2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Predictions
Well, it’s that time again when those of us who make a living covering the NHL attempt to predict which teams will win each postseason series. We’ll look at the stats, try to put personal biases aside, and make our best guesses.
Some years, we’ll look really shrewd by getting more selections right than wrong. In others, we’ll end up looking silly as our predictions go off the rails.
That’s the beauty of playoff competition. Some series will unfold as we expect but others will see upsets that few saw coming. The Montreal Canadiens’ underdog run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final serves as a perfect example.
I’ve never taken this exercise too seriously and just have fun with this. No matter how much player and team info I digest, no matter how I crunch the stats data, it still comes down to gut feeling.
Without further ado, here’s my brief preview and predictions for the opening round of the Stanley Cup Final. Feel free to offer up your take in the comments section below.
FLORIDA PANTHERS – WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Both clubs lack proven playoff goaltending. Nevertheless, the Panthers‘potentoffense will be difficult to contain, especially Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin remains questionable with an upper-body injury. Panthers in five.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning remains a dangerous team. Nevertheless, the high-scoring Leafs are long overdue to win a playoff series. Time for Auston Matthews and company to finally prove themselves in postseason play. Leafs in seven.
CAROLINA HURRICANES – BOSTON BRUINS
Carolina starter Frederik Andersen is questionable with a lower-body injury while the Bruins lack experienced playoff goaltending. Both teams possess two solid scoring lines. The Hurricanes’ league-leading penalty kill could be the difference-maker here. Hurricanes in six.
NEW YORK RANGERS – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
A clash between a rising power and an aging one that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2018. Never take Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lightly. Rangers starter Igor Shesterkin has little playoff experience but he should carry his club to victory. Rangers in six.
COLORADO AVALANCE – NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Career-best years from Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and goalie Juuse Saros carried the Predators into the playoffs. Saros, however, is questionable with a leg injury. The Avs struggled down the stretch but stars like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar will get the job done. Avalanche in five.
MINNESOTA WILD – ST. LOUIS BLUES
This could be the most entertaining series of the opening round. The Wild and Blues were in a tight race for second place in the Central. Minnesota has experienced goaltending in Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot but the Blues’ powerful offense will carry them to victory. Blues in seven.
CALGARY FLAMES – DALLAS STARS
The Stars are a team in transition as younger players like Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson take on more important roles. They’ll put up a good fight but won’t be any match for the Flames’ well-balanced game led by Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Flames in five.
EDMONTON OILERS – LOS ANGELES KINGS
The Oilers won 26 of their last 38 games under interim bench boss Jay Woodcroft. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl provide the Oilers with a strong scoring punch. The rebuilding Kings will feel the absence of veteran defenseman Drew Doughty. Oilers in five.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan. I’ve been one since 1971 when a then-unknown goaltender named Ken Dryden backstopped them to what is known in Canadiens lore as their Miracle Stanley Cup.
Dryden was the player who made me a Canadiens fan and remained my hero throughout the ’70s. However, it was his teammate, Guy Lafleur, who made me believe in hockey magic.
Along with Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Jean Beliveau, Lafleur was part of the trio of the Canadiens’ great Quebec-born superstars that would bring the club 18 Cups in 35 years between 1944 and 1979.
Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur (NHL.com).
Lafleur joined the Canadiens the season after Beliveau retired in 1971. He was the first-overall pick that year, and while he had a good rookie season, he wasn’t the dominant player that many Canadiens fans expected him to become.
He followed up with two more decent but unspectacular seasons, prompting suggestions that Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock had blundered by taking Lafleur over Marcel Dionne, who had established himself as a scoring star with the Detroit Red Wings during that period.
Then came 1974-75. Lafleur ditched his helmet and blossomed into the superstar that Pollock knew he would become. He went on to become the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals and 100 points in six straight seasons.
Lafleur’s last name in English means the flower, and that was his nickname throughout his career. This flower, however, was no shrinking violet. His offensive exploits earned him the moniker Le Demon Blonde by the Montreal media.
He was the engine that drove the Canadiens dynasty of the late-70s. Winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1976 to 1979, they were one of the most dominant teams in NHL history.
The late 1970s was a great time to be a Canadiens fan. The club was so powerful, so dominant, that you knew they were going to win every game. It was actually a shock during those rare occasions when they didn’t especially in 1976-77 when they lost just eight out of 80 regular-season games and only twice in the playoffs. The Stanley Cup wasn’t something we hoped for like fans of other teams. It was something we expected. Nothing less would suffice.
The Canadiens of that era was loaded with talent that eventually became enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Dryden, Yvan Cournoyer, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire and Steve Shutt formed the core of those championship years.
