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UFHL Playoff Preview: Klein Cup Staying in Canada, Seemingly Destined for Quebec

The parade route is already being planned for Quebec City — and possibly Moscow as well. Red Army’s bold strategy of selecting several Montreal Canadiens in the UFHL Playoff Draft is paying dividends for Luc Grenier, who enters the Klein Cup Final as the overwhelming favourite with an 11-3 advantage in remaining players — boasting a roster that includes the NHL’s leading scorer in these playoffs, Nikita Kucherov, and the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Carey Price. Matt Gunn and the Gators would love to play spoiler — and bring the Klein Cup to beautiful British Columbia — but that manpower discrepancy makes this final more of a formality to crown the UFHL playoff champion. The Klein Cup was already assured of staying in Canada with the final four franchises representing the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, which was home to last year’s inaugural champion — former Monarchs owner Ashley Murray of Regina, Sask. Now seemingly destined for Quebec — where Grenier is busy mapping out his celebrations instead of studying the competition — the only question that remains is whether the silent partner will get his day with the Klein Cup in Russia. All kidding aside, second-seeded Red Army’s run to the final has been impressive and dominant — defeating the 16th-seeded Stallions and ninth-seeded Grizzlies in the Gretzky Division bracket before eliminating the third-seeded Titans in a lopsided semifinal thanks to an 11-1 advantage in remaining players. The 10th-seeded Gators have been underdogs in every round, getting past the seventh-seeded Royals and fifth-seeded Outlaws to come out of the Howe Division, then upsetting the top-seeded Ice Vikings in the other semifinal to deny their bid for a double championship in 2021. The Ice Vikings surged down the stretch to overtake Red Army and emerge as regular season champions, with the Founders’ Trophy bound for Newfoundland. But the Gators will surely put up a better fight than the Ice Vikings would have against Red Army, considering the Ice Vikings weren’t rostering any players from Tampa Bay or Montreal — thus that would have been 11-0 in remaining players for a 1-versus-2 showdown. Alas, the Gators will provide the opposition despite auto-drafting for the playoffs due to technical difficulties that left them three players short with no starting goaltender. The Gators overcame those odds through three rounds but are now clearly outgunned with only three players left to face the mighty Red Army for the Klein Cup. This preview will recap the third round, provide a roster comparison for the final round, and update what is still at stake for the non-playoff franchises through the UFHL’s innovative leasing system. Third Round Results Semifinals (Final Four Reseeded) H3) Gators defeated L1) Ice Vikings 69.7-57.7 G1) Red Army defeated O1) Titans 139.9-34.7 Fourth Round Matchup Klein Cup Final G1) Red Army vs. H3) Gators

Here is how the franchises stack up for the final round, with a roster comparison followed by a bit of analysis. NOTE: These two remaining playoff franchises are leasing players from the 15 non-playoff franchises that are listed in parenthesis. Final Round Klein Cup Final G1) Red Army vs. H3) Gators

G1) Red Army Forwards (7) Nick Suzuki — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay Tyler Toffoli — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay Cole Caufield — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Snipers) Joel Armia — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Snipers) Ryan Poehling — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Duckman’s Domination) Nikita Kucherov — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal (Monarchs) Alex Barre-Boulet — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal (Tornadoes) Defenders (2) Jeff Petry — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Snipers) Alexander Romanov — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Snipers) Goaltenders (2) Carey Price — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Godfathers) Jake Allen — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Godfathers) H3) Gators Forwards (3) Mathieu Joseph — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal Yanni Gourde — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal (Monarchs) Corey Perry — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay Defenders (0) None Goaltenders (0) None

