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.