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VHL 40 in 40 #36: Dynasties v2

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Inexplicably, the forum decided to at some point delete the original article which was included here, which was a continuation of the Toronto vs Davos dynasty piece linked below:

 

https://vhlforum.com/topic/916-vhl-30-in-30-22-dynasties/

 

 

From S19 to S25, Toronto and Davos each made the playoffs in 7 consecutive seasons, winning 4 Continental Cups between them and meeting in 3 finals. From S36 to S38, they achieved a VHL first by facing off against the same team in the finals for 3 seasons straight - S36 and S38 went Davos' way while S37 was won by the Legion. The Dynamo then made a record-tying fourth straight Cup final appearance in S39 but fell short of another championship. This article covered that battle from S36 to S38.

 

It is unfortunate that this piece has been deleted but there is other information from that era which tells the story. Below I have copied in an article written at a similar time comparing, unfavourably, the S36-S38 finals to those in the 20s. However, it paints the picture quite a well. A bit more information is also contained in the below links where I reminisced on my tenure as Davos GM (S34 to S38) which naturally overlap quite a bit with this era of dynasties.

 

https://vhlforum.com/topic/9350-claimedmemoirs-of-a-general-manager-part-1/

https://vhlforum.com/topic/9553-claimedmemoirs-of-a-general-manager-part-2/

https://vhlforum.com/topic/9574-claimedmemoirs-of-a-general-manager-part-3/

https://vhlforum.com/topic/10479-claimedmemoirs-of-a-general-manager-part-4/

 

TORONTO VS DAVOS: THE FINAL BATTLE

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It went largely under the radar that the Season 38 Continental Cup finals were the first time in VHL history that two teams met in the finals for three straight seasons. It's uncommon enough for back-to-back-to-back meetings within the conferences, even now with an extra round of playoffs added in since Season 31, but three straight appearances in the finals shows remarkable consistency by the Toronto Legion and HC Davos Dynamo.

As it happens, Toronto and Davos have quite a bit of history as Seasons 36 to 38 bring their playoff meetings to seven. There was a one-off during Toronto's victory in Season 29 but just before that the Legion and the Dynamo had already met three times in fairly quick succession. It might not have been three straight years, but meetings in Seasons 20, 21, and 24 were all part of the teams' great dynasties remembered most of all for their goaltending staples, none other than Aidan Shaw and Daisuke Kanou. Their duels have gone down in history as will the Toronto vs Davos contests of recent years and we have taken the time here to break down both eras into three different categories and compare the two generations of Legion and Dynamo rivalries.

GENERATION ONE (S20, S21, S24)

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The “twenties” are often romanticised as a time of great rivalries, capped off by Seattle vs New York later on but perhaps it was even bloodier and more dramatic in the first half of the decade. The Legion picked fights primarily with Seattle (S20 and S21) while the Dynamo brought out their best against the Helsinki Titans (S21-S24). Between themselves, Toronto and Davos didn't have as much bad blood given they were in different conferences but they did have excellent and quite comparable rosters, both benefiting from investing into the ridiculously good S18 VHL Entry Draft. The Legion were heralded as the great dynasty, rebuilding in just one season, but the under-rated Dynamo were not far behind though were seen to have less long-term potential. For many, Season 20 was seen as Davos' last chance to win a Continental Cup when in fact it turned out to be just the beginning of an epic battle.

The Battle

Our first category is self-explanatory, it looks at how close and dramatic the final series were. Season 20 was the epitome of close, as the top two teams in the VHL fought to a gruelling Game 7 as the Legion lost a slight 3-2 series lead to the heroics of Daisuke Kanou in the last two games. Only two games, including the strange first game (a 7-2 Toronto win), were decided by more than one goal as the series went back and forth. Season 24 was about on par with 3-0 and 3-1 wins by the champions from Davos the closest things to a blowout in an intense six-game match-up. By contrast, Season 21 was a bit of a dud, the Dynamo severe underdogs as they just scraped into the playoffs on the last day, and they ultimately lost four straight to lose in five. Granted, two games ended 2-1, two 3-2, and the Legion won Game 5 4-3 only in third overtime.

S20: 9/10
S21: 7/10
S24: 9/10

Average: 8.3


Star Power

Put simply, the Legion of Seasons 20 to 22 were the reasons for a change to the stricter salary cap system we have today. James Bencharski and David Walcott marshalled the defence in front of one Aidan Shaw and were joined in S21 by Davos' Voittu Jannula. J.D. Stormwall made a cameo as captain that season and the offence also featured Lars Berger, playoff MVP candidate in S20 and triple overtime cup-winner in S21. Yet in Season 24 the Dynamo somehow were even better, featuring six Hall of Famers (Anton Brekker, Pavel Koradek, Leeroy Jenkins, Japinder Singh, Adam Schultz, Daisuke Kanou) and one who just missed out in Mathias Chouinard. This was the stuff of a legendary team like the early days Wranglers or Bears. This category is only hurt by the retools forced upon Davos in S21 and Toronto in S24.

