There is no doubt that in Canada hockey is king and a significant part of our tapestry. That is why there was no surprise that Canadians were more than a little miffed last year as not a single team from north of the 44th parallel were good enough to make it to the postseason. This year there did seem to be a bit of a turn around as more than a few of them have made it, while others still mired in mediocrity. The question still remains though as to whether each team has succumbed to the weight of those lofty Canadian expectations (Part 1) or whether they were successful in meeting them (Part 2). Therefore, before we get to the teams that made the playoffs and failed expectations, let’s quickly discuss those that didn’t even make it that far to begin with.
The Winnipeg Jets continue to be an enigma as they have the talent to make the playoffs and yet, continue to struggle. They were not horrible this year and did finish 9th in the West just 7 points shy of a playoff spot. But when your roster includes young talented players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and rookie Patrick Laine, more is expected. The fans have been waiting decades for this team to win a playoff game (they were swept in 2015) and I am not sure another missed playoffs next year will bode well for the Jets management or the coach.
The Vancouver Canucks are in no man’s land. They are not good enough with the players they have and out of all the Canadian teams (except maybe Montreal) they don’t have anything resembling a solid core of young players. Remember the time the Leafs wanted to trade an aging Mats Sundin but he didn’t waive his no-trade clause, the Canucks are in a similar position with the twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Vancouver doesn’t have many options and I feel sorry for Canuck fans but this has the making of a very, very long turnaround time. May be worthwhile to pay attention to the Vancouver Whitecaps or the BC Lions for the next couple of years.
The Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadians did make the playoffs however, but both failed to make it out of the first round. Although that is part of the reason as to why they did not meet expectations, they each failed for completely different reasons. The Flames had a very difficult task as they faced two opponents in the opening series. They faced the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary also had to face their own demons of the Honda Center. Heading into the playoffs, Calgary had lost each and every one of their last 27 trips to Anaheim. You can make that 29 now.
It wasn’t just that the streak continued or even the four game sweep that left many disappointed, it was that it seems that there were many areas of concerns. The goaltending was questionable, they took far too many penalties and even their decision making were questionable such as that horrible line change that allowed a 3 on 0 break. That’s just inexcusable and therefore justifiably, they fell below expectations this year.
The Montreal Canadians were able to win two games and even lead the series at one point before losing in six games to the New York Rangers. I wrote about the stupidity of the NHL playoff format last year so it isn’t the Canadians fault that the winners of the Atlantic division had to face a team that had almost as many points as they did. This team however was supposed to have a deep playoff run and wasn’t a team that was to bow out in the first round. You have to feel for Carey Price who has been one of, if not the best goalies in the past decade and he hasn’t even gotten close to a Stanley Cup.
The Canadians need some offence for sure and whether you love the Habs or you hate them (there is no in between) you know there is only one thing on people’s mind right now. With PK Subban’s Nashville Predators sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks everyone is once again reflecting on that huge off season Shea Weber trade once again. Not that either player was solely responsible for their team winning or losing, but these are Montreal fans and like all hockey fans in this country, we always need someone to blame. This was the worst possible combination of results for the Canadians and they too fell below expectations.
Next time we will tackle the Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and our very own Toronto Maple Leafs.
» Sports » Great (Canadian) Expectations Part 1