadian teams aren’t bad because of their inability to attract prime talent. They’re bad because, with the exception of the Canucks, their player management has been horrible in the post-lockout period. The Leafs had JFJr (and Burke’s been hit or miss). The Habs have the built-in stupidity of an unofficial French-speaking quota. The Oilers got screwed by the Chris Pronger situation and haven’t been able to recover since; the Sens likewise with Heatley, although things have been better. And Calgary… well, no need to analyze that one too much.

  2. “That hasn’t happened since the 1978 and 1979 post-seasons.”

    And, of course, that was when there were only three Canadian teams (… can’t recall the exact date the WHA was folded into the NHL…) so this is almost as bad as it’s ever been.

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