Press-Republican

Columns

April 18, 2014

Canadiens are Canada's team

The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal “suburb” of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

Across the country, though, there is considerably less optimism and bliss. That’s because the Canadiens are quite literally Canada’s team, the only one of the seven NHL clubs north of the border to make it into the post-season.

This is the first time since 1973 that there’s only been a single Canadian team in the NHL play-offs. Yes, it was the Canadiens, and yes, they went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.

It is possible the Habs go deep in the post-season — first needing to knock off the formidable Tampa Bay Lightning, that is — and thereby giving many Canadians something to cheer for, assuming they are willing to abandon local loyalties in the name of patriotism.

Regardless of how many fair-weather fans the Canadiens draw, the big question remains why only one of seven teams from the Great White North made it to the dance.

Veteran play-by-play broadcaster and commentator Jim Hughson advances the theory that Canadian teams as a whole “haven’t been bad enough” to be positioned to get the top draft picks. He cites the example of Pittsburgh and Chicago, where a long stretch of fallow years brought a harvest of the kind of superstars around which you can build a championship franchise.

With the exception of Edmonton, which has been so pitiful to have earned three top picks in the last few years yet remains mired in the NHL cellar, keeping lowly Buffalo company, Canadians teams have not snagged game-changers like a Crosby, Stamkos or Kane.

Of course, each team had its own individual tale of failure this year.

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