Don Cherry Can’t be Happy with One Canadian Team in NHL Playoffs by Jamie Gilcig

grapesCFN – This isn’t a great year for Don Cherry.   The whole TV deal thing and now only one Canadian team will be making the play offs. How the heck does that happen?

At the start of the season the Canucks, Leafs, Sens, and maybe the Habs looked like they were going to have a second season.   Even Winnipeg looked promising, and I’m sure those in Edmonton thought all those 1st round draft picks were ready to get out of the basement.

Sadly only Montreal will not be making early golf bookings, and their season has been as bewildering as those not making the play offs. So let’s take a peek at what happened and point some fingers!


Vancouver:   Bad hockey Karma.   The Cory Schneider trade may have some strong yields down the road; but it was a shock to fans.   It also left Roberto Luongo in an odd predicament.    Bring in John Tortarella was also a bizarre move with that roster. The result was a total mess.

The Sedin’s, resigned, but were certainly not themselves.   Their style of play and salary require them to nail that point a game plateau to be of value.  Ryan Kesler turned in a pretty good year; but wants to be traded.  Alex Burrows has 5 goals in 44 games as I write this with no other forward really distinguishing themselves. Nobody had an above average year for the Canucks save for rookie goalie Eddie Lack who gets the starting nod it seems by default.  The 26 year old Swede was not drafted and while having a below 500 record this year does have 4 shut outs.  Jakob Markstrom was picked up in the Luongo deal.

Not sure if the Canucks ownership is meddling or if GM Mike Gillis simply was a better agent than GM; but the team is a hot mess after  being a Stanley Cup contender.  What the heck happened? Capwise for next year the Sedin’s will pull down $14M if they’re not traded as per the buzz. Alex Burrows is on the hook for 3 more years at 4.5 M.   The forward unit is a disaster.  The defense is locked in and should rebound, but will see more work like this year if Vancouver cannot keep the puck in the O Zone more than it has.

The blame is all Gillis’s.  Even if ownership meddled he’s the man in the hot seat.   Is John Tortorella safe? Depends on who the new GM is and what direction the team wants to go.   Run and gun is probably not going to work with Angry John as coach.

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is also a marked man.   His failure to pull the trigger and fix some of the issues on his team was a huge factor in why this talented team didn’t make the play offs.  The good news is that they are actually in better shape than Vancouver.

With the exception of Evander Kane the big dollar players put up numbers in the acceptable range.  Playing Dustin Byfuglien at forward just diminishes his value.   Olli Jokinen turned in over 40 points.  They key forwards are all signed up too.  The biggest UFA is Olli who probably wants to stay or move back to Calgary.

The D is locked up too.   Tobias Enstrom has to up the ante.  For what he’s pulling down he needs to hit the 45-50 point mark.  2012 first rounder Jacob Trouba had a good first year out of College.  Zach Bogosian has to up the ante as well as I’d term this year disappointing for him. In nets there are better than Ondrej Pavelec, but his lack of success this year can’t be pinned solely on his performance.   He’s good enough to keep around; but not good enough to not upgrade if the opportunity came along.

The wild card is Kane.   The team has to move him in the off season or totally commit to him.  Same for Byfuglien.  There was too much ink on trading these two players all season.  It certainly could not have made coaching the team easier with those clouds hanging in the air.

Calgary is a weird team.   They stunk; but were expected to stink; but people responded to that Brian Burke work ethic.   For some reason Mikey Cammalleri is still a flame.  I can’t see him resigning.  It probably means that either the offers were totally lame at the deadline and Brian Burke refused to do a giveaway. Calgary is in a great position cap wise.  That’s their strength and can fast track their rebuild.  They can take away some really bad contracts from teams looking to free up space. A draft pic here, an extra player there and you’re rolling. Other than rookie Sean Monahan there really is no player of remarkable talent.  The Flames decided to resign up Matt Stajan   which must be some strange Burke loyalty reward program for players he likes?

On defense Wideman, Giordano, Brodie and Smid are not the worst foursome in the NHL by far.  Wideman’s injury opened the door to some opportunity and Kris Russell made the most of it with his best season since 09.