S20: 7/10
S21: 7/10
S24: 8/10

Average: 7.3


Goalie Duel

You can't mention Toronto and Davos without talking about goaltenders, especially when talking about the era of Aidan Shaw and Daisuke Kanou. Of course they weren't the pioneers for either franchise but rather continuing the work of Alex Gegeny and Benoit Devereux, but they are the most fondly remembered as they made their name in these seasons. During their careers, the Legion won one cup and the Dynamo three, with Shaw having one playoff MVP and Kanou three, all but Kanou's last coming in the Toronto/Davos meetings. Kanou gets the rightful credit for his post-season heroics and in Season 24 posted ridiculous totals of a .962 save percentage and 0.98 GAA. Yet Shaw, better known as one of the (if not the) regular season greats, was no slouch himself that season with MVP-worthy stats of .946 and 1.45, which is to be expected when their six games in the finals featured three shutouts and an average of 2.5 goals per game.

Season 24 might have been the pinnacle of goaltending perfection but Seasons 20 and 21 weren't too bad and that was when Shaw and Kanou were much younger. In S20, Kanou might have had the seven-goal humiliation but he then saved a whopping 96 of 100 shots in Games 6 and 7 to win it all. In S21, he had a bad start in round one against Riga but against his arch-rival was at his usual standard and kept Davos in every game, though he would have need to outplay the superb for the Dynamo to have a chance that season.

S20: 7/10
S21: 7/10
S24: 10/10

Average: 8

TOTAL: 23.6 points


GENERATION TWO (S36, S37, S38)

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The Battle

 

A similar pattern was followed in these last three seasons to the one in the previous decade. In the Dynamo's two victories, the series went to seven and six games and Toronto had a 3-1 lead in S36, but the Legion won extremely quickly, with one of the few final sweeps in VHL history (it was just the fourth ever). The difference was that there were significantly fewer one-goal games, most notably just one in Season 36, when the two teams seemed to forget about defensive responsibilities and Davos triumphed with a cumulative score of 22-21. The games were close in S37 but Remy LeBeau conceded just five goals in four games, meaning that the first close battle came this past season, with the outlier over six games being a bizarre 7-1 Dynamo victory.

S36: 6/10
S37: 5/10
S38: 8/10

Average: 6.3


Star Power

This generation of the HC Davos Dynamo has written its name in VHL history yet you can make a strong case that none of its members (with the exception of Odin Tordahl in S36) will make it into the Hall of Fame. It's of course easier to assess the earlier era with the benefit of hindsight but this Dynamo team features some top players and all-around depth but no one has stood out as truly one of the league's best. Perhaps the best player, statistically, has been Davey Jones, once second string to the effective but unspectacular Sergey Brovalenko but now an offensive leader thanks to a long-term chemistry with captain Thomas Landry. Both players do need more individual success than they do at present and the same goes to younger members such as Naomi Young, Matt Bentley, and Lennox Moher. There is time for this core yet but as of now, it's been a team effort, not one led by superstars.

The Toronto Legion have also established themselves as a workmanlike unit after a patient process of building a contender. They did have one surefire Hall of Famer, franchise face and heroic goalie Remy LeBeau, unsurprisingly the leader of their cup win and conference final win in S38. Up front, Anatoli Zhumbayev might join the discussion of being on a Hall of Fame ballot and Niklas Lindberg has become the star man in recent seasons and has a chance to shine in his new home in Vasteras. Jakub Kjellberg, Evgeny Namestnikov, Chico Salmon, Reggie Dunlop and all the others, however, were key components of this Legion era but will not be remembered as individuals in the decades to come.

S36: 6/10
S37: 6/10
S38: 6/10

Average: 6


Goalie Duel

Remy LeBeau and Lennox Moher have Kanou Trophy apiece and were excellent in the two finals they won. Season 36, on the other hand, was an offensive explosion that is fairly rare for a cup final and put into question both netminders' playoff credentials. LeBeau has more than answered the criticism and back-to-back save percentages of .943 and .935 have, in addition to his regular season body of work, vaulted him into the top echelon of all-time VHL goaltending for good, a worthy successor to Gegeny, Shaw and Alexander Labatte. Moher is only now coming into his own and Season 38 was the first real battle between the pipes and now he must build on the success to become a great in his own right.

S36: 4/10
S37: 6/10
S38: 8/10

Average: 6

TOTAL: 18.3 points


So the winner is, somewhat predictably, the older generation of Toronto and Davos stars. It may not be a fair comparison because of the ever-increasing parity in the league hitting all top teams of today's VHL but on the whole, it seems fair to say that the meetings of these two teams between S20 and S24 were much more memorable. That said, the newer Legion and Dynamo have made history of their own and for that deserve recognition.

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