For a country with so much passion and loyalty to a sport, Canada hasn’t made much of an impact on the league in years. Hockey is notoriously known as Canada’s sport, yet a Canadian team hasn’t won a title since 1993, where the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings. It’s been even more than half a decade since a Canadian team has even appeared in the NHL finals, where the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins, uproaring the city and turned well-mannered Vancouverites into feisty, rioting lunatics. The nations due for another cup, and the teams have gotten more than just a tune-up with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews staring on Canadian teams, but which team will be the next to snatch the cup- or at least make it to the finals?
The most recent team to make it to the finals: Although the red-headed Sedin twins still grace this team, it’s been a long time since their twin-telepathy and skills carried this team, The biggest component hurting Vancouver may be the actual absence of a big component. Roberto Luongo’s retained salary on his never-ending contract will haunt this team for the next half-decade. It seems that even General Manager Jim Benning and the rest of Canucks management knows they have no choice but to watch the clock tick down before they can make any real moves.
It’s been six years and the Jets still haven’t taken off after being brought back from their 11-year run as the Atlanta Thrashers franchise., who also haven’t felt the glory of a playoff win since being home. With a team that’s being lead by players that are under 25: (Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers etc.). That might mean years of success in the future, but for now, it’s obvious the Jets have some growing up to do before they suit up for the big dance.
The Oilers glory days seem well behind them. It’s been almost 30 years since Wayne Gretzky lit up the ice and city with four Stanley Cups with the Oilers. Recently, they have been notoriously known for taking powerhouse rookies and cursing them before their careers even started (Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Sam Gagner just to start the list…) However, the luck of the NHL lottery brought them one more shining star: Connor McDavid, who really did live up to the hype- but going far in this league takes more than hype. Cam Talbot as goalie backs up McDavid on the defensive field, and Leon Draisaitl could lead another painfully powerful second line. Watch out for the Oilers to compete with Nashville out the West this year.
The Senators have had a déjà vu of a past. Including two strong, separate teams powered by Swedish power players (Erik Karlsson and Daniel Alfredsson) and losing in two Stanley Cup Finals between the 2005 and 2012 lockouts. The team of the country’s capital recently had an undeniably average season finishing off with a 98-point season. Karlsson snuck the team into the playoffs, where the Senators brought on a blazing hot new hockey team, finishing the postseason just a game away from the Final. It’s hard to read a team that plays like this, the only thing for sure, is that one of these teams alter egos will become prevalent this season.
The seemingly forever underdog in the Battle of Alberta. It’s been about a decade since the Flames have done anything of importance, they landed dead middle of league standings last season, they are at the point that slight improvement causes an excitement. They have a heavy defensive team lead by Mark Giordano, but new goalie Mike Smith has to live up to potential too. The real problem comes with being aggressive on the offense and scoring high enough to win games to get them into a playoff spot.
Their snooty attitudes may push hockey fans dislike the Habs, but one thing is for sure: Carey Price is a really, really, really, good goalie. He has shown that time and time again from the Olympics, to consistent core part of the winningest Canadian team this season. Minus the 2013 lockout year, he’s never dipped below average save percentage. But, he’s getting older and his glory days may be sliding into the past. The team leans on him heavily and doesn’t have to grind as much on the defensive side because of him. The Canadiens are just now learning how to work around not having a concrete wall as a goalie, since no player lasts forever.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
They’re the historically horrible team, that yet somehow sells the most expensive NHL tickets to some of the most devoted (or stupid) fans in hockey. Toronto is the most loved and hated cities in Canada, and there’s really no in between. The endless “rebuilding” years finally seemed to have paid off. Auston Matthews was one of the seasons best rookies earning the Calder Memorial Trophy, Michael Babcock is finally starting to get his mold on this team and a future looks bright, or at least a lot brighter than it has since 1967 when the Leafs last won the cup. They always struggle defensively, so it’ll be a year or two of building or trades before they are a real competitor.
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