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Canada’s Slumping Cup

May 16, 2023
Maple Leafs lose

Hockey’s been, as always, the sport of Canada. Of course, that country has produced many of the top stars in the NHL. There’ve been some great Canadian teams over the past three decades, but nary a champion. 

Edmonton suffered a season-ending loss to the Vegas Golden Knights Sunday night, thus every Canada outpost has now been eliminated this time around. The drought is exactly 30 years since a Canadian team (the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens) lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Prior to the current dry spell, it was just a half-dozen years as the longest gap between a Canadian team and a Cup. 

There are seven Canadian clubs in the NHL, three in the 2023 postseason. The Edmonton Oilers were the last team, even if the perpetually-underachieving Toronto Maple Leafs were considered to have the best chance to win a title. 

It’s not as if the Great White North Canada isn’t developing the stars, the latest being 17-year-old Connor Bedard. Tabbed as a  player who comes along once in a generation, Bedard is a ‘gimme’ to get selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the first choice in the draft.

(As of this writing, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes as tepid 2-1 (+200) favorites to win the title, according to Stanley Cup odds.

Carolina (-130 over the Florida Panthers) and Vegas (-140 vs Dallas Stars) are favored to advance, as per NHL series prices). 

Matthews to Stay?

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews has emerged as one of the best players in the league, but with currently just one season remaining on his contract. Now, after another disappointing playoff exit by he and the Leafs, Matthews has hinted about getting a new deal to remain in Toronto.

With any contract extension available to be signed the first of July, Matthews’ status shall remain in the news. He has scored at least 40 goals four seasons in a row, but didn’t factor in Toronto’s five-game loss to the eighth-seeded Florida Panthers.

Matthews has won any number of individual awards since being chosen No. 1 overall in 2016. He was the Hart Trophy (MVP) winner a season ago.


Faith in Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers once again saw a solid (109-point) regular season conclude in heartbreaking fashion, ousted in six games (5-2 loss Sunday) by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Oiler captain Connor McDavid led the NHL in goals (64), assists (89) and points (153) during the season, and will annex the Hart. McDavid understands every championship team goes through a period of disappointment, however. 

Advancing to the Western Conference Finals a season ago, Edmonton was swept by the eventual-champ Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers led the league in scoring this season, also the best team on the power play. 

McDavid and running mate Leon Draisaitl (52 goals, 76 assists, 128 points) aren’t leaving, but the Oilers have just $6 million in cap space heading into the offseason. 

Cats-’Canes in East

The Finals in the Eastern Conference were set before the West. It’s the underdog Florida Panthers, as a eight-seed, colliding with the second-seed Carolina Hurricanes. 

Florida eliminated the record-serting Boston Bruins in seven games (that after being down, 3-1), then disposed of the spongy-soft Toronto Maple Leafs in five. Despite barely sneaking into the playoffs, Florida has managed to find a new gear in the postseason. 

Carolina whacked a pair of New York-area teams, the Islanders (six games) and New Jersey Devils (five). Now, the ‘Canes are back with a fifth trip to the Conference Finals.

This will feature a trio of brothers, Eric and Marc Staal (Panthers) and Jordan (Hurricanes). 

It’s also the Paul Maurice Invitational, as the current Panther coach was the last coach of the Hartford Whalers and first of the Hurricanes after the franchise moved (prior to ‘97-’98 season).