Edmonton has become the polar opposite of its championship dynasty.  The culture of losing seems to be more evident than the culture of winning.   Blessed with a whole lot of really good draft picks Edmonton is chock stock with talent that has not exhibited the ability to win.   They look pretty.   They put up stats; but they don’t win.

You can’t bottle talent.  You use it or you lose it.  Edmonton’s losing it.  Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and Hall are now signed to long term $6M contracts.  Yakupov is due up in two years.  In the cap age you can’t be that top heavy salary wise.

Edmonton has addressed their goalie concerns for the next season or two with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, but the defense is a disaster.  Considering the quality of the forward corps the numbers put up on defense show a clear issue.

The Oilers clearly have to trade one of their big forwards and bring in a big defenseman.     The question is how well that do that and who gets moved?

Toronto.   Oy gevalt!  What a mess.   How did they finish out of the play offs this year?   They really weren’t that bad, were they?  Losing Tyler Bozak should not have been a deal breaker although he’s had his best offensive season.

The defense hasn’t been awesome, but it’s been deep and well rounded.   For all the media griping about Nazim Kadri he still has put up 50 points.    Yes Bolland and Clarkson didn’t work out this year because of injury or….whatever is wrong with Clarkson…

The blame clearly goes to Dave Nonis who simply didn’t address the needs and ills of his squad.   I know it’s easier said than done, but with all the buzz about trading Gardiner he’s still on the team and frankly it didn’t help his growth or asset value.

The team has to lock up Cody Franson or trade him.   I’m not sure if having both Franson and Phaneuf makes sense and the Leafs locked up Dion.

Jonathan Bernier had a great year and is clearly number one.   James Reimer has derailed; again partly due to how Toronto handled this.   They also have hurt his market value.   Toronto missing the play offs is not Reimer’s fault.

Barring some stunning trades, which Nonis is not known for, the same cast will be back.  Clarkson will have a better year.   The Leafs clearly need a number one centre.   Bozak may be the guy for Kessel, but Toronto needs to up the ante up the middle.   Dave Bolland is not the answer nor is giving him the $5M or so that is being bounced around for him contract wise.

The Leafs have depth; they have talent; they need a good chef to tinker a bit and get them on track.

Ottawa:  The hockey gods did not shine on the Sens this year.  With most of their stars injured last year they had a better season than this year.

While there are a lot of theories and numbers being tossed around the bottom line is that they missed what Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar brought to the game.   They might not put up gaudy numbers, but they played key roles in getting the puck into the offensive zone and when it’s in zone 3 more good things can happen than when it’s in your zone.

Karlsson shined his first full year back from injury.   Spezza has put up some number without really having a strong wingman as Milan Michalek pretty much sucked for the first half of the year and hasn’t been that much better since.   Getting Hemsky helped, but that penny wise, pound foolish mentality of Ottawa ownership probably cost the team a play off spot this season.

Did Bobby Ryan arrive as damaged goods?   His season ended in surgery and 48 points in 70 games.  Sports hernias can be scary things and it might be a long recovery and he may never be the same player again.

Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur had solid citizen years and should both finish with over 60 points.   Mika Zibenejad looks like the real deal.  He’s actually looking like the kind of Centre the Leafs should be looking for, or if Ottawa actually trades lifer Jason Spezza, someone who can certainly help be the number 1 or 2.

Travis Yost likes to fry the Ottawa D corps; particularly Jared Cowen.  Other than Eric Gryba in limited play Cowen led the D corp in Plus/Minus at Zero.   That’s not something to wear as a badge of honour; but Cowen had to pick up some of the tougher assignments.

Ottawa clearly missed and did replace what Sergei Gonchar provided.  Youngster Cody Ceci was brought up and held his own, but clearly isn’t Gonchar.  Patrick Wiercioch put up interesting numbers but doesn’t seem to have the confidence of his coach based on his ice time.

Goalie Craig Anderson was hurt this year and probably very very frustrated.   Both his and Robin Lehner’s numbers reflect a lack of over all team defense rather than both of them playing worse.  Both had save percentages over .900 yet both had GAA’s over 3.  That’s way too many shots getting through to them.  Anderson did net 3 shut outs.

