There may be angst with some Canadian hockey fanatics that no Canadian-based NHL team has advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 16 years.
Next spring will mark 20 years since the last Canadian team, the Montreal Canadiens, won the Stanley Cup. But since we're a bunch of positive thinkers here at CBCSports.ca -- and, of course, we want you to keep watching Hockey Night in Canada -- we're here to help put a cheerful spin on what transpired in the first round.
First of all, we've had a pretty good run in this country with recent trips to the Stanley Cup final by Calgary (2004), Edmonton (2006), Ottawa (2007) and Vancouver last year. Two years ago was pretty special, too, when the Habs made their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference final.
Sure, that was a major downer when the Presidents Trophy-winning Canucks wimped out in five games against the Los Angeles Kings last Sunday. But that was a pretty impressive seven-game run by the Ottawa Senators, who came within a blocked shot (OK, many blocked shots) of pulling off a huge upset over all those goalies who play in front of New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
When training camp rolled around last September, the Canucks were clearly Canada's best team. But there were legitimate reasons to believe that Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal would be playing meaningful games late in the regular season, but not in Ottawa.
When Senators general manager Bryan Murray remarked that he could swiftly rebuild the Senators into a playoff contender after last season, there were snickers around the league. But then Ottawa's farm team in Binghamton went out and won the Calder Cup.
Youngsters like Jim O'Brien, Zack Smith, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Kaspars Daugavins, Bobby Butler and Jared Cowen benefited from the winning experience and helped Ottawa's cause all season long.
Murray's hiring of Paul MacLean was brilliant, too. Under his guidance, third-year defenceman Erik Karlsson transformed into a Norris Trophy candidate, and centre Jason Spezza exhibited maturity and leadership and appears on the verge of taking his place among the game's elite.
The Senators may be the best Canadian NHL team for years to come. Even with the possibility that captain Daniel Alfredsson may have played his final game on Thursday, it's hard not to get excited about the Senators' future with what they have in place and with what they have coming in with youngsters like Jacob Silverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, Matt Peumpel and Mark Borowiecki.
Plenty of Canadian players left
If you want further evidence that times soon may be brighter for Canadian teams in the NHL, what if the Phoenix Coyotes relocate to Quebec City? They're in the second round. Maybe they can pick up the slack in the absence of a Canadian team left to cheer for.
The Coyotes, after all, dressed the most Canadian-raised players among the first-round winners, if you care about that sort of thing:
Phoenix (15) - Antoine Vermette, Gilbert Brule, Taylor Pyatt, Ray Whitney, Daymond Langkow, Raffi Torres, Kyle Chipchura, Shane Doan, Boyd Gordon, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Adrian Aucoin, Mike Smith, Derek Morris, David Schlemko, Paul Bissonnette.
Los Angeles (13) - Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner, Willie Mitchell, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Colin Fraser, Jonathan Bernier.
Washington (13) - Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Mike Knuble, Troy Brouwer, Mike Green, Jason Chimera, John Erskine, Jay Beagle, Karl Alzner, Dennis Wideman, Jeff Schultz, Mathieu Perreault, Braden Holtby.
St. Louis (12) - Andy McDonald, Carlo Colaiacovo, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo, Jason Arnott, Kris Russell, Scott Nichol, Matt D'Agostini, Ryan Reaves, Kent Huskins, Chris Stewart, Brian Elliott.
Philadelphia (12) - Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell, Sean Couturier, Maxime Talbot, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Coburn, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Zac Rinaldo, Eric Wellwood.
Nashville (10) - Gabriel Bourque, Kevin Klein, Shea Weber, Nick Spaling, Mike Fisher, Matt Halischuk, Brandon Yip, Francis Bouillon, Jordon Tootoo, Ryan Ellis.
N.Y. Rangers (7) - Brad Richards, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, John Mitchell, Brandon Prust, Marty Biron, Michael Del Zotto.
New Jersey (6) - Travis Zajac, Steve Bernier, David Clarkson, Bryce Salvador, Martin Brodeur, Adam Henrique.
If we still haven't convinced you to keep watching the Stanley Cup playoffs sans a Canadian-based team, the world championship is around the corner, the three major junior loops are nearing the conclusion of their conference finals, and last time we checked the Abbotsford Heat, St. John's IceCaps and Toronto Marlies are still alive in the Calder Cup playoffs.
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