Could Canada’s hockey teams be any worse? Nope.

Canada supplies the NHL nearly half of its players, and a ton of revenue. But it may not qualify a team for the playoffs.

Jonathan Bernier after letting the 2nd goal in. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres  during 1st period NHL action at the Air Canada Centre. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Jonathan Bernier after letting the 2nd goal in. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres during 1st period NHL action at the Air Canada Centre. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

There they are, clustered at the bottom—seven of the nine teams least likely to make the NHL playoffs. Wellsprings of dashed hope. Purveyors of overpriced merchandise that, by the all-star break, one hesitates to wear in public.

Somehow, the country that supplies nearly half of the players and the lion’s share of revenue to the NHL is in danger of failing to qualify a single team for the post-season. Much has been made of this rarity, especially by Americans—it would be the first time since the 1969-70 season, the Chicago Tribune notes, when only two of the league’s 12 franchises were located in Canada. But you could also regard 2015-16 as part of a long, haphazard slide. No Canadian club has won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens raised it in 1993. Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have all come within a win of doing so (the Canucks twice), but those were mainly one-off, Cinderella runs. Only the Canucks can claim to have contended over a sustained period, and on them, the siren is about to sound.

So pick your pet theory. Maybe we just love our teams too much. In every Canadian market, after all, on-ice mediocrity induces emotion ranging from disdain to outrage, pushing managers of our teams to make short-sighted trades in order to scrape into the playoffs. That seems a recipe for erosive decline. Or maybe we’re not scouting geniuses we think. Clubs that bottom out are supposed to bounce back with the benefit of high draft picks, as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and, more recently, the Florida Panthers have done. The Oilers, by contrast, sit dead last in the league despite picking first overall four times since 2010, and third once. Their mathematical chance of making the playoffs this year is one in 1,000.

But look south, and you see accomplished Canadian hockey men running some of the the best U.S.-based NHL teams. And there are a fair number of Stanley Cup rings on the hands of those watching over this country’s clubs. So for now, we must take solace in the law of averages, which suggests success will eventually overtake our snakebitten NHL franchises. How long will it take? On that, the law is silent.




Could Canada’s hockey teams be any worse? Nope.

  1. The NHL is a effing joke. The Euro’s made mince meat of us. I’d rather watch a good JR A game.

  2. Canada is the home of some of the most passionate hockey fans on the planet. It is unfortunate that it has become all too common for them to be silenced when playoff time rolls around. It is understandable that a team such as Winnipeg, a low budget team, has struggled to make the playoffs. Especially since they underwent a massive overhaul 5 years ago. Teams such as Toronto however– one of the wealthiest teams in the league– have no such excuse. They continually make trades that they always end up on the wrong side of. Think of the draft picks the Leafs gave up for Phil Kessel, their 2010 first and second round picks and their 2011 first rounder. These picks materialized into Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. I’m sure any Leafs fan wouldn’t object to having either of those players around these days. But they likely would’ve been traded themselves by now. This is just one example of why Canadian hockey fans will likely continue to be found dwelling in the basement of the league.

  3. Toronto has now accumulated 12 current draft picks the most of any NHL team, with I think 2 more added to next season and more to come.
    The leafs are doing it right for year 1 rebuild and will stick to the multi year plan. Leaf fans while humble realize that whith the current front office and scouts, the future while unknown, is the most promising of any NHL team in Canada. Teams like Montreal are in denial and traded there number 1 draft in 2010 for a bag of pucks and Scott, their front office bungling is legendary, Vancouver has yet to bottom out. The guy that traded for kessel is in Calgary, the jets and sens are not committed, and the oilers are a mystery.

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