Cup contenders clearly Canadian

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 6:16 PM ET

It is a dangerous road to venture down ... one that has been traversed over and over by a certain high-profile, high-collared government employee.

Call it Cherry Lane perhaps. It has become a familiar rant, Don Cherry's bashing of Europeans and how they lack that intangible of good ol' Canadian grit.

More often than not, it is ignorant ... too often bordering on racist.

But until a team can win a Stanley Cup with a European as a captain ... Grapes will have, and continue to apply, his license to rip.

The European influence has not exactly applied to the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the years. Since the Conn Smythe award was first given to Jean Beliveau in 1965, only one European has been named the best player in a post season.

The year was 2002 and the player was Nicklas Lidstrom. This is not to suggest foreigners have not a hand in helping teams in their quest for Lord Stanley's mug. Jari Kurri was a vital cog in the Oiler juggernaut of the '80s. Peter Forsberg wasn't exactly a fourth liner for Colorado's Cup winners. Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov were more than passengers on the Wings' ride to back-to-back championships in the late '90s.

But there is a persistent sense that the trail to the grail can't be paved with imports. Detroit was the pick of the bunch during the regular season, but when the games that mattered started, they were finished after six games. Their lineup included six Swedish-born players. The Rangers surprised many with their regular season, but Czeched out after four games against the Devils. The Canadiens became the Hab-nots against the 'Canes in their first-round flop ... a Montreal team that will never be mistaken for the Flying Frenchmen.

Now take a look at the teams that have prevailed to this point ... and the birth certificates of their key personnel. The Edmonton Oilers have been led by Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Chris Pronger. Would the Anaheim Mighty Ducks be anywhere near the final four without Scott Niedermayer?

How about Carolina's chances without Eric Staal and Rod Brind'Amour? Or Buffalo's in the absence of Daniel Briere, Tim Connolly, and J.P. Dumont?

The constant here folks, is Canadian content.

This is not to suggest imports can't play supporting roles to a significant level. But the reality is, despite the European and Russian influx over the past 20 years, the players that have the most influence at the most important times are Canadians.

It is more than a myth, that there is no substitute for Canadian grit. Is it inate? Is it a skill that can be taught? Can it be developed? Opinions will vary, but take a good look at the makeup of the team that parades the Stanley Cup around this year. Chances are it's clearly Canadian.

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