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Original Issue

O-fer Canada

No playoff hockey north of the border

THE LAST NAIL in the national coffin was hammered by one of Canada's own, Ontario native Sam Gagner. Last Thursday in Philadelphia, the Flyers' forward scored a shootout winner against the Capitals that eliminated the Ottawa Senators from postseason contention and made official what many had expected for weeks: None of Canada's seven NHL teams would reach the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Such ignominy last occurred in 1969--70, when only Toronto and Montreal represented the nation in a 12-team league and Gagner's father, Dave, who would play 946 NHL games, was just five years old. This season will be the 22nd straight with a non-Canadian team winning the Cup and the 12th all-U.S. final this century. Even President Obama is not above getting in a friendly dig at his Canadian counterpart. During a White House visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month, Obama asked rhetorically, "Where is the Stanley Cup right now? I'm sorry, is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks?"

Trudeau countered by noting that three Blackhawks stars—defenseman Duncan Keith, center Jonathan Toews and leftwing Patrick Sharp—are Canadian; all are from Winnipeg. And it is true that the True North still supplies far more players (48.8%) to the NHL than does any other country.

Still, there is no denying the disappointment on the other side of the border. Of the six teams below 75 points at week's end, five are based in Canada. Montreal went rudderless once goaltender Carey Price (above) suffered a lower-body injury in November. Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg flopped after reaching the playoffs in 2014--15. Only Edmonton and Toronto truly met expectations—by finishing last in their respective conferences.

Help may be on the way, however. Through Sunday, Canadian teams held a combined 67.5% chance of winning the NHL draft lottery, the prize for which will likely be standout center Auston Matthews. It should be noted, though, that Matthews hails not from Canada but from a different hockey hotbed: Scottsdale, Ariz.