The Stanley Cup finals are upon us, opening today in Chicago. Once again, Canada does not have a team to root for at the end of the postseason. While the 2012-2013 season proved hopeful for several hometown teams, including the unlucky Toronto Maple Leafs, hockey fans across the country will remain glued to their TVs halfheartedly rooting for one of our American counterparts. This week, we examine the success of Canada’s different NHL franchises over the last fifty years, seeing just how many times they have all managed to keep hope alive north of the border. The width of each ring around the city illustrates the number of times each team has made different rounds of the playoffs, with the star at the centre denoting how many Stanley Cups have been won.
A few initial caveats are in order, which are obvious to any fan who has been following hockey for a significant period of time. Aside from the Leafs and the Canadiens, the Canadian contributions to the Original Six, most of our teams haven’t been around nearly as long, so their relative size on the map is smaller than Toronto and Montréal. One team is no longer with us (in this case, the Québec Nordiques) and two have been resurrected (the Senators and the Jets). As well, the playoff format has changed several times over the years, with the progressive expansion of the league beginning in 1967 leading to the addition of two more playoff rounds. We’ve made this map based on the current playoff structure, with four concentric circles illustrating the progression from conference quarterfinals to the Stanley Cup. These outer rings were added progressively over time.
So, what does this map tell us? Montréal reigns supreme with an impressive 30 appearances over the last five decades. More impressive, is the fact the Canadians have emerged with the Stanley Cup in 12 of their 14 appearances in the finals. The next most successful team is Edmonton, whose Gretzky-led dynasty (1983-1990) earned them the Cup five times. The Oilers don’t always make the playoffs, but when they do they are fierce competitors. The data generated by the storied and choke-prone Leafs is exactly as interesting as you’d expect. Perennial first round losers, Toronto have lost seven of ten semifinal appearances – but they have a perfect record in their three Stanley Cup appearances. Calgary has also had a tough time in the playoffs, with limited luck beyond their sole Cup victory in 1984.
Things get a little dreary beyond Calgary as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and the defunct Québec Nordiques all have been luckless in winning the cup. Regarding Québec, to add insult to injury, the Nordiques won the Stanley Cup as soon as they relocated to Colorado in the 1994-1995 season – ouch! Ottawa and Vancouver have been forces to be reckoned with in recent years, so hopefully their persistance yields some dividends soon. In 1993, Montreal was the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup – wouldn’t it be nice to see that dry spell come to a close next year?