Standing above them was Lafleur. A three-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy and the Lester Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award), a two-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1976-77.
Of all those great stars on the Canadiens, it was Lafleur who earned the undying love of the club’s fans. During his prime from ’74-’75 to ’79-’80, he was the most exciting player in the game.
It wasn’t that Lafleur was a high-scoring forward. It was how he scored and controlled the play that made him the world’s best player during those dynasty years.
Long-blonde hair streaming as he raced with the puck, Lafleur was an impressive package of explosive offensive skill. He possessed blazing speed, dazzling stickhandling ability and a hard, accurate shot. The man was like an on-ice magician, conjuring plays that delighted fans and frustrated opponents.
Taking the puck from behind his own net, Lafleur would skate end-to-end leaving defenders gasping in his wake. He literally lifted fans out of their seats in anticipation of a goal. You knew you were going to see something special whenever he touched the puck. Fans chanted, “Guy! Guy! Guy!” following one of his spectacular goals.
Defenders found Lafleur difficult to contain. If he didn’t think he had a decent scoring chance upon gaining the opposition’s zone, he’d curl away to allow his teammates to catch up, looking to send an accurate pass to an open man that would lead to a better scoring opportunity. Dashing down his wing, rather than drive for the net or unleash his powerful slapshot, he’d sometimes carry the puck behind the net, head up, looking all the time for an open teammate.
No finer example of Lafleur’s greatness was Game 7 of the 1979 semifinals against the Bruins. Down 3-1 entering the third period, he got the primary assists on goals by Mark Napier and Lapointe as the Habs tied the score.
The Bruins got a late goal to regain the lead and seemed on the verge of ending the Canadiens’ championship streak until they took a bench minor at 17.26. Still, if they could kill that penalty, they would’ve probably won the game and ended Montreal’s championship run.
With 1:22 left in the game, Lafleur took the puck in his own zone. Circling away from a defender, he dashed up the ice in what appeared to be one of his electrifying end-to-end rushes. Instead, he passed ahead to Lemaire at the blueline, who took three quick strides into the Bruins zone and dropped it back to a streaking Lafleur, who unleashed a blast that beat Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert to tie the game.
“Fifty-five seconds left in the penalty. A minute and 27 seconds left in regulation time. Boston 4, Montreal 3. Lafleur…coming out rather gingerly on the right side. He gives in to Lemaire, back to Lafleur…HE SCOOOREESSS!” That was the call from the great Canadiens play-by-play man Danny Gallivan. It’s forever etched in my memory.
I was 16-years-old and delirious with joy. The dynasty lived and Lafleur was its savior. Up to that point, I was fearful the Canadiens would be eliminated. After that goal, I had no doubt they were going to win.
Sure enough, Yvon Lambert scored in overtime for the Canadiens to send them to the 1979 Final and their fourth-and-final Stanley Cup. However, it is Lafleur’s goal, the one that rescued the Habs from elimination, that is remembered to this day.
It was Lafleur’s greatest game, and the last great one he had in Stanley Cup playoff action.
After winning their fourth straight Cup, the dynasty ended after that season. Dryden, Cournoyer and Lemaire retired. Scotty Bowman stepped down as head coach. Sam Pollock retired as GM in 1978. Lapointe and Savard were eventually traded away.
While still an effective scorer, injuries began to hamper Lafleur in the early-80s as the club began to shift away from fire wagon hockey to a more defensive system. He reportedly clashed with Lemaire, now the head coach, over his declining ice time.
Lafleur retired in 1984 but staged a comeback with the New York Rangers in 1988-89. He played two more seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, becoming a mentor to a then-promising young forward named Joe Sakic. He put up respectable numbers but age and injuries robbed him of his scoring brilliance. “The Flower” retired for good in 1991.
By that point, I had finally grown to accept that the dynasty years were well and truly over for the Canadiens. Since winning their last Stanley Cup in 1993, I’ve learned to accept that they’re just another club (albeit the one with the richest history) in a 32-team league. Dynasties are a thing of the past, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the Canadiens win the Cup again in my lifetime.
I count myself fortunate that I’ve seen the Canadiens win the Cup eight times, with four of those thanks to Lafleur. His place in hockey history and Canadiens lore is secure.
Thirty-eight years after Lafleur retired from the Canadiens, he remains their all-time leader in assists (728) and points (1,245) and second to Richard with 518 goals. He’s also tied with Steve Shutt for most goals in a season with 60 and their all-time single-season leader with 136 points.
Lafleur was the greatest player on one of the greatest teams in NHL history.
