For the first time in 46 years, there will be no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is definitely sad news for Canada, and honestly it is going to suck not being able to cheer for a Canadian team. With 11 days left in the Regular Season, all seven Canadian-based teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals eliminated the Ottawa Senators, the last Canadian team that had any shot to make the playoffs. Last year, five Canadian teams made the postseason, with Toronto and Edmonton being the only ones who didn’t. Big step last year, considering only Montreal made it in 2013-14.
But the odds are stacked against Canada to make the Playoffs, as there are seven Canadian teams and 23 American teams. We’re going to look at what went wrong with each Canadian team.
Teams in order of NHL Standings:
Ottawa Senators | 35-33-9 | 79 PTS
- GF: 219
- GA: 235
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
DREADFUL TEAM ‘D’
Nobody plays defence worse than the Senators. As of Tuesday, they had given up a league-high 32.9 shots per game, while No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson had faced more pucks (1,856) than any other goalie in the league. If not for the play of their netminders, the Senators would also have the worst team goals-against average per game, which ranks 28th at 3.00 as is.
If the NHL website kept track of most odd-man rushes against and most D-zone breakdowns, the Senators would have the highest numbers in those categories, as well.
The blue line improved significantly with the addition of Dion Phaneuf, and the Senators should have a top four that ranks among the best, with Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and Cody Ceci rounding out the quartet. Their five-six combination of Mark Borowiecki and Chris Wideman should be decent, too. But good defence is a team mentality and, whether it’s the coaching or a lack of understanding on the part of the players, something is missing.
SPECIAL TEAMS CRASH
The Senators lead the league in shorthanded goals, which is the only positive to report from either their penalty-killing or power-play units. Their 75.4% success rate in killing shorthanded situations is ranked 29th, as it flips back and forth with Calgary’s as the worst in the league. Again, this is a mystery with some of the personnel they have. They were 11th on the PK last season — do they really miss Erik Condra that much?
Their talent-laden power play, which surely leads the league in most passes, has dropped from an unacceptable 22nd rating last season to 28th, while converting on just 15.6% of its chances.
On home ice, the Senators power play is a joke, having scored just 14 goals, with an 11.1% success rate, that is easily the worst in the league.
Even with their defensive troubles, the Senators could have challenged for a playoff spot with decent special teams. Instead, being bad in both aspects of the game killed them.
LEFT SIDE ISSUES, PART I
High expectations were placed on port-side blue-liners Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch, and both former high draft choices fell terribly short.
Cowen, who always struggled with his mobility, appeared to lose a step or five with injury problems. He also seemed to have difficulty grasping what was required of him. His great size never turned into a great asset for the Senators.
Wiercioch has tools, but he never put them on display. A self-described “offensive-minded” defenceman, he has zero goals and five assists in 52 games. Remember when he used to send teammates on breakaways with a great first pass? It was before this season. And his play in the D-zone has often left much to be desired.
By this point in their careers, Cowen and Wiercioch were supposed to be ready for top-four minutes. That they weren’t left the Senators vulnerable.
LEFT SIDE ISSUES, PART II
Injuries to left wingers Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek were extremely detrimental to the health of Ottawa’s playoff chances. Both are veterans who play the game the right way, providing leadership that is under-rated. Without them, there was a gaping hole.
Rookie left winger Shane Prince never did emerge as expected, and Matt Puempel did not take the step the coaching staff thought he would when given limited opportunities. Management had to reach down to the minors and dust off Dave Dziurzynski, but he regressed after making an immediate impact.
Curtis Lazar was miscast as a left winger out of necessity, and it wasn’t until Zack Smith settled in to the role late in the season that the Senators had a second top-six left winger to go along with Mike Hoffman.
THE DONUT PROBLEM
Losing Kyle Turris to a high ankle sprain left the Senators with a big hole in the middle. He played 57 games, but while trying to work through the injury for two months, he was ineffective — even a detriment — as his lack of production and minus-15 rating attest. Turris has been one of the team’s top three scorers ever since arriving in Ottawa during the 2012-13 season, and his dependability was missed during games and in shootouts.