ANALYSIS: Red Army didn’t lose any players in the semifinals and remain fully loaded for the Klein Cup Final, though four of their 11 players haven’t been contributors throughout the playoffs — Poehling and Barre-Boulet have been healthy scratches, Romanov has only suited up in two of 17 games thus far, and Allen serves as Price’s backup. The Gators also have a passenger in Joseph, who has only played in two of 18 games for Tampa Bay this postseason. So the actual matchup is 7-versus-2 remaining players in favour of Red Army. Perry and Gourde have been quality contributors for the Gators, but they can’t compete with Price, Kucherov, Caufield and the rest of the Red Army gang. Romanov may be the only Russian on Montreal’s roster, but Red Army’s brass will be eager to see those nine Canadiens names engraved into the Klein Cup — seven of whom were selected in the UFHL Playoff Draft, along with Kucherov as the second overall pick, among their 13 leased players. The Gators do have bragging rights there — they made the final with 16 of their own players compared to nine for Red Army — but it’s only a matter of time now until Luc Grenier gets his hands on the Klein Cup and gets to celebrate in the streets of Quebec City!

Non-Playoff Franchises NOTE: These 15 non-playoff UFHL franchises are loaning players to the two remaining playoff franchises who are listed in parenthesis. The non-playoff franchises are listed from most players participating in the Klein Cup playoffs to the least.

Snipers Forwards (2) Cole Caufield — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army) Joel Armia — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army) Defenders (3) Jeff Petry — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army) Alexander Romanov — Montreal vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army) Robert Bortuzzo — Eliminated (Red Army) Goaltenders (0) None ANALYSIS: Snipers will be celebrating alongside Red Army — with five players, including four Canadiens, on the verge of becoming Klein Cup champions. Win or lose for Montreal. Caufield and Petry have had starring roles for Red Army and Armia fit right in with his fitting name. That was a big gamble by Red Army to load up on players from the fourth seed in the North Division but Montreal going all the way made Grenier look like a genius and made the Leblanc family awfully happy as well. Now one has to wonder whether Red Army will relinquish Caufield or pay a ransom to keep him in the fold for next season? The Snipers have been buyers behind the scenes — with a couple blockbuster trades to be announced following the playoffs — so it’s doubtful that Caufield is for sale, but everyone has a price … even Gretzky was sold, err traded! The way it works with the payouts and this leasing system, 50 per cent of the prize money goes to the franchise (owner/GM/staff), while the other 50 per cent is evenly distributed to every player on their roster. There are payouts for winning each of the four rounds — escalating from $77.28 to $154.56 to $309.12 to $1,700.13 USD. With a full 23-man roster, each player would earn $1.68 for the first round, $3.36 for the second round, $6.72 for the third round and $36.96 for the fourth round. Therefore, players from the Klein Cup champion would earn a total of $48.72 USD worth of SCO for their respective franchises. However, it should be noted that Red Army forfeited their final pick from the playoff draft — having drafted one too many forwards, with Pittsburgh’s Mark Jankowski removed from their roster prior to playoffs commencing — so their payouts will be based on a 22-man roster. That would equate to $50.93 USD worth of SCO per player or $662.09 USD total for their 13 rentals, leaving Red Army with $1,578.92 USD worth of SCO in playoff earnings, including $458.37 USD from their nine owned players on the Klein Cup roster. And should the Gators somehow prevail, their payouts would be based on a 20-man roster ($56.03 USD per player), which only featured four rentals along with 16 owned players. If the Gators lose, as expected, they would pay out $13.52 USD per player for winning the previous three rounds and would pocket $486.88 USD worth of SCO in total playoff earnings for their franchise.

Monarchs Forwards (3) Nikita Kucherov — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal (Red Army) Pierre-Luc Dubois — Eliminated (Red Army) Yanni Gourde — Tampa Bay vs. Montreal (Gators) Defenders (0) None Goaltenders (0) None ANALYSIS: Monarchs are the only remaining franchise in a win-win situation with reps on both of the finalists. But they will also be rooting for Red Army with two players there, including Kucherov as their franchise player. Will Red Army relinquish Kucherov or try to kidnap him like Caufield? We’ll see where both Red Army and the Monarchs go from here, with new Monarchs GM George Bachul sounding optimistic and ambitious about a return to the playoffs next season after missing the cut this year — and their chance to defend the Klein Cup championship — due in large part to missing Kucherov for the entire regular season. The Monarchs’ consolation prize will come in the form of $101.86 USD worth of SCO as compensation for Kucherov and Dubois’s contributions to Red Army’s triumph.