The Stanley Cup drought in Canada will continue this season. The 2022 Stanley Cup Final marks 29 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup, and despite what should be an absolutely fantastic final, Canadian NHL fans will once again have to sit on the sidelines.
At the start of the playoffs this season, it looked like Canadian teams were well positioned to make big playoff runs. The Edmonton Oilers were the best of the bunch, advancing to the Western Conference Finals but failing to win a single game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Calgary Flames bowed out to the Oilers in the second round after beating the Dallas Stars in the first round, and the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their predictable history of losing in the first round as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other four Canadian teams did not advance to the playoffs this season.
Now, there are just two teams left: the Avalanche representing the West and the Lightning representing the East. With two American based teams left, which one should be Canada’s team?
Avalanche Roster Breakdown
The Case For Colorado
Colorado is automatically a strong contender solely due to them having the most Canadians on their roster. And it’s not just the raw total either, Colorado boasts some of the best Canadians in the game. A team led by two of the most dynamic and skilled players in the world hailing from Canada is an easy thing to get behind.
The Avs are also managed by one of the best Canadian hockey players to ever lace up a pair of skates in Joe Sakic, who is showing he belongs in the elite category of managers as well. The Avalanche bench boss, Jared Bednar, is also Canadian.
Denver, where the Avalanche are based, is also one of the most famous cities nestled near the Rocky Mountains, an iconic North American mountain range. And of course, the Avalanche did come from an actual Canadian team—the Quebec Nordiques. The Nordiques were in the NHL from 1979–95, and relocated to Denver for the 1995–96 season. There’s always a bit of Canada remaining in the history of the Avalanche.
The Case Against Colorado
The Avalanche have had a recent history of embarrassing Canadian teams in the playoffs; the Flames were blown out in 2019 and the Oilers were swept this year. It’s a bit of a consolation prize when you see the team that eliminated you go on to win the Stanley Cup, but at the same time it’s hard to cheer for that team to win.
Despite the high number of Canadians on the Avalanche roster, they also have the most American players in the final with seven. As well, they are not captained by a Canadian, instead it will be Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog who will hoist the Cup first if the Avalanche are victorious.
But then again, the Avalanche took a Canadian franchise away from Canada, so that’s bound to knock off a few points.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Case For:
The Lightning may have fewer Canadian roster players, but when they’re captained by a player like Stamkos and complemented by Point and Cirelli, it’s a pretty even comparison across the board in terms of Canadian talent, at best.
It’s another team that was built by one of the best Canadians to ever play the game in former GM Steve Yzerman and current GM Julien Brisebois, who did all the right things to construct one of the most dominant teams in decades. The Lightning are trying to make history, and it would be truly phenomenal to see a team hoist the Cup in three straight years in not only the salary cap era, but the flat cap era.
The Case Against
With only nine Canadians on the roster, the Lightning aren’t starting out on the best of feet. Throw in the fact that their top forward Nikita Kucherov is from Russia, their starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is from Russia, and their top defenceman in Victor Hedman is from Sweden, and the Lightning might just not have the representation they need.
Throw in the fact that Corey Perry plays for the Lightning and it gets really hard to convince Canadians to cheer for them. He may be a future hall-of-famer and incredible player for Canada internationally, but his transgressions against Western Canadian teams over the past decade hasn’t been forgotten.
The biggest nail in their coffin is the fact that they robbed a Canadian team from snapping the Stanley Cup drought in 2004 when the Flames’ would-be series winner was not counted in Game 6 of the final. It’s still a tough pill to swallow for Calgary hockey fans.
Not to mention they bested the Montreal Canadiens—the latest Canadian team to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. In an odd playoff format, the Canadiens represented the Western Conference after the division realignment of 2020–21 after going against all odds by beating the Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Vegas Golden Knights. Make it two Canadian teams that have a reason to be bitter towards Tampa Bay.
The easiest case against the Lightning is that they’ve already won two straight cups. It’s time for them to give another team a chance here.
The verdict on which team is Canada’s team
As compelling the cases were for each team, it seems like the one we should don as Canada’s team moving forward is the Avalanche. They have the most Canadian players by a mile, didn’t steal a cup from Calgary in 2004, don’t employ Corey Perry, and have two of the most incredible Canadians in the game in MacKinnon and Makar. It’s an easy choice. Go Avalanche.