By Patrick Hoffman
There is no doubt that hockey is Canada's game and always will be Canada's game.
That is not the case when it comes to the country's NHL teams, especially this season. Last year may have been a great one for the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators, but this year was a much different story.
Out of Canada's seven NHL clubs, only two of them found their way into the postseason (Leafs and Winnipeg Jets). The other five clubs missed the postseason and all by a wide margin.
Let's take a look at what went wrong for the clubs that missed out on competing for a Cup this year.
Simply put, this is a team that should have made the playoffs.
With the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mathew Tkachuk, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano and Mike Smith between the pipes, the Flames had a playoff-type roster. The club was in a good position to make the playoffs until Smith got injured and things went down the tubes.
Due to the team missing the playoffs, head coach Glen Gulutzan was let go. The team went out and made Bill Peters (former Carolina Hurricanes bench boss) their new head coach so hopefully, he can get this team going in the right direction again.
After being a great story last season, the Oilers went out and and had an awful year.
The Oilers finished 6th in the Pacific Division and 23rd in the league. This is quite a downturn from last year when they were second in the division and eighth in the league.
The problem this year was that they relied too much on their captain and franchise player Connor McDavid. The 21-year old came through with a 108-point season (41 goals and 67 assists), but no one else followed suit as they finished 20th in the league in goals scored.
It will be interesting to see what Oilers' general manager Peter Chiarelli will do when it comes to the team's secondary scoring, because if he does not do something about it, the team will be a one trick pony with McDavid trying to do everything for them.
After winning the Atlantic Division last year and making the playoffs last year, the Habs were one of the worst teams in the league this year.
They were awful from top to bottom this season. Carey Price struggled this season, the team struggled to score goals (28th in the league), they were one of the worst defensive teams (25th in the league), and they were just terrible all around.
Something needs to be done in order to get this franchise turned around. This is the second time in the last three seasons that they have not made the playoffs and their general manager, Marc Bergevin, continues to make questionable moves.
While the Canadiens have one of the greatest and most passionate fan bases in the sport, things could sour for them if they do not make the playoffs next season.
The same can be said of the Senators.
After getting to within one goal of getting into the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Senators came crashing down and were the second worst team in the NHL. This team had trouble putting the puck in the net (25th in the league), keeping it out of their net (30th in the league), and generally struggled night in and night out this season to put in a solid 60-minute effort.
It can be said that the poor play of their starter Craig Anderson was the main culprit for the team's downward spiral this year. The 36-year-old netminder went 23-25-6 with a 3.32 goals against average and a .898 save percentage, numbers that are not what we are used to seeing from him.
With no one knowing what is going on with team captain Erik Karlsson, the franchise's attendance issues, and the team owner Eugene Melnyk constantly frustrating his team's fans, it will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason in Ottawa.
The Canucks were expected to be a non-factor this year so it should come as no surprise that they missed the playoffs.
This is a young hockey club that needs to continue to learn from their head coach Travis Green and develop a consistent style of play. They were some signs of that this year as the season went on.
The club will certainly be younger next season as the Sedin twins announced their retirement prior to the last few games of the season. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were world class players and human beings that I am sure a lot of the team's youngsters learned a ton from.
Believe it or not, this team has a bright future. With Green at the helm, a young and talented offensive core, and a young potential stud goaltender in Thatcher Demko, this franchise will see better days in the near future.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.