There’s an inherent desire for people to look for one simple answer to explain why all seven Canadian NHL teams missed the playoffs this year for the first time in 46 years.
Is the pressure of playing where hockey matters most simply too much for the modern athlete?
Does the slumping Canadian dollar somehow have something to do with it?
Is management to blame in every city?
Fact is, every club has a radically different explanation for the shocking shortfall that has Canadian clubs from coast to coast facing various challenges moving forward.
No one could have predicted seven of the 14 teams out of the playoffs would be from Canada given the upside several of the clubs have.
It’s a statistical anomaly.
Inconsistency killed the Senators, who couldn’t overcome special teams shortcomings to piece together the sort of run that saw them sneak into the playoffs a year earlier.
After starting out 9-0 the Canadiens realized just how important goalie Carey Price was when he was lost for the season due to injury, exposing the club’s lack of depth.
In Toronto, it had been understood going into the season the only goal was to continue cleaning house in an effort to essentially start what will undoubtedly be a long rebuilding process.
The Jets still seem to be stuck in quicksand, unable to ever move forward despite entering the season with plenty of optimism. They finished without departed captain Andrew Ladd and with many questions about how things could go so sideways.
The poster boys for being unable to move forward – the Oilers – were, well, the Oilers. Fans will suggest the injury to Connor McDavid sidelined their playoff hopes but the reality is the losing culture there still hasn’t changed despite positive front office moves that bode well for the future.
After shocking the hockey world a year earlier, the rebuilding Flames were unable to find goaltending or the late magic that saw them claw back to win so many games in the dying seconds.
The Canucks continue to be a mess on every front, entering the season unsure if the rebuild was on and ending it with far more questions than that.
Oversimplified explanations aside, the reality is that with a bit of luck in the draft lottery and some major summer moves we could see three or four Canadian teams back in the post-season playdowns.
Last year’s total of five is unreachable for a few years but surely there will be more than the one team (Montreal) Canada had participating in 2014.
The question is, which teams?
While it may seem a fool’s errand to start predicting the fate of each team for next season – especially when we don’t know where Auston Matthews will land – let’s take a spin at handicapping the odds of each Canadian club bouncing back for a spring showing.
OTTAWA: Plenty of good young stars on board and lots to be excited about. This isn’t a rebuild – this team is good enough to get back in the playoffs next year.
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 3-2
WINNIPEG: Many reasons for optimism as the team has great size, speed, talented youngsters and promising goaltending. Question is, when will it all gel?
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 3-1
CALGARY: The Flames need a starting goalie and another scoring winger to get back into contention for a playoff spot. They’ll land one of the two for sure.
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 4-1
EDMONTON: Although we’ve heard it before with three other first overall picks, McDavid is a game-changer. You have to believe the team will continue to effect change this summer with a significant move or two to shore up the blue-line and add more character to the room.
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 5-1
MONTREAL: Good news is the East is full of weaklings, but the bad news is a healthy return by Carey Price can’t be counted on to mask all this team’s shortcomings again. Plenty of work to do this summer.
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 6-1
VANCOUVER: Outside of the 35-year-old Sedins the Canucks are saddled with unproductive veterans and unproven youngsters. The mix could be troublesome for years.
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 15-1
TORONTO: You are kidding, right?
ODDS OF MAKING PLAYOFFS: 50-1