Woe Canada

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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

2011/12- 74

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Look Now…

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As of this writing…the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Montreal Canadiens.

If they lose, as expected, they’ll be a scant 3 points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes (pending the Coyotes home game against the Rangers).

Carolina is 5 points back of the Leafs but have 3 games in hand so it’s entirely reasonable to assume the Leafs will be in 3rd spot in the draft lottery a week from now.

The Sabres and Oilers are so bad it’s highly unlikely the Leafs can out suck them but I would imagine a team like the the Leafs that is about to blow things up could start a “down to the wood” rebuild with the 3rd overall pick with a decent shot of getting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Worth mentioning that McDavid, a Toronto boy, has expressed a great deal of interest in being drafted by the Leafs.

The most highly touted hockey prospect since Sidney Crosby delivered music to the ears of Leafs Nation this weekend.

“That would be an absolute dream come true,” Connor McDovaid told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun when asked about the possibility of becoming a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It’s pretty crazy to even think about.”

“I’m from Toronto. You have to be a Leafs fan,” McDavid said in the article. “So, of course, I was. Of course. My dad was a Leafs fan. Every Saturday night watching Hockey Night in Canada would be my favourite time.”

Toronto is the most important franchise in the National Hockey League. It leads the league in revenue generated, in appreciating franchise values and I would wager that Gary Bettman is tuned into what’s transpiring in Toronto in a major way.
Don’t be surprised if the Leafs officially start their rebuild by drafting the best player since Sidney Crosby.

Speaking of the Oilers, there’s lots of blather on Lowetide and other Oiler fanboy sites about how the team has “turned north” under Todd Nelson.
Nonsense, of course.
The Oilers are 9-10-2 under Nelson with their 6 remaining games in February against Winnipeg, Boston, Minnesota (twice), Anaheim and St. Louis.
I would be surprised if the Oilers win 2 of those games.
Also worth noting is that, if the Oilers played at a season long pace of 9-10-2 over 82 games, they would still finish in 13th place in the WC.
You can’t see north from here.

Tough break for Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars after the Star’s centre will be out for 3-6 weeks with a knee injury after being low bridged by Dmitri Kulikov.

That ends any thoughts of Seguin winning a scoring title and likely is also the end of the Stars’ playoff hopes since Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves were also injured in the same game

The Calgary Flames

I’m old.

Very old.

I grew up in a time when there was only the “Original 6” in the NHL which isn’t actually accurate but makes a point.

As a child, I grew up hating the Montreal Canadiens because they were so dominant and their management was so successful in screwing the league’s procurement process that they were always going to win.

I was immediately attracted to the Orr/Esposito Bruins because I thought they had a chance to slay the dragon which they eventually did but as a western Canadian boy I gravitated to the Vancouver Canucks when they joined the league in 1970.

They were my “local” team although I lived in Cold Lake Alberta at the time but I would stay up late listening to their games on my Sony Transistor radio long into the night, hoping Orland Kurtenbach would lead them glory.

That never happened but in 1979 the Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL and I immediately adopted them as my team since  they were local and somewhat close.

Upon moving to Edmonton in the early 80’s, I became a season ticket holder and was fortunate to witness the Oilers glory years that ensued but by the mid 90’s had become so disillusioned with the product and the prices the team was charging for shit, I gave up my tickets, although not my affinity.

Throughout this period, I held a pretty determined aversion to the Calgary Flames since they were an easy identified enemy but, for fucks sakes,  this is now a team to be admired.

While the Oilers continue their failed “rebuild”, the Flames go out every night, work their bags off and get rewarded.

I’ve never seen a team more limited in their “potential” who go out every night and do all the right things to win.

Anyone who loves hockey should watch this team and pay homage.

What a team!

 

Oh! Canada!

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A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup  since the Montreal Canadiens turned the trick in 1993.

That’s an awfully long time but for most fans of Canadian teams, being in the playoff race is enough to keep them buying tickets and watching on TV.

Now, let’s look at the probabilities. Every team enters a new NHL season with about a 54% chance of making the playoffs. Those are decent odds…better than you would get at the blackjack tables in Vegas.

So, how is it looking so far?

We can thank Sports Club Stats for an update on which fans of Canadian teams should still be holding out hope for a post season run.

Here are the odds for each Canadian team making the playoffs after Friday night action:

Vancouver – 83.5

Calgary – 77.2

Toronto – 68.2

Montreal – 67.7

Ottawa – 66.0

Winnipeg – 50.5

Edmonton – 8.7

Now, I think it’s probable that not all 6 of the 7 currently ranked as having an above even chance of getting into the playoffs will make it but the point remains that, for fans of 6 of those teams, there remains a reason to hope their team could be playing in late April.

I do have to wonder what keeps Oiler fans coming back year after dreary year for another round of abuse from their team’s management and trying to find some positives in a team that shows precious few signs of getting any close to the playoffs.

Here’s some food for thought.

Last season the Oilers finished the season with 67 points…this season they are on pace for 67 points.

Last season the Oilers scored 203 goals…this season they are on pace to score 207 goals.

Last season the Oilers surrendered 270 goals…this season they are on pace to give up 280 goals.

Last season the Oilers had a goal differential of -67…this season they are on pace for -72.

There are some factions in the Oiler fan base that are convinced the team is improving based not on results but on better shot metrics and, yes, the team is not being as severely outshot as they were last season, narrowing the gap from -6 shots per game last season to -1 this season…BUT…the Oilers have played 9 of their first 17 games against weaker EC opponents.

In the next 3 weeks, the Oilers face a schedule that sees them play 12 of 13 games against WC opponents.

We’ll come back to this on December 13th when that stretch ends and I’d wager any apparent “improvement” in shots metrics is long forgotten.