While five of Canada’s seven hockey teams advanced to the post-season in 2014-15, it’s all but guaranteed that this year’s playoffs will be void of squads from the north.
There’s no conspiracy afoot, but no simple explanation either. Coach’s Corner mainstay and host of Rogers Hometown Hockey Ron MacLean joined The Andrew Walker Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday to talk, among other things, about the absence of Canadian teams heading into the NHL’s second season.
MacLean signalled the difficulty Canadian teams face in acquiring star players via trade as one obstacle to building a competitive club.
“For Canadian teams to build is really tricky. The player with the no-movement, no-trade contract, who is the good player, he doesn’t put Canadian teams on his list of cities he’d accept a trade and they don’t generally choose to come here through free agency,” MacLean said.
Interestingly enough, ESPN senior writer Craig Custance recently polled 10 player agents to see what teams most often appear on no-trade clauses. The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets topped the list, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Montreal Canadiens also receiving votes.
This theory may be tested this summer, as it's widely believed the Maple Leafs could land pending-UFA Steven Stamkos on the open market. It's no slam dunk in MacLean's eyes. Could Stamkos choose the relative comfort of being a superstar in Florida over the allure of playing for the team he grew up watching?
"Everybody and his dog is assuming Steven Stamkos is coming to Toronto. What if he doesn't? What if he does what most players do and that's think for tax reasons, weather reasons, family reasons — although he's got family here...and just the fact you can't get away from the game makes it really difficult to play in Canada.
"It's easier to be a great pro, to have a little respite from the rigours, when you're in the United States. So players choose, as a rule, to play down there. That is a concern."
Stamkos has 34 goals and 60 points in 73 games this season. The 26-year-old is set for a massive payday this summer and our money is on him wearing a blue and white sweater to start the 2016-17 campaign.
The Maple Leafs and Oilers have already been eliminated from post-season contention this season. The remaining five Canadian teams are clinging to rapidly fading chances, with Winnipeg staring down mathematical elimination when they host the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.