Pageau has done a fine job as a top-line fill-in, but he was playing well before the Turris injury. What the Senators needed was huge strides from Mika Zibanejad, and while the 22-year old Swede has a career-high 47 points, he is not yet ready, if ever he will be, to assume the role of No. 1 centre.
The Senators needed to acquire a top-line centre at the deadline, but there was nothing available at a price they were willing to pay.
Montreal Canadiens | 35-36-6 | 76 PTS
- GF: 205
- GA: 224
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
GALLAGHER’S BAD BREAK
The Habs offence was humming until the heart-and-soul of the team’s attack, Brendan Gallagher, went down to block a Johnny Boychuk slap shot.
The shot busted Gallagher’s hand. It required surgery and derailed what was shaping up to be a career season for the Habs forward.
Montreal was in first place when Gallagher went down. When he returned on January 1st, the team’s tail spin was in full-dive mode and couldn’t be stopped.
Without question, the number one lowlight of the Habs season was losing Carey Price to injury.
The Habs keeper went down with a lower-body injury in October but returned to action a few weeks later. The death-blow came on November 25th in New York, when he was pulled midway through a victory over the Rangers.
At first it didn’t seem so serious. But a one-week absence grew into six, and then that grew into “indefinitely.” Fans questioned whether he returned too quickly from the first injury.
THE SEMIN SAGA
Alexander Semin career was in tatters when Marc Bergevin signed him. But the reclamation project to restore Semin to his NHL superstar status never got off the ground.
He immediately clashed with coach Michel Therrien. After only 15 games he packed his bags and headed to Russia.
Semin was only a shadow of the 40-goal scorer he once was, but his rapid departure left some fans wondering if he was never given a fair shake by the Habs coaching staff.
After leaving the Habs, Semin scored 17 goals and added 21 assists playing for Magnitogorsk in Russia’s KHL.
DECEMBER AND JANUARY
This is not hyperbole: The Habs record from December 1st until the end of January was the worst.
Their performance came as a huge shock because in October and November the Habs were 18-4-3.
But with the winter breeze Montreal dissolved into mediocrity, posting a 3-11-0 record in December — an all-time franchise worst for that month.
January’s 3-7-1 record wasn’t much better. To put that in perspective, their December-to-January pace would have delivered a meagre 43 points over the course of an entire season.
THE JARRED TINORDI – JOHN SCOTT TRADE
This trade never made hockey sense. John Scott has not, and likely never will, play a game for the Montreal Canadiens.
Yet Marc Bergevin traded away Jarred Tinordi, a former first-round draft pick the team spent years developing, in exchange for Scott and depth defenceman Victory Bartley.
At the time the deal looked like a tactic to keep Scott from playing in the All-Star Game after fans in Arizona had voted him in.
The NHL made it known they didn’t want the enforcer to participate in the game. The Habs seemed to resolve the league’s dilemma by sending Scott down to the minors.
But, of course, that’s not how things ended. Scott played in the game and was named MVP.
The true motivation behind the trade became even murkier when Bergevin told reporters he had to make the trade: “I have some reasons that I can’t really tell you why, but if I could you would probably understand.”
It was revealed on March 9th that Jarred Tinordi had failed a drug test before he was traded.
SUBBAN THROWN UNDER THE BUS
Michel Therrien tossed his star player, P.K. Subban, under the bus following a loss in Colorado on February 17th.
The timing rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way. Therrien had just coached his team through two of the worst months of hockey in franchise history and now he’s blaming P.K.?
To be fair to Therrien, Subban made a risky play that backfired and cost the team the game.
Devante Smith-Pelly couldn’t hold back his tears when the Habs traded him to New Jersey.
But now that he’s gone it’s likely Habs fans are the ones who are weeping. Smith-Pelly had 12 points in 46 games with Montreal. He has 11 points in 11 games since joining the Devils.
Calgary Flames | 32-39-6 | 70 PTS
- GF: 213
- GA: 248
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
It’s been a disappointing season for the Calgary Flames, to say the least.