Maple Leafs Need Matthews At His Best To Achieve Overdue Playoff Success
In his sixth NHL season, Auston Matthews is on a torrid goal-scoring pace not seen in the league for some time.
With 58 goals in 69 games entering Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders, the 24-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center is poised to become the first player to score 60 goals in a season since Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. With seven games remaining in the schedule, he also has a shot at becoming the first player to reach 65 goals since Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08.
Matthews has already secured his spot in Leafs history by establishing their single-season goal-scoring record. Having become the first player in franchise history to win the Maurice Richard Trophy with 41 goals in 52 games last season, he seems likely to take home that honor for the second straight year.
Thanks to his goal-scoring exploits, Matthews must be considered a serious challenger for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He could become the first Leaf to win that award since Teeder Kennedy in 1955.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).
Leafs Nation is giddy over Matthews’ performance and they have every right to be. He’s been a bonafide star since winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 2016-17. Injuries prevented him from reaching the 50-goal plateau earlier in his career but his offensive brilliance was never in doubt.
This season, however, Matthews has taken his game to a higher level, establishing himself as his generation’s best goal scorer. Of his 58 goals, 43 were scored at even strength. He’s their puck possession leader with a shot-attempts percentage of 59.8. The Leafs center has also improved his defensive game, tied for the league lead in takeaways (86) with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. He’s also solid in the faceoff circle, winning 56.6 percent of his draws.
The problem is, none of Matthews’ accomplishments this season will matter if the Leafs fail to get past the opening round of the playoffs.
Matthews could win the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award along with the Richard Trophy when the NHL Awards are handed out this summer and it won’t mean squat to Leafs fans if they suffer another first-round exit.
Even if the Leafs advance past the first round for the first time since 2004, Matthews’ regular-season efforts won’t count for much if they get bounced in the second round. Nothing less than at least reaching the Eastern Conference Final will satisfy long-suffering Leafs fans, and even then, there will be some grumbling that they didn’t go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.
Everyone knows the Leafs’ last Cup win was in 1967. It’s the longest championship drought in league history. Generations of Leafs fans have been born without seeing their favorite team win hockey’s holy grail. Every year, the pressure increases, especially when the Leafs have rosters with the capability of ending that streak.
The Leafs dominated their all-Canadian division during last season’s COVID-shortened campaign. Squaring off in the opening round against the lowly Montreal Canadiens, they held a 3-1 stranglehold on the series before the Canadiens roared back with three straight wins to take the series, sending the Leafs and their fans into an offseason of bitter disappointment.
Being among the Leafs’ core players, Matthews caught his fair share of criticism from Toronto fans and pundits. For good reason, too, as he was held to just one goal and five points by the Canadiens checkers and goaltender Carey Price.
Matthews’ stellar performance this season has served as a balm to soothe the jangled nerves of Leafs fans, but it’s also raised expectations. With the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs approaching, he will be expected to pilot his club toward that long-overdue championship glory. John Tavares may be the team captain, but the burden of leadership is truly on Matthews’ shoulders.
Yes, other members of the Leafs’ core – Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Jack Campbell – must also step up. But Matthews’ showstopping production this season has thrust him into a much brighter spotlight. He will be expected to carry this club to its first opening-round series victory in nearly 20 years and its first Stanley Cup in over a half-century.
If Matthews isn’t at his very best this spring, everything he accomplished during the regular season will be overshadowed by his postseason failure and that of his teammates.
The calls for change from the restless denizens of Leafs Nation will grow louder, perhaps leading to a change in management or coaching, maybe even a roster shakeup. Matthews probably wouldn’t be part of the latter but who can say what could happen following another discouraging postseason finish in Toronto?
All that can be avoided, or at least the odds of it happening greatly reduced if Matthews’ outstanding regular-season effort carries over into the 2022 postseason.
Failure is no longer an option for Matthews and the Leafs. He and his teammates must rise to the occasion this spring or remain damned as playoff choke artists.
Winning The NHL Trade Deadline Doesn’t Guarantee A Stanley Cup
The NHL’s annual trade deadline, set this year at 3 pm ET on March 21, is always an exciting point on the league calendar for hockey fans.
Rumors always abound among the press and social media in the days leading up to the deadline over which notable players could be on the move, stoking excitement and expectation among the fans.
Most deals involve postseason contenders shipping draft picks and prospects to non-playoff clubs in exchange for pending free agents. Occasionally, a “hockey trade” involving a player-for-player swap breaks up the monotony. Sometimes, a multi-team deal takes place allowing a club with limited salary-cap space to acquire a high-salaried player by spreading his cap hit among three teams.
