The Seven: A season of infamy for Canada's NHL teams

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Calgary Flames' Sam Bennett, center, collides with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson as Mark Stone watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Zibanejad's natural hat trick leads Senators past Flames 6-4

Calgary Flames' Sam Bennett, center, collides with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson as Mark Stone watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canada’s seven NHL teams are almost certain to live in infamy because of their lack of success this season.

None of them are playoff bound and that’s only happened one other time in the 99-year history of the league.

It’s been quite the turn of events compared to last year when five Canadian clubs reached the postseason. The Ottawa Senators were thought to be better and perhaps the Calgary Flames, too. Of course, without superstar goalie Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens – expected to be the best of the lot – completely fell off a cliff. The Habs had an 11-point lead in the Atlantic Division on Dec. 1, but lost 11 of 14 games in the month and never recovered.

Talk about disappointment. And it’s quite different in relation to what happened back in 1969-70.

Back then only the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs played north of the border. The 12 teams were divided into two divisions – one from before the 1967 expansion and the other full of the newbie squads.

The Leafs finished last in their division with a 29-34-13 mark, which was actually better than every team except the St. Louis Blues on the other side.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, had the edge over the New York Rangers for fourth place and the last playoff spot entering the last game of the season. What happened next was truly unfathomable.

The Rangers beat Detroit and the Canadiens lost to Chicago, leaving the teams with identical 38-22-16 records. The next tiebreaker was goals for and thanks to the Rangers’ 9-5 win they edged the Canadiens by two.

The circumstances were very different. In one case, teams with promise collapsed in the middle of the season. In the other case, the best hope crumbled at the end.

Either way, it’s a rare, dubious feat for the Canadian clubs.

Now for the rest of The Seven – a weekly look at the Canadian-based NHL teams. This week we’ll break things down from first to worst.

PK Subban suffered a ''non-serious'' neck injury in a scary collision with teammate Alexei Emelin. (AP)
PK Subban suffered a ''non-serious'' neck injury in a scary collision with teammate Alexei Emelin. (AP)

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Trending – P.K. Subban had to be stretchered off the ice because of a neck injury resulting from an awkward collision with teammate Alexei Emelin during Thursday’s 3-2 win over Buffalo. It marked a terrible end to Subban’s night, especially since he was awarded the Jean Beliveau Trophy for his charity work before the game. At least Subban was released from hospital and the injury downgraded to “non-serious.”

Making his markAlex Galchenyuk had a three-point night, including the overtime winner, in 4-3 home-ice win over Dallas on Tuesday.

Dubious distinction – Galchenyuk’s goal ended a four-game losing streak for the Canadiens as they fall further away from postseason contention.

What’s ahead – The Habs host Minnesota and Florida before travelling to Buffalo.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Trending – Eugene Melnyk isn’t shy about taking action when he feels he, or those around him, have been wronged. The latest example: the Senators owner has filed a notice of action against a drug company whose alleged mismanagement he claims has hurt shareholders like him.

Making his mark – Dion Phaneuf made his return to Toronto and had to fight back tears after a video tribute. He then immediately fought Colin Greening, one of the players for whom he was traded.

Dubious distinction – Offensive dynamo Erik Karlsson scored in Florida to give him 70 points for the third time in his career. It was his first goal in 18 games and his first point in four.

What’s ahead – The Sens host the Leafs on Saturday and Minnesota on Tuesday.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Trending – The Canucks signed 6-foot-7 Russian defenceman Nikita Tryamkin, who they selected 66th overall in the 2014 draft. His contract reportedly contains an AHL out-clause.

Making his mark – On Wednesday, Markus Granlund scored for the first time in seven games since a trade from Calgary on Feb. 22. The goal was the overtime winner in 3-2 decision against Arizona.

Dubious distinction – Winger Brandon Prust had been playing in the AHL since being placed on waivers Feb. 2. An ankle injury has ended the season short for Prust, a pending unrestricted free agent.

What’s ahead – The Canucks finish off their homestand with games Nashville, Winnipeg and Colorado.

CALGARY FLAMES

TrendingDennis Wideman is nearly finished serving his 20-game suspension for knocking over linesman Don Henderson. But, as the Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank wrote, this saga still has more twists and turns to sort out.

Making his markJohnny Gaudreau scored twice in 10 seconds and added an assist as the Flames beat Nashville 3-2 in overtime at home on Wednesday.

Dubious distinctionKudos to TSN for breaking down Gaudreau’s home and road splits. Turns out ‘Johnny Hockey’ is a superstar when playing in Calgary, but merely average on the road.

What’s ahead – The Flames continue their six-game homestand with matchups against Arizona, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

The Oilers' Connor McDavid came through in the clutch with a late winning goal against the Wild. (AP)
The Oilers' Connor McDavid came through in the clutch with a late winning goal against the Wild. (AP)

EDMONTON OILERS

Trending – Rookie defenceman Darnell Nurse was given a three-game suspension for pummelling San Jose blueliner Roman Polak in the dying minutes of a 3-0 loss on Tuesday.

Making his mark – Without Nurse, the Oilers managed a 2-1 win in Minnesota two nights later. Connor McDavid netted the winner off the rush with 7:29 remaining in the third period.

Dubious distinction – The Oilers were shut out by San Jose goaltender James Reimer. It was Reimer’s first shutout since Oct. 29, 2013, which was also in Edmonton.

What’s ahead – The Oilers open a five-game homestand with games against Arizona, Nashville and St. Louis.

WINNIPEG JETS

Trending – The Jets are hosting an outdoor game next season. It was announced last Sunday that Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers will visit Investors Group Field for the Heritage Classic on Oct. 23. Bundle up.

Making his mark – Mark Scheifele’s hat trick led the Jets to a 4-2 win over Montreal last Saturday. With points in eight of his last nine games (14 points), Scheifele is heating up at the right time. He’s a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Dubious distinction – With losses in six of their past seven games – including three straight – the Jets sit in last place in the Western Conference.

What’s ahead – The Jets host Colorado before travelling to Vancouver and Calgary.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Trending – Look who else is braving the great outdoors. It won’t be called the Winter Classic, but the Centennial Classic will be held on New Year’s Day at BMO Field against coach Mike Babcock’s old team, the Detroit Red Wings.

Making his mark – Recent AHL call-ups Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman are making quite the impression on Babcock. Both have scored twice in six games.

Dubious distinction – Top-pairing defenceman Matt Hunwick was shut down for the rest of the season to have sports hernia surgery. He played 27:09 against Buffalo the previous night.

What’s ahead – The Leafs are in Ottawa and Detroit before starting a six-game homestand against the two Florida teams.

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