For the first time since 1996, no Canadian team has made it to the Conference Semi-Finals. Things are not exactly perky on the hockey horizon in the Great White North.
The Oilers are hunkered down in a scorched earth rebuild that is years away. The Jets are freshly arrived in Winnipeg and mapping out a slow and steady plan to improve. The Flames are a aging team on a downward trajectory at the moment. The Leafs have missed the playoffs for the 7th straight season. Chaos has erupted in Montreal with language requirements starting to overshadow the best person for the coaching job and a new GM has been hired.
Only Vancouver and Ottawa even made the playoffs and Vancouver has a huge disappointment on its hands with its first round exit. Roundly thumped out of the playoffs and on home ice at that. Their elite Goalie is about to leave town.
The Senators are the sweetheart playoff team, most expecting that they too had headed to a long rebuild last season, they have surprisingly bungeed from the bottom to the playoffs this year.
But yet hockey continues for the die-hards with some new franchises poised to break new ground in their history. Rather than go through the usual match-ups, a little bit of a historic take on the teams might be interesting, for some of them this is new territory.
As a comparable, the Flames can provide a bar of comparison. The Flames have been in Calgary 32 years. They have won the Division 5 times, won the President's Trophy 2 times, have 3 Conference Championships and 1 Stanley Cup.
They have made 3 appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Kings entered the NHL as part of the 67 expansion, yet have never had significant playoff success. In 44 years they have only made it past the 2nd round once, in 1992-93, their most successful season ever. They won the Conference Championship but lost in the Stanley Cup finals.
In 44 years they have won their Division 1 time and won 1 Conference Championship. If they win this series it will only be the 2nd time in their history they have made it to the Conference Finals.
The Blues also entered the NHL as part of the 67 expansion. They immediately had success upon entering the NHL with 3 straight Cup Final appearances in 1968, 1969 and 1970. Since then it has been rather grim. They have been a steady playoff team, excluding recent history, with 36 appearances in the playoffs out of a possible 44 but never have gone deep, excluding their early years.
They have only made it past the 2nd round a total of 5 times and only twice since 1970. Like the Kings, they have also never won a Stanley Cup. They have won the President's Trophy 1 time and 8 Division Championships but have never won a Conference Championship.
No matter who wins this series, it will be significant in the two franchise's history.
The Coyotes have already made franchise history by winning the first playoff round ever in Phoenix. In 15 years the Coyotes have made the playoffs 8 times and are now leading their series against the Predators (2-0), it is already the best season in franchise history with their first round win and first ever Division title, how deep they go will be great for the team.
Their owner must be so proud. Oh, wait a minute. Why do I find myself hoping they win the Cup just for the bizarre engraving that will appear if they do. Under Owner will it be - "None" or will Bettman have the audacity to put his own name on the Cup? Hmmm, the intrigue, Go Yotes Go.
As a side note, no team that has won the Cup has ever been relocated in NHL history, going back to 1927.
The Predators were founded in 1998 and are another fledgling franchise rising to power. 7 playoff appearances in 13 years, they won their first playoff round last year and this year have the chance to make more franchise history by going even deeper.
The Predators are an enviable franchise to many. A team under financial restraint that has risen to be a model for other cash-strapped teams. They have excellent scouts, coaching and hockey operations overall. They prove that money does not buy success and the team is poised to take a slot at the top of the NHL for some time, if they can just spend some money now to tie down their UFA's but that is off-season issues.The focus is on the 'now'.
Ironically, Don Maloney, GM of the Coyotes is also a fan. Recently implying that he has modeled his building of the Coyotes on the Predators approach. But has the apprentice surpassed the master in this battle of the South?
The Coyotes lead the series and the Predators look sluggish. Despite a better team on paper, the Desert Dogs may be eating the long toothed Cat in this one. If they take even a split out of Smashville, the Preds will be on the ropes and the Owners out those big money playoff games in the Conference Finals. Will it impact there FA signings?
The Rangers are in the hunt for their 2nd Cup since the 67 expansion. Historically, like all original six teams they are a little inflated. They have won 4 Stanley Cups in their entire history but that history is also 86 years old, so you would hope they would at least have a few. That works out to one Cup every 21.5 years and since they won a Cup in 94 they are not really due till 2015 but they may as well get it out of the way now.
