Bobby Cappuccino thinks he can just come in and steal my mailbag, does he?! I know he’s trying to sell himself as the “bad boy” of TLN, but stealing what is the heart of what keeps my content veins full of blood is a low blow. So you know what? Let’s fight fire with fire. Bobby, this isn’t your column anymore. It is #mycolumn. It is mine, and it’s better than anything your uncreative brain could ever conjure up.
To me, one of the greatest things about the playoffs is the fact that Hockey Night in Canada never stops. I don’t mean that because I care about seeing more hockey (that’s what Centre Ice and GameCentre are for), but because I really, really appreciate the quality of the broadcast.
After all, any nerd with an internet connection can quote war-on-ice for a few paragraphs, but when I watch HNiC, I get access to Glenn Healy’s criticisms of James Reimer (regardless of who is in net), Jim Hughson’s praise of the Vancouver Canucks (regardless of which teams are on the ice), and Nick Kypreos having entertaining screaming matches with Doug MacLean (regardless of what the topic is). It’s a place to be reminded that none of us should be watching hockey unless we’ve played it. It’s great.
Nothing is greater than Don Cherry, though. He tells it like it is, and yesterday, he told it better than he has in a long time.
“What a team! I’ll tell you one thing, heart and grit behind them. All the time. That’s thing with them.” Don was, of course, talking about the Cinderella Calgary Flames, a team whose performance gets labelled “unsustainable” by all the Debbie Downers, out there, but does nothing but win in dramatic fashion. But why? Don wasn’t finished.
“The reason they never quit, is because they’ve got seventeen Canadians on the team!”
Don nailed it. You can talk to me all you want about skilled Europeans and faux-“hard working” Americans, but at the end of the day, you can only win with a Canadian team. People these days tend to roll there eyes without evidence, so I’ll give you some.
Canada Dominates What Matters
First and foremost, let’s look at the all-time playoff scoring list. Everybody knows that you need to score more goals than the other team to win hockey games. When you take a glance at the top ten in all-time points, you’ll find that not one, not two, but eight of those players are born in Canada.
The two that aren’t are Jari Kurri and Jaromir Jagr. Kurri earned the bulk of the points playing passenger with the 1980’s Oilers, who have five of the top six spots, with Kurri being the lone non-Canadian. So sure that he couldn’t do it without them, he latched on to Gretzky in LA and then Messier in New York. Jagr, on the other hand, is basically only here because he’s played forever; he’s actually under a point per game! Plus, he played with Mario Lemieux, who could boost an inanimate carbon rod’s production.
Next, let’s look at the Conn Smythe Trophy list. The trophy has been awarded 48 times, and to date, 42 playoff MVP’s have been Canadian. There’s been an increase of non-Canadian talent (read: American) winning it of late, but you can probably peg that to the PHWA having a bias as more bad journalists develop in the United States. What isn’t biased, however, is the captain’s C, and only four men to lift the cup first haven’t been Canadian in the past 119 years that it’s been awarded.
Canada Dominates Your XLS File
Of course, I know you nerds don’t care about proof like what I blessed you with above. “It’s circumstantial!” you’ll say. “There used to be more Canadian players, so of course the Canadian players will have those numbers!”. That’s pretty dumb, but I’ll let it slide. Knowing that you all need “fancy stats” to be convinced about anything, I’ve come prepared.
I’ve invented a statistic to gauge how full of Canadian pride and talent a playoff team is. My initial thought was to see how much ice time was used up by Canadian-born players, but that doesn’t seem very Canadian, does it? After all, players with high ice time might just be floaters who won’t get off the ice, which would be a very Russian thing to do. So we’re going to use shifts, to see how many times the coach said “You know what? I trust you. Get out there.” My formula is as follows.
(Shifts taken by Canadian players) / (Total shifts taken by the team) x 60
The multiplication at the end doesn’t really do anything at all, but I know you’re all obsessed with per-sixty stats. At first, I applied this to the current playoff matchups, and the results didn’t correlate well. The more Canadian team was losing in three of the four series! But then again, it’s only the second round. The weird stuff is still happening, and the lucky teams are still getting lucky. So I got historical with it, and did the Canada-Per-60 matchups for every Cup Finals since 1998. Here are the results:
|2013/14||Los Angeles||37.9||NY Rangers||32.2|
|2011/12||Los Angeles||34.9||New Jersey||16|
The team with the higher concentration of Canadian skater shifts wins 63% of the time, and in the years that they don’t, it makes sense.
- 2013: The Blackhawks may have had fewer Canadians, but they had great Canadians. In fact, they had a fifth of the Sochi Olympic team. Also, the Bruins had a European Captain.
- 2010: Same story, different year with the Hawks. As well, this one was margin-of-error level close.
- 2008: Both teams were laughably un-Canadian, so it was unfortunate that either of them were even there. With that said, the Penguins learned their lesson and added more Canada the year after, while the Wings stocked up on Euros. Of course, Pittsburgh won the rematch.
- 2006: Canadian Hero Dwayne Roloson was tragically injured in the first game, leaving the Oilers to leave their hopes in the hands of two unproven goaltenders.. who were American and Finnish. The Canadian skaters are the only reason this series went to seven, come to think of it.
- 2000, 1999: The Devils won on an overtime winner from great Canadian Jason Arnott, who avenged the Buffalo Sabres. The Stars won with a lower Canadian concentration the year prior thanks to an illegal goal by a defector.
If the second round continues to go the way that it has, the Blackhawks will likely win the Stanley Cup for the third time since 2010. They’ll be the most Canadian team to advance, with the best pool of Canadian talent. But, as Cherry suggested last night, it might be too early to rule out the Flames. “If you have five Albertans, your guys will play harder in front of their families!” This is a solid point, and if the Flames can equalize in front of the home crowd, they’ll likely carry the momentum through and win in six games.
Canada Dominates Internationally
Our dominance applies at the international scale as well, and I’m very disappointed that Don didn’t point this out. Canada has won the last two Olympic gold medals in Mens Hockey, while the women’s team has won the last four. In the past decade and a half, Canadians have taken the Triple Gold Club, a designation of victory invented to make Swedes and Russians feel accomplished, and made it into their own.
When Canada completes its inevitable victory in this year’s World Championship, Sidney Crosby will be the first to Captain all of his Triple-Gold teams. I’m also pretty certain that the only reason that Mike Richards isn’t on the roster this year is because having an AHLer join the club would be too embarrassing to the rest of the world.
Canada Dominates My Conclusion
Cherry finished off his rant by telling Brian Burke that the influx of Canadian talent he has now is the reason the Flames are successful in ways that the Maple Leafs weren’t, and I have to agree with him. The Leafs were slaughtered on C60 when they lost to the Bruins in 2013, and though Burke was gone, that’s a team that he built.
Donald S also added that you can have Americans too, but only if they’re good like Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau, which Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Jake Gardiner were not. For whatever reason, Burke, who created the most Canadian team of the shift-chart generation, decided to pick Americans instead of good hockey players.
The Leafs’ emphasis on getting good players to get them into the playoffs might work one day, but once they get there, they better hope that these good players were born under the flag that matches their crest. If they aren’t, this team will never see success.