Saturday, June 15, 2024

One year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were celebrating their Stanley Cup win from just a few hours earlier, and their long-suffering fans were saying goodbye to a gut-wrenching drought that had spanned six long years. And perhaps nobody was celebrating harder than Jonathan Marchessault, who’d just been named the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP.

Maybe more importantly, fans of the other 31 teams were testing their hockey knowledge with a “Who Didn’t He Play For?” quiz.

Yes, it’s somehow been a year and a day since we last broke out this gimmick (although there was an offshoot variation during the season to keep you sharp). That year has flown by; it feels like just yesterday we were talking about the Florida Panthers being in the Stanley Cup final. But it tells me that it’s time for another round. So let’s take our cue from Marchessault, and use this quiz to honor Conn Smythe winners.

In theory, that means this edition should be the easiest one yet, since you’d figure that most Conn Smythe winners don’t switch teams all that often. But that’s fine, because I’ve been told that you’d prefer that these things were a little more forgiving. Apparently some of you don’t bother memorizing every team Michel Petit ever played for, because you “have better things to do” and “don’t use hockey trivia to hide from our real-world problems” and “seriously, we’re worried about you, Sean”.

As always, the format is simple. I’ll give you a player and four teams, and you tell me which one he never played for. You get 16 questions in all, then scroll back up and score yourself based on this handy system.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The 14 NHL playoff series that got us to this Final, ranked from worst to best

We’re two games into the Stanley Cup final. Which is to say, maybe halfway through.

That’s the pessimist’s version, assuming you’re not a Panthers’ fan. If you’re neutral, or close enough, your main hope at this time of year is for a classic final, the kind of seven-game masterpiece you’ll remember fondly years or even decades down the road. We may still get that, although with the Oilers down 2-0 and struggling to find offense, our hopes are dwindling.

We’ll get a better sense of how this series will shape up tomorrow night. But as we wait, let’s take a look back at all the earlier series that got us here. It’s time to rank the path to the 2024 final, as we count down the 14 series that led us to this matchup, from worst to best.

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Monday, June 10, 2024

The fatal flaws of 6 Canadian Cup losers (and why they don't apply to the Oilers)

I think the Oilers are going to do it.

I think they’re winning the Stanley Cup this year, for all the reasons I laid out in that debate with Sean Gentille last week. I’d obviously feel better about that prediction if they’d been able to win Game 1, but they dominated enough stretches in the loss that I still say they do it. And no, that has nothing to do with them being Canada’s team, because that’s not a thing. I just think this is their year.

But as much as we might want to hand-wave it away, the 31-year Canadian drought does hang over this series, especially with six of the country’s teams making the final since 1993 only to lose. So today, I’m going to try to reassure myself that I’ve made the right pick by looking back at those six Canadian near-misses. We’re going to identify the Canadian final loser’s fatal flaw, and then make sure that it doesn’t apply to this year’s Oilers.

We’ll do this in order of difficulty, starting with the easiest team to ignore and ending with the comparisons that worry me a bit. And that means we begin our most recent finals loser…

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Friday, June 7, 2024

McIndoe vs. Gentille: Who wins the Cup?

McIndoe: Other Sean, we meet again. They’ve asked us to debate our winner picks for this year’s Stanley Cup final. An American and a Canadian, which some years would feel cliched. But this year, I suppose it’s appropriate, given we’ve got the Edmonton Oilers trying to end Canada’s 31-year Cup drought, a length of time that feels mathematically impossible. Standing in their way, the dastardly Florida Panthers, a team that only a genuinely terrible person could support. Who you got?

Gentille: Panthers in six, baby. I’ve tried to suss out why exactly I feel that way — am I pro-American? Am I anti-Canadian? Have three decades in Pittsburgh made me reflexively pick against anyone who might threaten Sidney Crosby's spot on Hockey Rushmore? The answer is “Yes.”  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shopping cart to leave in the middle of a parking lot.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Canada vs. USA: Two fans forced to watch each country’s worst 2024 NHL playoff ads

Back in the summer of 2020, I had a terrible idea that felt like a good idea, which wasn’t exactly a unique experience at the time. But while you were all experimenting with Tik Tok dances and sourdough starters, I decided it would be fun to set up an international exchange of terrible playoff commercials.

You know the kind – the ones that seem to show up every single ad break, tormenting you until you know every word, leading to you at least casually consider finding out who worked on it and paying them a visit. I knew there were some awful Canadian ads, I figured there were probably plenty happening south of the border, and I thought that if we held an exchange then a good time would be held by all.

Then Sean Gentille made me watch Tara Tara Look At Her Go, and I’ve never fully recovered.

I hit back with the Sportsnet Life Coach in 2021, and after a year off, we were back last year with a heart like a truck. But we were worried, because after that first year, the ads hadn’t been quite as bad. They were maybe even getting better. We wondered if we’d have to abandon the gimmick, because the advertising industry had stopped producing annoying garbage.

Well, let’s just say our concerns were addressed this year. We’ll get to that.

But first, let’s take a peek behind the curtain and see what this year’s game plan looked like for both sides.

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