Lack of Canadian Teams in Playoff Picture Reason to Worry for CBC, TSN

When the NHL announced a new divisional alignment last year, it promised more rivalry matchups in the playoffs. However, if the playoffs began tonight, the CBC’s marquee matchup would feature the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. Hardly a matchup with any historical rivalry implications. And its likely these two will play in the first round considering the Habs are 15 points behind Boston for second, while the Lightning sit a fairly comfortable 7 points ahead of the four teams fighting for the wild card positions. Outside of the Canadiens, the CBC would have no Canadian team to hang its hopes on in the playoffs. The Jets, 9 points out in the Western Conference, and Senators, 8 points out in the East, have fallen out of contention due to a dismal month following the Olympic break. Ottawa has only won 3 of their 13 games since the Olympics, while Winnipeg has only won 4 of their 13. The Canucks are 6 points out and don’t look likely to challenge Phoenix, Minnesota and Dallas for wildcard spots. For their part the Maple Leafs are in free fall, going 3-7 in their last ten games. And like Winnipeg, Toronto has only won 4 games post-Olympic break.

This free fall of almost every Canadian team is terrible news for the CBC and TSN in the last year of their NHL contract. This is the last year TSN will broadcast NHL playoff games for at least 12 seasons, while for the CBC it is the last year they can collect ad revenue off of playoff broadcasts. Both could really use a few high rated series, but that looks unlikely. If things stay as they are now, the CBC will have to rely on only the Canadiens, where viewers will be split with French broadcaster RDS. TSN needs not one, but two, more Canadian teams to climb in the playoffs in order to broadcast a series featuring a Canadian team in the first round. Again, at this point that seems very unlikely. As a result, the cost of buying ads on both channels this spring will be cheaper than they were a year ago.

The only good news for the CBC is if the playoffs started today Detroit would face Boston, in what would surely be their second choice series. An Original Six series between two teams popular in Canada would at least provide satisfying ratings in the absence of Canadian teams. That would likely leave TSN to offer Columbus-Pittsburgh and Philadelphia-NY Rangers as their primary playoff series. In the west Colorado-Chicago and Los Angeles-Anaheim would probably offer the best ratings, but both series would likely struggle to crack a million viewers per game on CBC. Vancouver and Toronto would really add a boost to ratings, bringing in more than double the viewers of series between two American teams. At this point CBC and TSN executives can only hope they turn it around in the last ten games of the season.

15 thoughts on “Lack of Canadian Teams in Playoff Picture Reason to Worry for CBC, TSN

  1. Well I guess Montreal and Tampa Bay did play each other 10 years ago in the playoffs, a Lightning sweep en route to their Stanley Cup win but yeah it’s certainly not Montreal vs Boston. The MTL-TB matchup probably isn’t as appealing to RDS either anymore with the likes of St. Louis and Lecavalier no longer in Tampa but they should probably be thankful to get the Habs for a round anyway since they’ll be out of playoff hockey for the next 12 years as well starting next year.

  2. Had the NHL stayed with doing the top 8 teams in each conference, the CBC would be looking at a Flyers vs Habs series. There would even be a chance for a DET vs MTL series doing top 8, it is a longshot for the Lightning to lose and the Red Wings to win and come 3rd in the division. Let’s hope the Leafs don’t make it. The Canucks still have a chance as they beat the Wild on Wed. night and are now 4 points back of the Coyotes.

  3. The best-case scenario for TSN would be the Canucks and Maple Leafs getting their act together in time to snatch Wild Cards, but I think having only the Leafs and Habs is Canadian TV’s most realistic scenario. I hope TSN’s not getting its hopes up. I can’t see BCE getting anything meaningful other than some Habs games on RDS. If the Habs (very likely), Leafs and Nucks all grab playoffs berths, the Leafs would be a CBC lock, but who would go to TSN between the Habs and Nucks? The Habs’ cultural dynamics would present the CBC with a difficult choice.

    • If that’s the situation – MTL/TOR/VAN all make the playoffs, I think CBC opts for the two eastern teams. CBC’s already bypassed the ‘nucks before, so it wouldn’t freak their fanbase out like it might with the Habs. Plus, if Vancouver scraped their way in, they would be my best bet to get sweeped in the first round. More upside with the Habs I think, even accounting for RDS cutting into CBC’s numbers.

      • I would say the CBC picks an eastern team and a western team.The CBC has bypassed the Habs before. The playoffs are usually unpredictable, but, I do understand how you and other people think the Canucks could be swept in the first round. Last year, the Canucks were swept by the Sharks in the first round but Canucks fans will always bring up 1989, 1994, and on the flip side, the 2004 Canucks playoff opening round series.

      • CBC also passed on the Habs/Capitals series in 2010 in favour of the Pens/Sens. Habs/Caps were on TSN.

    • I think CBC would take a VAN-CHI series over any MTL series. Otherwise I’m not sure which one they’d take. But I don’t really think it matters the way TOR and VAN are playing.

  4. This isn’t hockey related but who has the TV rights to the Raptors playoff games? Will they just be the American broadcasts or will they do their own?

  5. Interesting that the Raptors are allowed to produce their own telecasts, because in those years the Blue Jays were in the playoffs, CTV had to pick up the U.S network feed, be it CBS, NBC, or whoever had the rights at the time. What about if, by some miracle the Raptors made the final, would TSN produce their own telecast?

    • The Raptors have always produced their own playoff broadcasts. Then again every other team gets a certain number of 1st (and maybe 2nd) round regional broadcasts as well. I think its a completely different situation than the Jays/CTV because CTV probably benefited from using the US broadcast because they could simulcast. Otherwise they’d risk losing a number of viewers to CBS or NBC. Also that was 20 years ago, so the TV landscape is completely different now.

      As for The Finals, I’m not sure what TSN would do. My guess is they would use the ESPN feed, but have their own studio crew on site.

      • I don’t think the Raptors have produced all their own playoff broadcasts. I remember hearing about TSN or Sportsnet doing simulcasts with the US feed during the Vince Carter era. Don’t recall the 2007 or 08 playoffs.

        • The Score showed this game from the Raptors 2008 Playoffs. I am pretty sure the Raptors produced their own playoff telecasts back in the 2007 Playoffs as well.

  6. I think the bigger issue is no Canadian team will get past the first round then what will Tsn/Cbc do.

  7. So it’s official that Montreal will be the only Canadian based team to make the playoffs. I wonder if CBC makes the NYR-MTL game national outside of Ontario this Saturday over TOR-OTT as it’ll be the only game featuring playoff bound teams from both the early and late games of the doubleheader. As an aside this Saturday will be CBC’s final regular season HNIC broadcast as we know it before Rogers takes over in the fall.

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