Founded in 1926, Broadway Blue has certainly emerged in the modern era as the Bank's team. Never short on money and always ready to spend. Glen Sather got ownership to shift gears on the spending frenzy the team used to embark on every year and went to work building a little more from within. The Rangers missed the playoffs for 7 straight years from 1998-2004 but have since returned to spending money and are positioned to contend for the Cup.
Nothing new for the Rangers here in the Conference Semi-Finals. They have been here numerous times. They have been to the Cup Finals 10 times and as stated, won it 4 times. Even using 67 as the starting point this team has won the Conference semi-final 6 times...
The Capitals entered the NHL in 1974 and have never won a Stanley Cup. They made one trip to the Cup finals in 1998 only to be swept out by the Red Wings. A team that has had regular season success with a President's trophy on the rack and 7 Division titles, they have never been a deep running playoff team in 38 years of history.
They have made the playoffs 20 times in 34 years which is pretty average but they seem to get stuck at this point of the Conference Semi-Finals. A good team on paper but one that has not found the playoff groove. That may be changing this year though as knocking off the Cup Champion Bruins bodes well.
Whenever you see Semin and Ovechkin blocking shots, you might want to get worried that they are serious about winning and that doesn't bode well for the Rangers. But Goaltending is a question, oh Tomas Vokoun, where are you - you would have made the difference this year.
The Flyers are the third team from the 67 expansion still in the hunt. The class of 67 is really doing well in the playoffs this year. The Flyers are a very strong team historically. They have won 16 Division Championships, 8 Conference Championships and 2 Stanley Cups in 44 years.
Philly is hungry for a Cup. Similar to Boston before they won last year, it has been a long time since they last drank from Stanley's Grail, 37 years to be precise.
What is even more frustrating for Flyer fans is the number of times they have been right there. They have been the loser in the Cup final appearance 6 straight times. 1976, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1997 and 2010. If they make it to the Cup final again and lose they will hold the record form most consecutive Cup appearances on the losing end.
Not much to say here, the Flyers are good, not just this season but over their whole franchise history, not a team with much suckage in the time line. A franchise with a lot of respect that gets painfully close but doesn't close the deal.
The Devils are 30 years old in New Jersey and what Flames fan wouldn't want their record in a similar time line. They have 3 Cups to their name, 4 Conference Championships and 9 Division Championships. Of course we are ignoring all the franchises previous history as the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Scouts when they sucked but hey, Denver doesn't want to remember all those years in Quebec City that lead to their Cup teams either.
Martin Broudeur is on the wane but one last Cup for Marty would be kind of nice. The team has bankruptcy and money issues surrounding them which is kind of weird considering they did so well in recent history. One would think there would be some strong fan support behind the team but going to yet another Conference Final may wake up the fan base.
This is Kovalchuk's team now, he made his deal with the Devils but he may have got the best of them in the long run as he has not exactly stood out so far this series.
I expect the Flyers to win, Giroux is looking like Crosby 2.0 and the Flyers have a good chance of going all the way but is Bryz the Sieve going to get it done?
Stay tuned, it has been a strange playoffs and the first one in a long time where I personally am pretty neutral on who wins the Cup. Starting to cheer for the Kings and Coyotes a bit, underdogs often get the nod when you have no vested interest but another part of me would like to see the Blues get success finally after so many years and I want the Preds to do well too so their owners will be willing to spend money.
In the East I have no interest in the Devils advancing. Kovie is not my favorite player and hey, they already have 3 Cups. The Rangers may be preferable over the Capitals and just the smarter pick but who knows. The Capitals should be going deep, otherwise they will end up approaching the failed rebuild zone.
The Flyers, well, you would be happy for the fans. Like Boston it has been a long time and they are a good market but there is another part that kind of slyly wants them to take that record for most consecutive Cup finals on the losing end…
With very little inclination in either direction, not hating any team that much or really wanting any team to win, I think I am going for the Kings. They have been around a long time, I like a lot of their players and respect Lombo's work there and hey Darryl Sutter is the coach. He gets a Cup one way anyway.
My 2nd choice is the Coyotes because of Daymond Langkow and Shane Doan. Two players I really like and also the fact that I think it would be hilarious for them to win the Cup and be relocated right after, in that dark humor kind of way. It also would be extremely awkward for the NHL. I already think they have been getting the short end of the stick in the penalty area by the Refs but hey that is just my take.
Make no mistake about it, if the Coyotes win, the NHL will be in a terrible awkward position but maybe Gary presents the Cup and then goes sliding into the Yotes Cup picture as owner as well.