An interesting reflection this morning about the state of big-time hockey in Quebec from Philippe Cantin in his La Presse column.
Everyone's preoccupied with the NHL playoffs, but the QMJHL's President's Cup final started on Thursday - it pits the Saint John Sea Dogs, the most dominant team in junior hockey this year, against the upstart Gatineau Olympiques - and Cantin steps back to look at the influence of the 'Q' and Quebec minor hockey on the current NHL playoffs.
As the NHL narrows the field to the final four, Cantin points out that three of the four head coaches likely to participate in the conference final (Claude Julien, Alain Vigneault and Guy Boucher) will be Francophone QMJHL coaching alumni. And as it stands, the top four scorers in the playoffs (Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Patrice Bergeron and Martin St. Louis) are Francophone grads of Quebec's minor and junior hockey system - Giroux grew up in northern Ontario but did his junior tour in Gatineau under Julien, St. Louis played minor hockey in Montreal before going to college in Vermont, which may as well be part of Quebec!
Then there are players like Roberto Luongo, Daniel Brière, Alexandre Burrows, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Torrey Mitchell and Jason Demers (and former Habs Maxim Lapierre and Marc-André Bergeron), each of whom grew up in the province, played in the 'Q' (except for Mitchell, another UVM grad) and has taken on a key role in these playoffs - we could also mention Newfoundland-born Michael Ryder, who played in Gatineau.
That's not to say all is sunshine and light in La Belle Province's hockey universe, but it's an interesting set of circumstances given the ever-dwindling prominence of Quebec-reared and trained top-line playing, coaching and management talent in the NHL.
For those who can read French, the full column, which also contains some interesting suggestions from former minor pro and university coach Dany Dubé (now a Habs radio analyst), can be found here.