Well, at least Canadian hockey fans have the Gold Medal in February to salvage what, for most fans of Canadian based hockey clubs, will be a lost season. Also for CBC and TSN, who will be losing their NHL rights for national broadcasts next season (although CBC will still air Saturday night games through the Rogers deal), it looks like it might be a nightmare finish.
The way things are going now, there could be only 1 Canadian based team in the NHL playoffs. Not to write the Toronto Maple Leafs off quite yet, but they are on a slippery slope and sliding their way to joining the Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks on the outside looking in come mid-April.
The only Canadian based franchise that seems pretty comfortable in a playoff spot are the Montreal Canadiens. They are treading water 5 points up on the Wild Card spots and 6 up on 9th place. They aren’t exactly bursting down the door with stellar late-season play, but should be able to keep the 3rd position in the Atlantic Division and maybe even pass Tampa for second.
The Leafs have slid their way into the final wild card spot after losing 5 straight, and are in a precarious position just 1 point up on the Washington Capitals (who have 1 game in hand) and 2 points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets (who have 2 games in hand).
For the rest of the country, it is a bitter pill to swallow. While the Flames are in the midst of a rebuild and not much was really expected of them this season, the rest of the Canadian clubs had a minimum high hopes, if not expectation, that their club would see the playoffs.
If the Leafs should fall out of the playoff race, and the Canucks not make a miraculous bid to get into a playoff spot (trailing by 3 points with 2 or 3 fewer games to play than the teams they are chasing), it would mark the first time since the 1972-73 season that there were not at least 2 Canadian based teams in the playoffs. Oh yeah, in 1973 there were just 3 Canadian teams in the NHL (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver), there were 16 teams in the NHL and 8 made the playoffs. Vancouver was in the East Division, and only the Habs made the playoffs among the Canadian clubs. Since then, through many different alignments and playoff formats, expansion to bring the Canadian content to a high of 7, down to 5 and finally back up the current 7, there has always been at least 2 Canadian franchises in the post-season.
The last time no Canadian Team made the playoffs, you ask? It was 1969-70 where both the Canadiens and Leafs were not in the playoffs in a 12 team league where 8 made the post-season.
It could be a brand new low, but we will always have Sochi.