What Are Canada’s Chances At A Stanley Cup This Season?
For some NHL teams the playoffs looks to be all but a sure thing, including the likes of the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference, followed by the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference.
For others, a playoff birth will be hard fought, if not impossible, which will likely cause many Canadians to hit the pharmacy or the local liquor store on more than a few occasions!
For Canadian hockey fans there is plenty to be excited about. The Winnipeg Jets are officially back, while the Toronto Maple Leafs looked poised to make the jump to the playoffs…or not!
The Montreal Canadiens will have to rely on the steady play of goaltender Carey Price if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs, while the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators are expected to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around.
Perhaps the most interesting team will be the Calgary Flames as we watch to see if this team will be dismantled at the deadline or bolstered to make one final run at a Cup with its longtime core in place.
To be fair, the only sure thing for Canadians looks to be the Vancouver Canucks, who will look to make good on their failed Stanley Cup run last season.
There are a number of bubble teams out there, including the Leafs, Canadiens and Flames, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses.
For the Maple Leafs to be successful they will have to find a way to gel quickly and stay healthy. Pre-season injuries have already forced the Maple Leafs to adjust their starting lineup, while Joffrey Lupul, Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi will be on a constant injury watch from fans and management alike.
Goaltender James Reimer had a tough pre-season, which, if that trend continues will all but kill the Leafs chances of making any kind of playoff run. Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson looks ready to battle Reimer for the number one job, but there is still a ton of skepticism surrounding both keepers.
On the backend the Leafs look to be much improved. A late season surge from Captian Dion Phaneuf both offensively and on the back end have many fans believing he can find his way back to his all-star form of seasons past, while the additions of John-Michael Liles and the emergence of Jake Gardiner should help the Leafs offense from the backend.
The Edmonton Oilers have assembled an impressive roster which features perhaps the best young talent in the game.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nuggent-Hopkins respresent an impressive trio of offensive talent, while the addition of Ryan Smyth to the lineup should bring an element of leadership and grit to the lineup.
The Oilers will win their fair share of games, many of which will be of the barn burner variety. Expect to see a lot of 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5 games and some more growing pains along the way.
Mikka Kiprusoff, Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla continue to be the core of this team, while much of the rest of the roster looks to be filled with underachievers.
The loss of Robyn Regher will be tough, even though trading him enabled the Falmes to keep the likes of Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Henrik Karlsson and Anton Babchuk (all of whom wereUFA’s).
In the ultra-tough Western Confernce, without a significant trade to bolster the lineup, it appears as if the Flames will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, which likely means changes are coming.
Montreal looks to be a little weak on defense, while their small but fast forward units will have to endure another tough season in the East. In the end, as mentioned, as Carey Price goes, so goes the Canadiens. Look for Price to take a slight step back from what can only be described as an incredible 2010-11 season, while Mike Cammalleri will be asked to step it up after a mediocre 2010-11 season which saw him net a total of 47 points in 67 games.
Make no mistake about it, despite their lack of size up front, this Montreal team is as gritty as they get, and with P.K. Subban mixing it up with opposing forwards on the backend and Andrei Markov looking healthy again, anything is possible.
Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele and Patrice Cormier represent a great group of young players that, given time, should be able to propel the Jets into the playoffs before long.
In Ottawa there is a sense of doom and gloom surrounding the lowly Senators. This is a team that is in a rebuild mode and may see a number of trades go through before seasons end.
Look for Ottawa to slowly bring along some of their younger talent. This is a team building for the future, their time is not now.
Vancouver appears to be Canada’s best bet at a Stanley Cup. Despite the loss of Christian Erhoff on the backend the Canucks have plenty of depth and perhaps the most potent group of forwards in the league.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin will likely both compete for the NHL scoring title, while Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, Alexandre Burrows and Mason Raymond round out an impressive top-six group.
On the backend Kevin Bieska will continue to be the Canucks go-to defenseman, while Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider represent an impressive 1-2 combo between the pipes.
While it’s too early to tell which Canadian teams will make the playoffs, outside of Edmonton and Ottawa, every one ofCanada’s teams has a fighting chance at a playoff spot.
Hard work, good health and a little lady luck will all contribute to the Maple Leafs, Flames, Canadiens and Jets chances to make the playoffs, but in the end I really see three Canadian teams emerging with the best shot at a playoff spot-Vancouver,Montreal and Toronto, with the Oilers, Flames, Jets and Senators sitting out.
That’s right Canada, hockey is Canada drugs, so fill your cup, take a few puffs and enjoy what will surely be an exciting season for Canadians from coast-to-coast.
Until next time