Cap wise the team has plenty of room.  Will ownership spend more?  If not the team may miss the play offs again.  How well will Ryan return from his surgery?  Does the team sign up Hemsky who seems like he’s a good fit playing with Spezza or Mika.  Does the team trade Spezza for some depth and if they do that does that not put more pressure on Turris and the roster?

Cowen, Phillips, Gryba, Methot.   One of those guys has to be moved to balance the D.

GM Bryan Murray has done a lot of magic.  Ottawa isn’t that bad a team.  They aren’t that far from competing.  Sometimes you just call it a day and come back next year.  That’s where the Sens are.

Montreal:  Wow, are the Habs having a great year or what?!   Is there any irony to the only Canadian team going to the play offs is from the Province with a Separatist government?   Clearly politics aren’t bothering les boys (the election is Monday) who have somehow put up a great year in spite of very few having individual good seasons.

I myself am not a fan of coach Therrien, but he has the numbers.  You can’t take that away from him.   Marc Bergevin is looking good.  Winning does that for you.  Of course none of this will be remembered unless the team makes it through at least one round of play offs.

Max Pacioretty has had a career season and should finish with over 40 goals.   His centre, David Desharnais, had such a bad start that even the mayor of Montreal dissed him publicly.   He’s rode Max’s hot streak and had one of his own and now has 51 points in 76 games which is kinda Kyle Turris like.

Picking up rental Thomas Vanek was Christmas for what Montreal paid.   Yes, most people think he’s going to sign in Minnesota in the off season, but if that’s the case why didn’t they simply trade for him instead of Matt Moulson?   A strong play off with the Habs will mean a bigger pay day for Vanek and even though they’ll have $7.5M in cap space from the Heatley contract it might not end up in Vanek’s pocket.

Some players care more about winning than where they play.  While odds are he’ll end up in Minny; you just never know….

PK Subban’s contract is looming over the team as well.   He needs a big play off to ensure his big payday.  Montreal has a huge decision to make.   You either trade PK or you are married to him for an awfully long time.   There really is no middle ground.   The team is likely to resign Andrei Markov as well.

Alex Galchenyuk did not have a good sophomore season.  One of the biggest issue for the habs was the constant line juggling.    The season started hot with Gallagher playing with Alex and Lars Eller.   They were hot but then they kept moving Gallagher around to try and heat up some of the others on the squad.

Someone that never heated up was Rene Bourque.  He may never heat up anywhere as his numbers have really diminished and is the hab most wanted off the squad by fans.

Captain Brian Gionta is most likely finishing his string with the team as well. With Danny Briere signed for next season and Gallagher on the squad it’s unlikely that the team can afford the ice time given Gionta for the results.

Montreal is still a work in progress.   Neither the forward or defensive units are where they need to be yet.   Their record this year and success should not mask that. Instead fans should enjoy the ride!

One are the team is solid in is net.   I’ve been critical of Carey Price, but he’s put up the numbers this year and the team is winning.  He’s earning his contract!  5 shut outs also are a great sign and the biggest mark of his season was his injury after the Olympics when Budaj flopped.   Dustin Tokarski didn’t hurt his future by showing some flash in his 3 game stint.

Cap wise for next year Montreal is actually in pretty good shape depending on what happens with Subban and Markov.   The team is still searching for a big centre, and still will need some help on the wing; preferable with size.

Defense is the biggest enigma.   If the team resigns Markov and keeps PK then Gorges and Emelin round out the top four.  Jarred Tinordi should be ready for full time NHL duty.   Does the team bring back Douglas Murray or newly acquired Mike Weaver?  Both have merit and value, and have served the Habs well.  Weaver in particular is shining incredibly brightly with the habs.

What do you think Hab fans?  Why do you think only one Canadian team will make it to the play offs this season?  You can post your comment below.




  1. Mr Jamie
    I am not really into sports but admire the huge amount of work and effort that went into your detailed report on all these teams. Sure easier to understand than the tank issue at least most of the trades are out in the open not behind closed doors lol

  2. We’re gonna win the cup this year, we have the depth.

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