Vancouver. Calgary. Edmonton. Winnipeg. Ottawa. Toronto. Montreal. That's all the teams from Canada in the NHL and none of them will make the playoffs this season. The combined record of those 7 teams is 218-262-50. Ottawa was the closest to getting in with a record of 35-33-9. They were the only team from Canada that is currently above .500, but they were just eliminated from the playoffs. 1970 was the last time no team from Canada made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and at that time there were only 12 teams in the league and 2 were from Canada (Toronto and Montreal).
With large hockey markets like Montreal and Toronto out of the mix, I think it hurts the league. It may not hurt overall in the United States, but it's not good for the game as a whole for it's only 7 teams from the country that invented the game to be out of the playoffs. Of the top 10 Most Watched Stanley Cup Finals games, 3 involve Canadian teams and 2 of the top 3 are Montreal Canadiens games (the other was Vancouver/Boston). As a matter of fact, the most watched Stanley Cup Game 7 of all time was in 1971 between Montreal and Chicago (source). It could very well be argued that it is because that was after the season where no Canadian teams made the playoffs, but you have 2 Original 6 teams battling each other, with the Canadiens being a top draw.
The NHL hasn't had it easy with getting Canadian teams to the Stanley Cup Finals in the last 10 seasons. Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver were the 3 teams that made it that far, all losing to the Hurricanes, Ducks and Bruins respectively. Ratings wise the Anaheim/Ottawa series was a dud for the league. The Sens and Ducks had the lowest ratings across the board for that decade averaging a 1.2 share, which is about 2.4 million viewers. The lowest rated game of the series was Game 3 which pulled in an abysmal 0.4 share, the worst of that 10 year span. On the flip side, the Bruins and Canucks pulled in the best rating of the 10 years for a US team vs a Canadian team. The average share for that SERIES was a 2.7 share which is about 4.6 million viewers. Game 7, where the Bruins clinched? 4.8 share which is about 8.5 million people watching. That game is the most watched Finals game in 10 years. And again, it could be argued that the match-up fueled the ratings bonanza with the championship starved Bruins winning the Stanley Cup as the reason for the numbers, but the city of Vancouver went nuts for that series too. The last time the Flames made the Cup Finals in '04 ABC had the coverage in the States. They had games 3-7 and pulled in a 2.6 share overall (a little under 4.5 million viewers). The largest draw since 2006 was the Bruins and Blackhawks finals. While no Canadian team made the finals, two Original 6 teams and two of America's largest media markets certainly made that Stanley Cup Finals Series a ratings bonanza for the NHL (source).
I'm writing this from the American's perspective. I'm an American who writes for a hockey blog that covers a Canadian team. Weird, I know. But I love the Flames and have been a hockey nut from as far back as I can remember. Honestly, I think it's bad that no teams from Canada are in the playoffs. Think of how much more exciting the playoffs would be if Montreal or Toronto were in. Bruins and Canadiens. Leafs and Red Wings. The prospect of a Montreal/Blackhawks Final. The Flames and Oilers meeting in the playoffs. These things are exciting to me. I love the Original 6 match-ups. I love the heated Canadian rivalries. I could care less about a Tampa and Nashville series. Maybe it's the traditionalist in me or that I'm getting old, but I will miss the Canadian teams in the playoffs. While there are a ton of mitigating factors leading to the competitive edge the US teams have, it's a loss for the game as a whole to not have a Montreal or Ottawa in the playoffs.
Will it hurt the league? Time will tell. Places like Calgary and Montreal will always have the building filled, no matter the record. But I think the NHL needs it's Canadian teams in the playoffs to make it compelling all around.This American writer gets no pleasure in an NHL playoffs void of teams from up North. As much as I can't stand teams like Montreal and Toronto, when they're in the playoffs, things are more exciting. My Flames clearly arrived early last season and need work. Edmonton isn't close by any stretch of the imagination. The Leafs, well, that's another story all together. Canada's best shot is for Price and Subban to get healthy for Montreal and for Ottawa to build on what they had this season. Otherwise it's going to be a lonely NHL Playoffs for everyone north of Detroit.
If you'd like the Canadian perspective on ratings and money involved, check out this article from Awful Announcing on Rogers NHL TV deal.