An event is about to occur in the NHL that has only happened once, 46 years ago. Unfortunately, Canada isn’t going to be happy when it happens. This event is going to cost Canadian teams millions in merchandise and ticket sales, and fans throughout the nation will be disappointed.
For just the second time in the history of the NHL, no Canadian teams will be in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Before we talk about this year’s northern futility, let’s go back to the first time this disaster occurred. In 1970, there were 12 teams in the league. Eight teams made the playoffs. The Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr was still playing, and in fact was the NHL’s scoring leader – the first and only defenseman to win that title.
The Montreal Canadiens were the defending Stanley Cup champions, but missed the playoffs, losing a tiebreaker to the New York Rangers in spectacular fashion. Of the then-current twelve teams in the league, only two were from Canada: the Canadiens, who finished ninth, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished tenth.
Both Montreal and Toronto had better records than five of the six teams in the Western conference, but were still the worst teams in the East. Orr’s Bruins would go on to win the Canada-less Stanley Cup playoffs.
Now, in 2016, there are 32 teams in the NHL, and 16 of those will make the playoffs. Of those 32 teams, there are 7 teams in Canada. Sadly, all seven teams from the Great White North are just terrible. The best of the bunch are the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators have 79 points, (10 points out of the playoffs), and are 12th place in the East with five games to play. Technically the Senators are still alive for a playoff spot, but will be eliminated if either: they lose even one of their remaining games, or the Philadelphia Flyers win one game or make it to overtime. Even if the Senators manage to pass the Flyers by some stroke of luck, they also have the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and Carolina Hurricane ahead of them in the standings. The Senators have a record of 35-33-9.
The Canadiens are three points behind Ottawa, and carry a losing record of 35-36-6 with five games remaining, 13th in the Eastern conference. The Canadiens have been crushed by injuries to key players, including goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban.
Bringing up the rear in the East are the Maple Leafs, at 28-37-11, dead last in the conference and in the running for the #1 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. The Leafs are a young team and will be better next season, especially after adding a top pick in the draft, but this year has not been pretty for them.
It’s even uglier for the Canadian teams in the West, ranking as the worst four teams in the conference. The Calgary Flames lead the way with 70 points, 17 points out of the playoff race. The Flames are so bad that even their own fans have taken to calling them “the Lames.”
Following the Flames are the Winnipeg Jets (69 points), Vancouver Canucks (67), and Edmonton Oilers (67). All four of these teams are also in the running for the first draft pick this offseason. In fact, all of the first five draft picks could realistically go to Canadian teams. This indicates a brighter future for Canada’s pro hockey teams, and it’s not likely that this year’s shutout scenario will occur again next season.
For this unfortunate season though, hockey’s homeland will be watching its southern neighbors play in April and May.
Statistics provided by: ESPN.com
Images thanks to: Huffington Post, o.canada.com, USA Today, dailydsports.com, and sportsnet.ca