SPORTS

Beating Runner-up Syndrome: Canadian NHL Teams Tired of Finishing Second

9/27/2006

Game Seven can really sting- The Oilers are still reeling from the pain of losing the Stanley Cup at the eleventh hour. At least they can squeeze some consolation from knowing that they're not the only ones.



Game Seven can really sting- The Oilers are still reeling from the pain of losing the Stanley Cup at the eleventh hour. At least they can squeeze some consolation from knowing that they're not the only ones. The last two Canadian teams to reach the Cup finals-the Calgary Flames (2004) and the Vancouver Canucks (1994)-suffered the same pride-deflating fate. Have the teams from the North done enough retooling and bulking up in the offseason to beat runner-up syndrome? You be the judge.



Toronto Maple Leafs

Au Revoir: Pat Quinn, Ed Belfour, Eric Lindros, Tie Domi, Alexander Khavanov, Luke Richardson, Jason Allison Aki Berg.

Bonjour: Paul Maurice, Andrew Raycroft, Mike Peca, Pavil Kubina, Hal Gill

Intel: The Leafs were swept into the gutter last season missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years and so coach Pat Quinn got the axe. What’s GM John Ferguson Jr.’s plan for the Leafs to get back into the postseason? Well free agent pick-ups Kubina and Gill should mend the Leafs’ shaky defense and if Raycroft can regain his Calder trophy form, the Leafs will have few worries behind their blue line. Scoring crutches Sundin and McCabe will again be counted on to supply the bulk of the offense.

Calgary Flames

Bonjour- Alex Tanguay, Jeff Friesen, Jim Playfair (coach)

Au Revoir- Shean Donovan, Jordan Leopold, Chris Simon

Intel- The Flames have been sitting pretty with a world class netminder in Miikka Kiprusoff and an enviable defensive core for the past couple of seasons but now that they’ve addressed their lamp-lighting deficiency—they were ranked 28th in the league in scoring last year—this team is set to sizzle. The arrival of Tanguay and Friesen should relieve the goal-popping burden from team sparkplug Jarome Iginla who is pumped to be playing with "the most talented group of forwards in the 10 years that I've been here.” Meanwhile, behind the bench Darryl Sutter cedes control of his coaching duties to assistant Jim Playfair but will remain GM.

Edmonton Oilers

Bonjour- Joffrey Lupul, Petr Sykora, Jan Hejda, Marty Reasoner, Ladislav Smid, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Patrick Thoresen

Au Revoir- Chris Pronger, Georges Laraque, Jaroslav Spacek, Mike Peca and Sergei Samsonov.
Craig MacTavish’s cinderella team which defied the odds to reach the Cup Finals in 2005 spilled talent in offseason like the Exxon Valdez. It’s not all snivels and snorts for the Oil though. A glowing bright spot on the horizon is top prospect Rob Schremp who led the OHL in points in 05-06 with 57 goals and 88 assists through 57 games. The 20-year-old centre may need some more seasoning but if he pans out he’ll have the City of Champions gushing for joy again.

Vancouver Canucks

Bonjour: Roberto Luongo, Marc Chouinard, Lukas Krajicek, Willie Mitchell, Brad Moran, Tommi Santala, Alain Vigneault (Coach)

Au Revoir: Anson Carter, Nolan Baumgartner, Todd Bertuzzi, Sven Butenschon, Keith Carney, Dan Cloutier, Ed Jovanovski, Jarkko Ruutu, Marc Crawford

Intel: After years of having major question marks behind the pipes, the Canucks landed one of the game’s best G’s in Roberto Luongo. So they have an answer in net but now their defense is looking dumpy with the losses of rush stopping studs Jovanoski and Carney who will be replaced with Mitchell and Krajicek.

Montreal Canadiens

Bonjour: Mike Johnson, Sergei Samsonov, Guy Carbonneau (Coach)

Au Revoir: Richard Zednik, RW, Niklas Sundstrom

Intel: GM Bob Gainey spent a good part of the offseason bemoaning big name free agents lack of interest in playing for Montreal. Jason Arnott and Brendan Shanahan who topped Gainey’s want-list snubbed the Habs for Nashville and New York respectively. The culprit aside from the frigid weather is Quebec income tax rates which are higher than any province or state with an NHL team. It’s a different story for Canadiens’ alumni who can never get enough of the club. Guy Carbonneau, a fan favourite during his 13-year tenure with the team, takes over coaching responsibilities.

Ottawa Senators

Bonjour: Martin Gerber, Dean McAmmond Michal Barinka, Joe Corvo, Josh Hennessy, Tom Preissing

Au Revoir: Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat, Bryan Smolinski, Dominik Hasek

Intel: Despite the departure of stars like Chara and Havlat, this perennial regular season powerhouse and postseason pooch is still about as hot as the air circulating during question period in the House of Commons. Still intact is the most lethal 1-2-3 combo in the game provided coach Bryan Murray decides to leave the top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatly alone. The Senators’ fortunes could hinge on Swiss puck-stopper Martin Gerber who was phenomenal with Carolina in the regular season posting a 38-14-6 record with a 2.78 goals against average but then folded in the playoffs.


sidebar:
Holy Ovechkin…The NHL’s Top Guns Are a Lot Younger than they used to be.

Legend
18-23 light Green
24-28- Dark Green
29-35- Blue

Top 10 Point Leaders 05-06
Joe Thornton, 26
Jaromir Jagr, 34
Alex Ovechkin, 20
Dany Heatley, 25
Daniel Alfredsson, 33
Sidney Crosby, 18
Eric Staal, 21
Ilya Kovalchuk, 23
Marc Savard, 28
Jonathan Cheechoo, 25
*Fine print-Ages as of April 18, 2006
The Last day of the regular season
Average age 25.3

Top Ten Point Leaders 2001-2002
Jarome Iginla, 24
Markus Nasland, 28
Todd Bertuzzi, 27
Mats Sundin, 31
Jaromir Jagr, 30
Joe Sakic, 32
Pavol Demitra, 27
Adam Oates, 39
Mike Modano, 31
Ron Francis, 39
Average Age 30.8
*Fine Print-As of April 14, 2002 the last day of the regular season.

This article first ran in the October issue of Bell T.V. Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2006

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