As we near the all star break…not one Canadian NHL team is in a playoff position.
The last time that happened was after the merger of the NHL and WHA in 1979.
A quick glance at the standings would seem to indicate that only the Montreal Canadiens have a chance but let’s take a peek at what the chances are…things may be somewhat different than they appear.
…beginning the bottom of the barrel.
Edmonton Oilers 0.8% (.430 win percentage)
The Oilers are done and have been for quite some time if you take an honest look at things. The Oilers have played the most games in their division (50) and have only managed to win 16 of them in regulation.
Their winning percentage is only better than Columbus and is, unbelievably, worse than 2 teams that have recently been stripped to the studs and are just beginning a rebuild while the Oilers have been trying to turn north for most of a decade.
It’s no longer arguable that the Oilers rebuild is failing because they stubbornly refused to draft high end defensemen when they had a chance (how would Dimitri Kulikov, Adam Larsson or any of the buffet of defensemen from the 2012 draft.
While the Oilers have finally acquired 3 NHL calibre centres, many teams have 6 or 7 capable at the position and the Oilers “draft wingers” strategy has failed them miserably.
Only slightly improved goaltending has them ahead of last years pace but consider their points accrual over the past 5 seasons:
2010/11 – 62 points
2012/13 – 77 (pro-rated)
2013/14 – 67
2014/15 – 62
2015/16 – 70 (pro-rated)
Give or take some luck, the Oilers have gotten absolutely nowhere since drafting Taylor Hall in 2010.
That is, frankly, embarrassing.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2.2% (.438)
The Leafs are where everyone, including their management and coach thought they would be.
Their rebuild is less than a year old so it’s no surprise they are flying a bit but anyone who watches the team can see renewed effort and structure.
While their goaltending remains in flux,they have two young stud D men to build around and with 2 blue chip C prospects in William Nylander (1.26 PPG AHL) and Mitch Marner (2.09 PPG OHL) coming up down the middle, they are following the winning blueprint all the way.
They will lack size in the top 6 but they will likely draft very high this coming draft and should be able to choose from any of the giant Finns or, more likely, will select Matthew Tkachuk from Head Scout Dale Hunter’s London Knights.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the try and swing a deal to draft Nylander’s brother Alexander (1.41 PPG OHL) who is reportedly a better player than his older brother.
No chance at the playoffs but things look bright.
Winnipeg Jets 4.2% (.469)
The Jets should be much better than their record suggests but shaky goaltending has let them down again and you have to think a major shake up will be on the way in the offseason.
The Jets are very likely to trade captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien before the trade deadline so the return on those two assets will be a huge factor in determining their future course.
I would imagine they will eventually address their goaltending and, while they have some very good your D, they will need to add some offsets in their top 6 to be a consistent playoff threat.
Ottawa Senators 18.1% (.530)
Like the Jets, the Senators have suffered from mediocre goaltending that has kept them from the playoff bracket.
While they do have some offence from Bobby Ryan, Mark Stoke and Mike Hoffman, they lead the league in SA/G at 33.3 so their flaws are pretty obvious and I think you can expect a coaching change in the offseason.
Imagine where they would be without Eric Karlsson?
Calgary Flames 25.5% (.500)
On the surface, the Flames seem very close to being DOA but they have a significant number of games in hand on almost every team and are, if effect, in charge of their own fate.
If the Flames can take advantage of those extra games over the net couple of weeks, they can stay in the fight but winning NOW is critical.
Vancouver Canucks 33.3% (.534)
The Canucks record (20-18-11) is somewhat deceiving.
They’ve had several brutally long road trips in the first half of the season and, in fact, have played 21 home games compared to 28 on the road so will have a much friendlier schedule down the stretch.
They’ve been playing for a while without their top 2 C’s and, at various times, without their #2 and #3 D but they are all expected back shortly and, if the Canucks can settle into a rhythm at home, they may have a chance to surpass Arizona and Anaheim for the final Pacific Division playoff spot.
Problem is, the Canucks are only 9-8-2 at home so, unless they can improve that record considerably, they won’t make it.
Montreal Canadiens 54.3% (.542)
On the surface, the Habs have the best chance of making the playoffs but that is somewhat deceiving as well.
They have been awful (3-6-1 10GP) since Carey Price went down and he’s not expected back fro several weeks.
If momentum counts for anything, and I think it does, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ottawa finishes ahead of Montreal in the final standings.
A Carey Price return would prove to be a godsend but I expect it will be too little too late.
To be honest I wouldn’t bet on any of these dogs but, if I was forced to pick one team that might take it, it would be Vancouver.
The combination of an easy schedule, the return of key injured veterans and the continuing emergence of Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton might just be enough but I expect it will, take some cooperation by the Anaheim Ducks for the Canucks to see the post season.