After a surprise run to the second round of the post-season in 2014-15 and an off-season that saw them land defenceman Dougie Hamilton in a blockbuster trade, the Flames fell flat in 2015-16.
Heading into Wednesday night’s meeting with the Anaheim Ducks the Flames sat dead last in team save percentage.
You could say the Flames padded that lead on the rest of the NHL.
Starter Jonas Hiller surrendered three goals on five shots before giving way to 38-year-old Niklas Backstrom, who watched five pucks make it to the back of the net on 22 shots.
Make it an 8-3 final for the Ducks.
There is a lot to like in Calgary with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan producing up front and a blue-line that boasts Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Hamilton. Still, you can’t get by with goaltending this far below league average.
This isn’t 1982 and Reggie Lemelin’s career save percentage is not a desirable number in today’s game.
Expect Brad Treliving and Co. to explore some options to solidify the club’s situation between the pipes this summer.
They haven’t been a very consistent team this year. Not being able to play a full sixty minutes night in night out will lose you games.
The Flames were bitten by the injury bug this year, http://weliveforhockey.com/2016/03/10/flames-bitten-by-the-injury-bug/
Winnipeg Jets | 31-39-7 | 69 PTS
- GF: 195
- GA: 225
- 5 games left
What went wrong?
They are a young team, loaded with bright young prospects, and the future is bright—or something along those lines. Any combination of the words ‘young,’ ‘prospects,’ future,’ and ‘bright’ will suffice in any conversation about the local hockey squad.
And all of the above is true.
The Jets currently have seven roster players who are under 23-years-old. Three of those players (Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry—all 22) are wrapping up their third year of pro hockey service, while others—Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Nikolaj Ehlers and Marko Dano (who joined the roster last week)—are at various stages but continue to get their feet wet.
Are Armia and Dano NHL players, or are they just getting an opportunity because the season has been toast for weeks now? Once upon a time, the Atlanta Thrashers management was ridiculed in these for rushing young players into the lineup before they were ready. Discuss among yourselves.
Yes, Cheveldayoff decided to gamble on his young players taking the place of established veterans, and that the turbulence would be minimal. The modest goal of qualifying for the playoffs was the stated goal out of training camp—just like it is every year.
Now watch out for revisionist history: this ‘organizational reset’ or ‘roster restructuring’ (don’t use the ‘re-build’—that’s taboo) was not the expectation heading into the year. The organization was trying to win.
Why sign a guy like Drew Stafford at over $4 million per year when they expected to take a step back? Wouldn’t a younger, cheaper option be better served in that spot if the plan for this year was to simply pass out experience to the youngsters, win-loss record be dammed?
The Jets didn’t expect to take a step back, or at least not one as far back as they did, and now that the season has been reduced to nothing more than just garbage time, the focus is squarely on the kids.
It’s not just about development and the future, it’s also a distraction from the present.
Vancouver Canucks | 27-36-13 | 67 PTS
- GF: 172
- GA: 221
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
‘COMPETITIVE REBUILD’, INJURIES
It’s a small consolation for Benning, who constructed this team to make the post-season.
Holding onto Ryan Miller despite significant offers and trading for Brandon Sutter weren’t moves designed to strengthen the club for the future. Vancouver hasn’t made all-in moves designed to vault the team into a playoff spot at the expense of the prospect pool, but these were transactions designed to help the team compete now. The goal was to strengthen the Canucks’ hand as the organization undergoes what was, at one time, billed as a ‘competitive rebuild’.
In Benning’s view, that competitive-style rebuild was sabotaged by a rash of injuries, including nine players recently being out of the lineup.
“We’ve had half of Utica up here playing right now,” Benning said. “From that perspective it’s been hard because we’ve had so many injuries to key players, like losing Edler and Tanev on defence.”
There’s no doubt that injuries to players like Sutter, Dan Hamhuis and Alexander Edler have hurt the club. Even if everything had broken their way, this iteration of the Canucks was likely to be a fringe playoff team.
With the way the NHL is structured, being a bubble playoff team is arguably the worst spot to be in. When a team finds themselves mired in that mushy middle ground, they’re not a real contender and aren’t drafting high enough to land the sort of game-changing star player that can help a team win a championship down the road.
