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Being the Last Canadian Team Standing



A look at the to-do list for each Canadian team | CBC Sports

When the second round matchups were set in stone, one of them was a pivotal one for an entire nation. No, not this one. The one sitting above us. The series in the Pacific Division pitted the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers, meaning that it's a guarantee that a Canadian team will be part of the NHL's Final Four this year. The series has reached seven games, and the role of "Last Canadian Team Standing" will be decided in that game.

So, why is this vital? It's simple. The last time a Canadian franchise won the Stanley Cup, you have to go all the way back to 1993. That year, the Montréal Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup in franchise history. Since then, Canadian teams haven't had any luck in the playoffs. In fact, there have only been six instances where a Canadian franchise reached the Stanley Cup FInal:  1994 (Canucks--lost in seven), 2004 (Flames--lost in seven), 2006 (Oilers--lost in seven), 2007 (Senators--lost in five), 2011 (Canucks--lost in seven), and 2021 (Canadiens--lost in five). Fans of Canadian clubs have long believed that the commissioner, Gary Bettman, has a bias against Canadian teams, but that's really not the case. These teams just haven't been good or fortunate enough to win the whole thing. 

As I stated before, a Canadian team will be in the Final Four this year. It will be the third time in four years, and overall, it will be the fifth time in the last eight years that a Canadian club will be four wins away from reaching the Final. In a crazy twist of irony, the stretch began after a 2015-16 season that saw none of the NHL's seven Canadian franchises qualify for the playoffs--the first time that happened since the 1969-70 season, though back then, only the Maple Leafs and Canadiens represented Canada in the NHL--which had 12 teams at that time.

In 2017, the Ottawa Senators reached the Eastern Conference Final, and came within a hair of advancing, being ousted in double overtime of Game Seven by the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2018, it was the Winnipeg Jets reaching the Western Conference Final, only to run into the Vegas Golden Knights during that team's debut season. 2021 was the second of the two COVID-affected seasons that saw localized divisions, with one of them consisting of all seven Canadian teams. As a result, the first two rounds of that year's playoffs were purely division based, guaranteeing that a Canadian team would reach the third round. That year, it was the Canadiens, who actually ended up advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2022, the Edmonton Oilers reached the Western Conference Final, only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

Now, for those of you who'd like to believe that the last Canadian team left would have support from the entire nation of fans...kill that belief right now. Canadian pride in hockey only exists in the Olympics and other forms of international play. When it comes to the Stanley Cup, it's every team and fanbase for themselves. Do Canadian fans want the Cup drought over? Yes. But they want their favorite team to do it. Leafs fans will not root for either Vancouver or Edmonton to win the whole thing. Neither will Senators and Canadiens fans. Flames fans would rather eat dirt than ever root for the Canucks and especially the Oilers. I've said many times that it's always fun when Canadian teams face each other in the playoffs. One reason is because of the heated pressure and rivalry between the teams and the fans. So yeah, the entire nation of Canada won't band together for the one team left in the playoffs. That's just not a thing. 

Either the Canucks or the Oilers will be the last Canadian team standing, and it'll be interesting to see if that attribute leads to the end of a 31 year drought.

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