When you look at the wide variety of nations that produce hockey talent, it’s quite possible that NHL is truly the most “worldwide” of sports leagues. We could debate that point, but there should be little doubt that the mixture of European and North American players benefits the game as a whole on a profound level.
Yet when it comes to Canadian hockey fans, they still want to see their regional teams stocked heavily with their “own.” The Ottawa Citizen published some interesting poll results which reveal that the majority of Canadians would prefer their area teams to meet a certain “quota” of Canadian-born talent. Especially when you’re talking about the Canadiens.
Nationally, 53 per cent of the respondents in a survey commissioned by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies said they agreed with the idea that Canadian-based NHL teams should have a minimum percentage of Canadian players.
Nearly three-quarters of the French speakers polled — 72 per cent – agreed with having a minimum percentage of Canadian players on the country’s six NHL teams: the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
Only 46 per cent of English-speaking respondents felt the same way.
While 69 per cent of Quebec respondents agreed with the concept, support was lower, but still significant in other parts of the country: Atlantic Canada (54 per cent), Alberta (51 per cent), B.C. (47 per cent), Ontario (46 per cent) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (45 per cent).
It’s human nature to root for your own, so to speak. (That probably explains why I always grin when I see the Irish Guy from “Oz” on the mediocre insurance company commecials he shoots now.)
Still, I imagine that fans only focus on the nationality of their team’s players when those teams are losing. Something tells me that Habs fans were able to reconcile the fact that Jaroslav Halak is Slovakian when he helped them get to the Eastern Conference finals. Stocking Canadian teams with Canadians – especially an even more specific group such as French-Canadians – isn’t so easy in a 30 team league with an annual entry draft.
The days of nabbing Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard-type talent without getting No.1 picks or shelling out big bucks are over, but some fans seem like they’re still struggling to accept that.
The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.
For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.
The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).
New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.
This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.
The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.
There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.
On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.
The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.
The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.
The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.
Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.
Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).
Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.
Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.
You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.
When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.
It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.
After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:
Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.
EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:
“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.
Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: