Author: Jason Brough

Winnipeg Jets v Montreal Canadiens

Pressing Playoff Question: Which Canadian team has the best chance to break the drought?


The year was 1993. Bill Clinton was the new guy in the White House. Jurassic Park was the big blockbuster in theaters. The Buffalo Bills had only lost three Super Bowls in a row.

It was also the year the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, something no team from Canada has accomplished since.

It’s a remarkable streak of futility, really. Twenty champions have hoisted the Cup since the Habs defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Kings, all of them from the United States. Five times a Canadian team reached the final, only to fall short. Four times a Canadian team lost in Game 7. The Vancouver Canucks did that twice.

Hence, the excitement up north that five Canadian teams — the Canadiens, Senators, Jets, Flames and Canucks — have qualified for the playoffs in 2015. Only the Maple Leafs and Oilers failed in that regard.

So, could this be the year that Canada’s slump ends?

Short answer: Probably not.

Longer answer: But there’s a chance!

At the very least, two Canadian teams are guaranteed to advance to the second round, since the Habs meet the Senators in the first round and the Canucks face the Flames. The Jets, meanwhile, are a popular pick to upset the Ducks. And if that were to happen, at least one Canadian team would be guaranteed to make the final four, since the winner of the Jets-Ducks series will meet the winner of Canucks-Flames.

So…of the five, who’s got the best chance?

Well, Vancouver and Calgary have to be considered long shots. No disrespect to either, but it would be a Cinderella story if the Canucks or Flames won four straight playoff series.

But the Jets, big and talented and with their crazed fans behind them, could do it.

And the Senators are on a 23-3-3 roll, so you can’t count them out.

And the Canadiens have Carey Price.

Look, chances are, it’ll be an American team that hoists the Stanley Cup…again. Not only are there 11 of those versus just five from Canada, of those 11, the majority, if not all of them, are fully capable of winning it all.

But let’s have a vote anyway…

Shanahan promises more changes — ‘yesterday was just the beginning’

Toronto Maple Leafs Players During Practice

Yesterday’s housecleaning was “just the beginning” for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That was the word today from club president Brendan Shanahan, the day after GM Dave Nonis, coach Peter Horachek, and others were fired.

In other words, don’t be surprised if some big-name players are headed out of town this summer, including possibly captain Dion Phaneuf and/or star winger Phil Kessel.

“They know it, we know it, everyone in here knows it, the job didn’t get done,” Shanahan said when asked about his “leadership group,” and whether he expected to make changes to it.

“They also understand that yesterday was just the beginning, that there will be some changes.”

Shanahan later added: “I don’t think what [the fans] can understand is [players] that go out and give half efforts, and that don’t appear to enjoy playing here. You have to give the effort and at least show a happiness in being a Toronto Maple Leaf, and an enthusiasm.”

For the record, Kessel was asked today whether he’d like to be back next season and replied, “Hopefully. I signed eight years last year. I love Toronto.”

But there were certainly times this season when Kessel did not display “a happiness in being a Toronto Maple Leaf,” that’s for sure.

Oh, and in case you’re thinking, “Well, it’s hard to blame the guy,” Shanahan also said he wanted to see that happiness and enthusiasm, “even if the record is the same record (as it was this season).”

As for the daunting task that lies ahead, Shanahan spoke of his “determination to stick to the plan” and threw cold water on the notion that Leafs fans weren’t prepared for a long, comprehensive rebuild. In that way, he clearly differentiated himself from former Leafs architect Brian Burke, who likes to say things like, “I was born impatient, I’m going to die impatient.”

Said Shanahan: “It takes as long as it takes. Whether people have the patience for that or not, in my opinion, you don’t deviate from the vision.”

Related: Shanahan to Leafs players: ‘We’re watching’

Mrazek to start Game 1 for Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes

Petr Mrazek, not Jimmy Howard, will start Game 1 of the playoffs for the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Coach Mike Babcock confirmed it today, giving the nod in goal to Mrazek, a 23-year-old with no playoff experience, over Howard, a veteran with 45 postseason starts to his name, not to mention a pretty big contract.

Howard struggled after returning from an injury in February. He finished the season with a .910 save percentage, compared to Mrazek’s .918 mark.

But while Mrazek posted two shutouts in his last six starts, the decision to start such an inexperienced netminder against a dangerous Lightning squad, the NHL’s top offensive team, is a gamble for Babcock.

Then again, it may have been a bigger gamble to start Howard, who was given ample opportunity to prove he was still the best option, only to fall short of doing so.