Canada's NHL Power Rankings: Rise of the Winnipeg Jets
Best Canadian Teams In The NHL
#7 Vancouver Canucks
34 points, 6th Pacific Division, 4-6-0 L10
Vancouver earned a solid record to begin the season, based mostly on their surprisingly strong road play. Unfortunately, the magic started to wear off over the past couple of weeks due to issues beyond their control.
First, Bo Horvat went down with a broken ankle, depriving the Canucks of their top line centre. Shortly after, Sven Baertschi had his jaw broken by an errant puck, removing a pair of top six forwards from the Canucks lineup.
The Canucks put in the effort to overcome these two personnel losses, only to witness super-rookie Brock Boeser take a shot off the foot and collapse to the ice. Injuries are difficult for any team to overcome, but no team can survive without their top two scorers, and three top-six forwards. Expect the Canucks to plunge over the holidays.
#6 Ottawa Senators
29 points, 6th Atlantic Division, 3-6-1 L10
Most observers believed that the Sens deep playoff run last year was a bit of a Cinderella story, but no one expected Ottawa to plunge as badly as they have over the last month.
The Senators endured a seven-game losing streak during the final half of November, earned a victory on December 1st against the Islanders, and followed up that win with a five-game loss streak. Ottawa managed to win two in a row recently, including the NHL 100 Classic against Montreal.
Last season, Ottawa turned it on when January rolled around, securing a playoff spot during a torrid run over the second half of the season. Since they exist in the Atlantic Division, the Sens could still pull off this type of runback, but they’ll need to avoid another lengthy losing streak to do so.
#5 Montreal Canadiens
32 points, 4th Atlantic Division, 6-3-1 L10
Montreal still isn’t the same as last year, when the Habs started with a 9-1 record before proceeding to rule the Atlantic Division with a 47-26-9 season. Nonetheless, the Canadiens have been improving since a horrible beginning of the season.
When Carey Price returned from a lengthy absence, the former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner helped Montreal rebound with a five-game win streak which propelled them back into the playoff hunt in a weak Atlantic Division.
A seven-game road trip, beginning with the NHL 100 outdoor game against the Sens, will determine whether the Habs will once again retreat into the basement of the eastern conference. Another losing streak would make it unlikely for Montreal to recover again.
#4 Calgary Flames
37 points, 4th Pacific Division, 4-4-2 L10
Similar to the majority of Canadian NHL teams this year, the Calgary Flames haven’t been able to maintain consistency for long stretches. Most people expected more out of the Flames this year after signing Travis Hamonic and trading for veteran goalie Mike Smith, but Calgary loses too many close games and headscratchers to be considered an elite NHL team.
Instead of forwards helping to lock down their own zone, Giordano, Hamilton, Hamonic and Brody have too much responsibility on their plate, which eventually gets passed down to Mike Smith. Losses against the Predators, Sharks, Wild, Flyers and Maple Leafs in December have been the result.
Still, the Flames have a high ceiling based on their personnel on paper. If Calgary learns how to play consistent defense on a night-to-night basis, they’ll become one of the best Canadian teams in the league.
#3 Edmonton Oilers
30 points, 7th Pacific Division, 6-4-0 L10
Could Edmonton finally be turning their season around after 33 games of indifference? After a truly awful start to the regular season, the Oilers appear to be rounding into shape on and off the ice. The team has six wins in their last ten, including victories against the Wild, Blue Jackets and the Bruins.
Medically, Cam Talbot successfully returned from an upper body injury, allowing a pair of goals in his return win against the Minnesota Wild. A pair of key contributors will also return by the time the holidays wrap up. Adam Larsson and Andrej Sekera will help solidify the blue line for Edmonton when the pair heals.
A fully reconstituted defense also makes it easier on the forwards. Connor McDavid receiving solid breakout passes and spending less time in the defensive zone will be scary for the opposition over the upcoming months.
#2 Toronto Maple Leafs
41 points, 2nd Atlantic Division, 5-5-0 L10
Auston Matthews sat out with an undisclosed upper body injury in early November, and the Toronto Maple Leafs responded with a four-game win streak while their star center recovered. During that stretch, the Leafs galvanized on defense while the forwards scraped enough offense to win, outscoring the Wild, Bruins and Devils by a 12-5 margin.
When Auston wasn’t listed in the lineup against the Oilers on December 12th, Toronto responded with a solid, 1-0 shutout with Curtis McElhinney backstopping the win. Unlike the last Auston absence, the Leafs have now lost three in a row without him.
This injury remains a closely held secret in the organization, but they won’t rush Matthews back just to stem a brief losing streak. If this injury keeps him out for a long stretch, Toronto will struggle to maintain a spot beneath the Tampa Bay Lightning.
#1 Winnipeg Jets
43 points, 3rd Central Division, 4-4-2 L10
Winnipeg battles for the top spot in the Central Division, a few points behind the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators. The Jets 12-3-1 record at home would be the main reason why Winnipeg’s managed to remain among the elites of the western conference.
A recent home-and-home against the Blues showed why the Jets are the best team in Canada. In St. Louis, Winnipeg peppered the Blues with 48 shots, but the Jets were shutout by a red-hot Carter Hutton. The next evening in Manitoba, the Jets blasted the Blues 4-0.
Goaltending and a newfound focus on defense enabled Winnipeg to excel during the first couple of months of the regular season. As a result, the Jets boast a +18 goal differential, the best of all Canadian teams in the NHL.
Category : NHLMore articles...