When play-ins began in Toronto and Edmonton to wind up the most bizarre season in NHL history, you couldn’t ask for more Canadian content with six of the 24 teams – Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg — flying the maple leaf and all the games being played north of the 49th. Only the Ottawa Senators failed to get the memo.
These days? Not so much. Not at all, actually. With the Edmonton Oilers losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in their play-in series and blowing a chance to grab centre stage in the final 16 in front of their hometown fans, what might have been went out the window in a hurry, and a bunch of storylines with it. Likewise, with all the Canadian content dropping out team after team.
With the Vancouver Canucks dispatched by the Vegas Golden Knights – not that most Oilers’ fans could bring themselves to cheer for them over heading to the lake or hitting the highway – here we are in the final four in our own backyard without so much as a shred of Canadiana to cling to. While staging playoff hockey in August and September is completely new, the lack of Canadian content is not. My interest wanes. You?
With the New York Islanders taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars facing the Golden Knights in the 2020 final four, there’s still some compelling hockey to be played and some good stories to be written for sure, but we’re destined to have an all-American Stanley Cup final in an empty Rogers Place and, it follows, another U.S. Cup winner. Are you glued to the TV?
SAME OLD SAME OLD
Suffice to say, it’s been awhile since we had a Stanley Cup parade north of the U.S. border. Let’s put it in terms of Connor McDavid years. Since McDavid was born in January of 1997, we haven’t had a Canadian Cup winner. Only four Canadian teams have even made the Cup final in his lifetime – Calgary (2004), Edmonton (2006), Ottawa (2007) and Vancouver (2011).
We haven’t had an all-Canadian Cup final since 1989 (Calgary vs. Montreal). Montreal was the last Canadian team to sip from the Stanley Cup as they overwhelmed the L.A. Kings in five games in 1993 – four years before McDavid was born. Hell, almost half the players on Edmonton’s roster to end the season weren’t born then.
Outside of the signing of Adam Cracknell, speculation about who Ken Holland might be looking to bring in to team up in the crease with Mikko Koskinen, the virtual draft Oct. 6-7 and the opening of free agency Oct. 9, there’s not a lot happening to grab the attention of Oilers’ fans.
I’d kind of like to see Jordan Eberle, who Peter Chiarelli turned into Ryan Strome, then forgettable Ryan Spooner, then an encore by Sam Gagner before Holland got Andreas Athanasiou for Sam in January 2020, hoist the Cup with the Islanders. Won’t happen. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Golden Knights win it all in their third NHL season. Great story. Could happen.
Neither of which comes even close to the remote possibility of the Toronto-Edmonton Cup final that briefly flashed through my mind when the play-ins began, but that, as history and common sense tells us, was nothing but pie-in-the-sky stuff.
WHILE I’M AT IT
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, the Oilers and Penguins have talked about goaltender Matt Murray, who has been mentioned as a target for Holland repeatedly in recent weeks:
The Oilers and Penguins have talked about Matt Murray, I'm told, but as far as I can tell, asking price too rich for Edmonton at this point (first-round pick?). I think Edmonton will be patient in its goalie search. And the Oil hasn't ruled out bringing back Mike Smith, either
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 10, 2020
The mention of Smith returning isn’t the first time we’ve heard that. My hope is that’s a last option if Holland can’t find a stopper who can be had at a reasonable price via trade or free agency.