Canadians are wondering why most of their NHL teams aren’t very good

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How is it possible that just two of the seven Canadian NHL franchises will participate in this spring’s playoffs?

The short answer is, because Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal didn’t earn enough points to qualify.

But the long answer goes beyond the current season. After all, the Leafs have missed the playoffs every year since the lockout, the Oilers haven’t made them since 2006, and the Flames have failed to qualify the past three seasons.

For his explanation, Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox trots out the ol’ “because the rinks are still sold out, win or lose” theory.

Every Canadian team is making money and all the tickets are sold, regardless of record. In Edmonton, where the Oilers have been at or near the very bottom of the league for some time, the customers keep buying the tickets and a new arena is in the works. Tom Renney’s club has been essentially out of playoff contention since mid-December, but last Friday’s home game was sold out.

So if you could once, and still do, accuse the Leafs of lacking motivation to be successful on the ice because they’re filling the building win or lose, could the same now be said of the rest of the Canadian teams, or at least those who won’t make post-season play?

What’s the difference? Not one of these seven Canadian clubs is facing any kind of fan revolt if the team on the ice doesn’t do well. Yes, the Leafs make more money than anyone, but they also pay heavily into profit sharing, as do the Montreal Canadiens, one of the league’s biggest revenue teams because of their huge rink.

Personally I’ve never bought this argument. First of all, the pressure is immense for Canadian teams to win. Secondly, there’s so much more money to be made in the playoffs. If I were an owner, I’d be all over management to make the playoffs, because I’m greedy like that.

Speaking of management, I’m more apt to buy Ken Campell’s assertion that it hasn’t been good enough in most cases.

From The Hockey News:

It starts at the top, of course. Nowhere in the NHL have more people been paid so well for so few results than in Toronto, where the $3 million-a-year [Brian] Burke and his massive band of highly paid lieutenants have delivered absolutely nothing more than bold proclamations. The Oilers have struggled on the management side since the last years of Glen Sather’s regime and the Flames have learned the hard way that the Sutter brothers might have been great hockey players, but their ability to manage and coach NHL teams is spotty at best.

Probably safe to throw the Canadiens in the poorly managed category as well, what with their general manager having just been fired.

Finally, I’d also agree with the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek that impatience — “the general feeling that you have to win RIGHT THIS MINUTE and you have to do it every year” – has played a role in the case of the Leafs and Flames, two clubs that have steadfastly refused to commit to a traditional rebuild.

But hey, at least Canada still has the Senators and Canucks – the first will be in tough to make it out of the first round, the other is despised by most Canadians outside of British Columbia.

‘Many teams’ interested in Leafs prospect Toninato, who could go UFA

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Here’s a name to keep an eye on as this summer progresses: Dominic Toninato.

Toninato, 23, was Toronto’s fifth-round pick way back in 2012. From there, he went the collegiate route and put together a strong four years at Minnesota-Duluth. His NCAA career culminated with a senior season in which he served as team captain, set a personal high in points and led the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four final.

Though his rights are currently owned by the Leafs, Toninato would become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 16 if he and the club don’t reach an agreement. You’d think, based on his body of work, Toninato would be a major priority for GM Lou Lamoriello, but it’s not that simple. Thanks to years of stockpiling draft picks, Toronto has a ton of prospects — but can only have 50 players under contract at the NHL level.

Adding to the complexity? There are other teams lined up to make Toninato an offer.

“Dom’s a good player. Will teams be interested? Yes. There will be many teams interested in him,” agent Neil Sheehy told the Star. “The process right now is working with the Leafs. They hold his rights till Aug. 16.

“They have a lot of things that they’re trying to figure out.”

Reading between the lines, it doesn’t sound especially promising in Toronto. The club offered Toninato a deal last summer, which he turned down to return to school. They could offer him an AHL contract — there’s no limit on those — but Sheehy said his client isn’t interested in that.

Sheehy said he hopes to have more clarity in late June, following the expansion and entry drafts.

 

 

Expansion draft will force Ducks to make some big decisions

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Bob Murray managed to keep the Anaheim Ducks together for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But after losing to Nashville in the Western Conference Final, Anaheim’s general manager will now have to make some big decisions — especially with the expansion draft looming.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. And after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign. For that reason, it’s possible Murray may choose to shop Fowler instead. Or perhaps it’s Vatanen that goes on the block.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

In goal, the Ducks have John Gibson under club control for years to come, but they’ll need to choose a backup. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, and even though he played well during the regular season, his performance against the Predators wasn’t great. Murray may want to at least consider his options there.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded

Carlyle says Ducks were dealt ‘tough hand’ by schedule-makers

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Call it sour grapes if you wish, but Randy Carlyle thinks the Anaheim Ducks got screwed by the NHL’s schedule-maker.

The head coach launched his complaint last night after his Ducks fell to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

“I don’t think we played poorly in the series,” said Carlyle. “I think that the toughest part I have about the whole thing is that this was our seventh game in 13 days.

“Now, there’s various reasons for that, but I think there’s got to be some consideration in the scheduling in the future between series. We finished on a Wednesday and had to open again on Friday, whereas other teams had to open on Saturday. An extra day would have given us a chance to recover. And we know how tough these games are. And that was a tough hand that was dealt to us.”

The “other” team to which Carlyle was referring is Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat Washington in Game 7 of the second round on May 10, then opened against Ottawa on May 13.

The Ducks, on the other hand, knocked out Edmonton in Game 7, also on May 10, then had to start against Nashville on May 12.

Fatigue may, indeed, have been a factor early in the series against Nashville. In Game 1, the Ducks were badly outshot, 46-29, and lost, 3-2, in overtime.

Carlyle said afterwards that the extra rest had made a difference for the Preds, who’d eliminated the Blues in six and gone four days without a game.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.