Once the deadline is passed and the dust settles, there follows a plethora of media assessments over which teams “won” and “lost” the deadline deals. The winners are usually the clubs that landed the best players and thus sufficiently improved their chances of winning the Stanley Cup
NHL history is replete with examples of teams acquiring key players before the trade deadline who helped them become Cup champions. The New York Islanders landing Butch Goring in 1980, the Pittsburgh Penguins dealing for Ron Francis in 1991, the Detroit Red Wings bringing in Larry Murphy in 1997, the Colorado Avalanche trading for Rob Blake in 2001 and the Los Angeles Kings taking on Jeff Carter in 2012 and Marian Gaborik in 2014 are several notable examples.
In most cases, however, the teams considered trade deadline “winners” don’t go on to win the Stanley Cup.
Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).
For example, the Boston Bruins were considered a winner at last year’s deadline for landing former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall. So was the Toronto Maple Leafs after pulling off a clever three-team move to land forward Nick Foligno.
In the end, the Bruins only reached the second round of the 2021 playoffs while the Leafs were upset in the opening round. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup with their biggest move being the acquisition of depth defenseman David Savard.
In 2020, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Patrick Marleau while the Carolina Hurricanes landed Vincent Trocheck among three of their deadline moves. However, it was the Lightning who went on to win the Cup, thanks in part to adding depth forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. The Penguins, meanwhile, were bounced from the qualifying round while the Hurricanes came up short in the first round.
The 2019 trade deadline saw the Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Matt Duchene among several moves designed to turn the Jackets into a contender before Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky departed that summer as free agents. Those moves helped them win their first playoff round in franchise history but that’s as far as they got. The Vegas Golden Knights acquired winger Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators and signed him to a long-term extension. While the Golden Knights got themselves a top-flight two-way talent, it hasn’t helped them win that elusive Cup.
This isn’t to lay the blame on the players acquired by the teams that “won” the deadline but failed to win the Cup. In most cases, they couldn’t be faulted for their new clubs’ inability to advance.
Acquiring a player at the trade deadline, even a very good or great one, can be a crap-shoot. Sometimes, the move pans out and sometimes it doesn’t. The player could be among the best on his new team but they fail to go all the way because of other roster issues that management failed to address or never foresaw.
That doesn’t mean a general manager shouldn’t avail himself of the opportunity to improve his roster at the trade deadline, even if it means sometimes overpaying in terms of draft picks and prospects for a short-term acquisition who could depart as a free agent in the offseason. Sometimes, it’s worth the gamble. It can also prove to be a worthwhile long-term acquisition if the player re-signs or still has term on his contract.
Trade-deadline moves can certainly help to improve an NHL roster be it for one playoff round or several. Those moves can even help a club remain among the Cup contenders for several years.
Nevertheless, one should never assume that the teams acquiring the best players at the deadline are assured of a Stanley Cup. Sometimes, it’s the team that makes the under-the-radar deals that wins the big mug. And sometimes, it’s the team that didn’t need to make any major moves because they already had the roster depth to become a champion.
Pressure To Win Could Account For Canada’s Stanley Cup Drought
Of Canada’s seven NHL franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only ones holding a playoff berth at the halfway point of the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, seven of the NHL’s 10 “Sun Belt” franchises – Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles, Nashville Predators, Vegas Golden Knights and the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning – would make the playoffs if the season ended today. The Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks would be outside the postseason picture.
It’s been 29 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.
A Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. Since then, a Canadian club only reached the Final six times. Over the same period, a Sun Belt team has won the Cup eight times and reached the Final eight times.
It seems those Southern U.S. clubs have had better luck than their cousins in the Great White North. Actually, luck has nothing to do with it. The cold hard facts are those teams have been better managed and coached compared to their Canadian brethren over the same period.
That doesn’t mean those Sun Belt teams haven’t had their share of troubles. They’ve spent their share of time wallowing among the also-rans, in some cases for many years.
Some, like the Predators and Panthers, were dogged by whispers of relocation while the Atlanta Thrashers wound up moving to Winnipeg. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes remain in place despite years of multiple owners and questionable management thanks to the sheer force of will of league commissioner Gary Bettman.
Most of those teams, however, still managed to find a way to get it right. They eventually put together a solid front office staff, draft and develop talented players, make shrewd trades and free-agent signings to augment their lineups, and hire the right coaching staff to turn their rosters into contenders.
Meanwhile, Canada’s teams stumble along, sometimes seeming on the verge of becoming serious Cup contenders, only to make costly mistakes that knock them out of the running.