A high pick in the 2016 NHL draft is precisely what the Canucks need long term. As distasteful as the losing has been for ownership, management, coaches, players and fans, landing star-level talent is the only way forward.
Even if it’s not the way management drew it up.
Toronto Maple Leafs | 28-37-11 | 67 PTS
- GF: 186
- GA: 222
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
That was then, and the Leafs’ on-ice product has never been more emotionally removed from that epic Beantown letdown than on Saturday, as the Original Six rivals renewed acquaintances at the ACC. With current injuries to various veterans in mind, Toronto’s roster Saturday featured just two players who were on the ice in that epic post-season collapse: Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner.
The Leafs did go all throwback Thursday this week, surrendering three third-period goals before pulling out a 6-5 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks, but the similarities end there for a Leafs team that recently has taken on the role of world-beater despite its last-place standing.
“Young, fast and a lot of energy,” veteran Leafs forward P.A. Parenteau said in describing the team’s identity since the trade deadline, which saw numerous experienced players dealt away for draft picks. “We have a lot of callups, a lot of guys that want to do well, and I think that’s why we’re having so much success. They’re working hard and playing the right way.”
Parenteau, who wasn’t around for the 2013 letdown, emphasized that the atmosphere in the room has skyrocketed as the Leafs have won seven of their past nine.
“You never want to be last, but I don’t think we’re a last-place team right now, I don’t feel that way,” the forward said. “If you look at our lineup, the way the kids have been playing, the way they’ve been progressing … I don’t feel like this is a last-place team, and I think time will tell and time will show that. “
‘B’ CALM, CARRY ON
Losing five consecutive games prior to Saturday is not how the Bruins drew it up, but Boston still conceivably can capture the Atlantic Division title.
“(The losing streak is) not, obviously, an ideal situation at this time of year, right before the playoffs start. We have to forget about what’s happening last five games and focus really on the game tonight,” Bruins defenceman Zdeno Charasaid on Saturday morning. “We’ve got to be living in the present. The next game is the most important game.”
UNCLE OUT FOR LONGER
While the Leafs had forward Brad Boyes back following his eight-game absence to injury, it’s anybody’s guess as to when and if forward Leo Komarov returns this season.
Head coach Mike Babcock said he was informed by the team’s medical staff in the morning that Komarov, who has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, is “at least 10 days away” from returning, while Marlies callup Nikita Soshnikov, who has missed three games with an undisclosed injury, “won’t be back for a bit.”
Forward Byron Froese is getting closer to a return, while Komarov potentially would return for the team’s final three regular-season games, based on his coach’s timeline.
Forward Peter Holland (upper-body) and defenceman Victor Loov (upper-body) were the others who skated with Soshnikov and Komarov prior to the morning skate.
Parenteau was looking for his 100th career NHL goal … The Leafs hit the road for three games starting Monday against Steven Stamkos and the Lightning … Boyes on the opportunity to play playoff spoiler in the final nine games: “I think right now our biggest mindset is to play well, do the system. It’s important for us to get good feelings.” Babcock on the same topic: “To me, it has nothing to do with (the opposition), it has to do with us just getting better.”
Edmonton Oilers | 30-42-7 | 67 PTS
- GF: 194
- GA: 234
- 5 Games left
What went wrong?
Going through the process of doing a full rebuild is something few NHL organizations are willing to do. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an easy process and if things don’t break the right way, a franchise could find themselves spinning their wheels for the better part of a decade. The Edmonton Oilers have been living that nightmare for the past six years and in the process, have become the butt of one poorly executed joke after another because of their inability to get this franchise moving in the right direction. While the Oilers were thrown a lifeline at last year’s Draft Lottery which should allow them to right the ship, hello Connor McDavid, having a generational talent fall into your lap isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence and one an organization cannot count on happening.
The Edmonton Oilers have been selling their fans a bag of goods since the summer of 2010 and with little more tweaking, you are on the clock Peter Chiarelli, look poised to finally start repaying them for their years of loyalty starting in 2016-17.
Although, it can only go up from here.