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Claimed:VHL Franchises' Worst Stretches, Part 1


CowboyinAmerica
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Author's Note: Kind of wanted to learn about the history of the league a little bit more, so decided to do a series of medias that required some digging. Sorry if some stuff is off, relied exclusively on old indexes here.

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At roughly the one-third mark of the season, the Seattle Bears currently sit third in the North American Conference, just one point ahead of the New York Americans for the final playoff spot in the conference. And why is making the playoffs so important to the Seattle franchise? Because it would end one of the worst periods in Seattle’s franchise history.

 

By not making the playoffs between Season 32 and Season 35, the franchise has tied its longest streak of seasons without a playoff birth since the VHL’s inception. The only other time the Bears went four seasons without making the playoffs was Season 22 through 25, just ahead of the Seattle Six squad that broke the curse. And of course, that’s not entirely fair either: Teams only held a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs pre-Season 31, while the post-expansion VHL allows 60 percent of the teams in each conference to make the playoffs every season.

 

Still, it’s worthwhile to look back at the bad instead of the good sometimes. In this three-part series, VHL News’s Zach Warren plans on taking a look at the low-point of each franchise’s history from the original eight teams. Caution: terrible times ahead.

 

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Calgary Wranglers

 

Longest Playoff Drought: Four seasons, S14-S17 and S24-27 (S14-S17 highlighted here)

 

The Season Before: Led by Jonas Markstrom’s second place .919 save percentage, the Wranglers clinched the second spot in the North American Conference by just four points over the Toronto Legion. Of course, that was with a 24-40-1 record, and while the New York Americans (at 42-22) were clearly the better team and proved it in the first round.

 

What Happened: Markstrom continued his strong goaltending play – he led the VHL in save percentage the next season – but then the bottom fell out, mostly due to a complete lack of offense. Mikka Virkkunen finished in the top ten in goals in each of Seasons 15 through 17, but no other Wrangler reached the top ten in either goals or assists until J.D. Stormwall in S17.

 

The Season After: The long rebuild complete, the Wranglers won the North American Conference regular season in S18 with 114 points, just four points behind the Madrid Thunder for best in the VHL and a whopping 78 points ahead of third-place-in-the-conference Seattle. It certainly didn’t hurt that the top three goal scorers in the league this season (Virkkunen, Stormwall, and Jardy Bunclewirth) were all from Calgary. They capped off the resurgence through the first of back-to-back championships.

 

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Seattle Bears

 

Longest Playoff Drought: Four seasons, S22-S25 and S32-35 (S22-S25 highlighted here)

 

The Season Before: It was a season-long fight between the Bears and Legion, with Seattle holding the offense behind goals leader Markus Strauss and Cam Fowler, while Toronto held the top goalie in Aidan Shaw. But it was Toronto who got the last laugh in the end, winning the franchise’s second championship. Seattle, meanwhile, continued a streak of not making the finals that would last ten seasons.

 

What Happened: A firesale happened. Strauss remained around, but the trades of forward Cam Fowler and goaltender Joey Clarence decimated the Bears’ chances. The revolving door at goaltender clearly didn’t help, as neither young goaltenders Alejandro Messi nor Carlos Vasquez could stop the bleeding. The team bottomed out in Season 24, with a 9-58-5 record (23 points), not a single player in the top seven in scoring at his position, and the second-worst goalie in the league by save percentage.

 

The Season After: Youth is a beautiful thing. After a few years of growing, by-now veterans Felix Peters and Mitch Higgins were able to lead the team to the promised land of the playoffs once more. Rookies Jarvis Baldwin and Radislav Mjers certainly helped matters as well. But the big key was finally having stable goaltending: The trade for Cal G would give Seattle the answer in net it would need to finish its rebuild and eventually win a Cup in Season 28, its only cup in the past 17 seasons.

 

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Toronto Legion

 

Longest Playoff Drought: Three seasons, S4-S6, S11-S13, S26-28, S30-32 (The final two highlighted here)

 

The Season Before: Toronto is an odd duck in that it only has the fourth-most playoff appearances for franchises with 19, yet it has the lowest amount of prolonged ineptitude with only three season intervals of making the playoffs. However, S25 will still be remembered as the year it began to all turn sour. The Legion were competitive with the Americans that year, finishing just eight points back in the North American Conference standings behind Aidan Shaw’s competitive .916 save percentage and David Walcott’s 71 assists. However, they did not have Benjamin Glover’s youthful exuberance, as New York would lose the first of four straight finals matches this season.

 

What Happened: The loss of Aidan Shaw certainly hurt, as *deep breath* Adrian LaFontaine, Matthieu VanCoughnett, Alexander Labatte, and Remy LeBeau all played goalie for Toronto in the seven-season span between S26 and S32. Of those, Labatte had the most success during the time period, guiding the Legion to a VHL-best 107 points and a championship in Season 29 with help from points leader Jason White. But then they ran into an overly competitive North American Conference in Season 30 (all four teams finished between 100 and 91 points), they shipped off Labatte, and the rebuild was on.

 

The Season After: Riding a youth movement led by LeBeau, Nikita Lebedev and Jakub Kjellburg, the Legion edged out the upstart Meute by eight points to grab a S33 playoff birth. They couldn’t do much while there – this was the end of the New York era of dominance with seven finals appearances in nine seasons, after all - but they at least had established a solid corps that would hold them over for the immediate future.

Edited by CowboyinAmerica
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Yay more history club members.

Pretty good, Fowler and Clarence didn't retire, they were traded (massive firesale in S21 off-season (trades forum)), but otherwise good stuff.

Thought this would be done in conferences though so surprised there was no mention of New York. They had some bad stretches back in the day.

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Also, barely related but I find it cool that Salmon is the only Toronto player not drafted by Toronto. Except Kjellberg for obvious reasons. Homegrown to the max, for better or for worse.

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Both stretches for the Bears are because of GMs not making a goalie and deciding to take a chance on drafting a goalie (BAD IDEA)

Interestingly enough, no Seattle GM ever has recreated as a goalie while on the job. Equally, no goalie ever has been GM is Seattle.

Only such team apart from Quebec and Cologne. #themoreyouknow

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Also, barely related but I find it cool that Salmon is the only Toronto player not drafted by Toronto. Except Kjellberg for obvious reasons. Homegrown to the max, for better or for worse.

 

I scout gud. :)

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Interestingly enough, no Seattle GM ever has recreated as a goalie while on the job. Equally, no goalie ever has been GM is Seattle.

Only such team apart from Quebec and Cologne. #themoreyouknow

I'd like to change that but it will probably be up to my replacement to change the record books 

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Content: 3/3 - History lessons, yay!
 
Grammar: 2/2 - Just one thing:
 
Jardy Bunclewirth = Jardy Buncleworth
 
Appearance: 1/1 - Aw yiss!
 
Overall: 6/6 - :grammer:
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