It’s not as though the Canadian teams haven’t hired experienced general managers or coaches. Most have had various degrees of success with previous clubs. So why is it that they seem to struggle in Canada?
Once upon a time, Canadian fans could pin the blame on the low value of the Canadian dollar and the free-spending ways of the rich American hockey markets. That’s no longer the case with the Canuck buck at a higher value, a salary cap leveling the field and a revenue-sharing plan that ensures Canadian clubs will have the same competitive advantage as their American cousins.
The expansion of the league from 24 franchises in 1993 to 32 franchises is a contributing factor. More teams mean more competition for draft picks and established players through trades and free agency. Nevertheless, the Sun Belt franchises face the same challenges and most have managed to do all right for themselves.
Of course, many of those teams are in states with low or no state taxes, paid in American dollars which go much further than Canadian dollars. The warmer weather can also be enticing.
Being able to lead relatively normal lives in those markets is also a big draw for the players. They live and work in much larger cities compared to those in Canada where they’re not the only major sport in town. The NHL is well down the popularity pole in those markets compared to basketball, football, baseball and NASCAR.
The players can go about their lives without being constantly harangued by fans if they’re mired in a slump or their club is in danger of missing the playoffs. They’re not facing packs of reporters tracking their every word and passing harsh judgment on their efforts.
That’s not the same thing for their Canadian peers. Even in the smallest markets such as Winnipeg and Ottawa, the players face a fishbowl existence.
Management and coaches and team owners feel it too. They understand what hockey means to Canadians. They know about the rich histories of the Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. They know how much fans of the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators long to win their first championships.
In hockey parlance, those clubs have little time and space to build and maintain a champion. The mantra among the Canadian hockey punditry is the fans won’t have the patience to go through a long rebuild. They want a winner and they want it now.
Since 1993, every Canadian team has endured long droughts outside the playoff picture.
Ask Leaf fans how much fun it was making the playoffs just once between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Or Oilers fans if they were enjoying themselves while their club reached the postseason once between 2006-07 and 2018-19. Or Flames fans about the lost years between 1996-97 and 2002-03 and 2009-10 and 2013-14. Or Senators fans about the last four years. Or Canucks fans about reaching the playoffs once in the last six years. Heck, ask Canadiens fans how much of a kick in the junk it is to see their team dead last overall after reaching the Cup Final seven months ago.
Those teams, however, weren’t undergoing a rebuilding phase during those lean years. In most cases, they were trying to reach the playoffs.
They changed management or coaches, traded away or acquired players, and set their sights on the postseason. And after they failed, they’d go out and try again and promise the fans and media that they were heading in the right direction, that they had a competitive team, that they were just the victims of injury or bad luck the previous year.
Rarely has a Canadian team told its fans it was engaging in a rebuild. The Leafs were a notable exception. In 2015 and 2016, they shed stars such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf for draft picks and prospects, warning its fans that several years of pain were ahead.
Rather than get upset, Leafs fans bought into team president Brendan Shanahan’s plan, or “Shanaplan” as it was later dubbed. They knew their club was long overdue for a true rebuild, that years of patchwork attempts to build a Cup contender wasn’t working. They handled it well throughout 2015-16, accepting the concept of short-term pain for long-term gain as their club rebuilt with young players.
That rebuild, however, didn’t last long. Powered by young guns Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the Leafs made the playoffs in 2017. The following season, they were among the league’s best, reaching a franchise record 49 wins and 105 points in the regular season. They were eliminated from the opening round by the Boston Bruins, but they seemed destined to become a Cup contender if they stuck to their rebuild.
Instead, the “Shanaplan” was quickly scrapped. They blew up their budget by signing free agent John Tavares to a monster contract and handing out big bucks re-signing Matthews and Marner. They became a club top-heavy in offense but lack sufficient defensive depth to match up well against the league’s best clubs. To date, they still haven’t won a first-round series since 2004.
It came down to impatience on the part of the Leafs’ front office, fueled by the heightened expectations of Toronto fans and media. Rather than stick with the plan, they tried to take shortcuts and are still dealing with the consequences.
The Canadiens appear poised for a rebuild under the new management following this disastrous season. Will they learn from the Leafs’ mistakes or repeat them? It will be difficult to avoid the pitfalls given the pressure cooker they face on a daily basis.
None of the Canadian teams have the luxury of rebuilding out of the harsh spotlight like the Sun Belt franchises. Their demanding markets simply won’t allow it.
Until that trend changes, Sun Belt franchises will remain Stanley Cup contenders while Canadian clubs will be mere pretenders.