4 Canadian Teams Left in Stanley Cup Hunt – by Jamie Gilcig 122817

Cornwall Ontario – As the pucks dropped after the Christmas break it’s becoming clearer which teams have a shot at going deep into the playoffs, which are simply bubble teams and which should be focusing on rebuilding or reloading.

Rebuild – I’m not sure why Arizona is in the NHL any longer.   The league forcing the franchise in the desert simply hasn’t worked.  A few trades, a few hot rookies, but rarely anything that remotely even qualifies as a bubble team.    It’s time for change, and maybe, just maybe a move to Quebec or Seattle?

Reload – Buffalo has some questions. Not too many answers.   New management hasn’t set any clear vision for the team.   There are some good players to build on and some good trade chips.    Ottawa, for a team to have gone as deep as they did last year in the playoffs and then fall off the rails leads to some questions.   What it appears to be simply is that after the owner pulled another Alfie on Kyle Turris, the team simply ran off the rails in spite of the high profile pick up of Duchene that hasn’t translated to wins.   Don’t be surprised to seem Duchene swapped out as he has no protection clauses.    The big question is what happens to Karlsson.   If he’s traded it’s a clear indicator that the teams time in our Nation’s capital is coming to an end, and it’s rebuild time.   There are no shortage of assets to trade if the team is willing to retain salary.

Detroit is in cap hell.   Almost as bad as Chicago.   They simply have too many high dollar veteran contracts that they’d have to retain salary on IF someone wanted one of the players.   It looks like Ken Holland will be playing out the string for the next 3-4 seasons, if he’s not fired in the meantime.   The team simply can’t reload fast enough with young talent when they are a weak bubble team.

Vancouver is similar and yet different than the Wings.   The team is clearly trying to rebuild while the Sedins play out the string.   It’s an expensive string too, and the team was looking like it’d make the playoffs actually this year before injuries did them in.    The team clearly needs some grit and sandpaper from players that can contribute too.

Florida with Dale Tallon back is going slow and easy.  No big Tallon like trades or splashes.   The goalie situation is of concern.   James Reimer has not taken advantage of the opportunities he’s had.

Montreal is simply a hot mess.   The team is going nowhere fast under current management with some really bad contracts, especially the Carey Price deal which may not be tradeable even with retaining salary unless it’s for an equally bad contract which may not really resolve anything.   It’s clearly time for change and clear vision in la belle province.  Would you rather have Andrew Shaw and his contract or Alex De Brincat?

Colorado – I’m not really sure what the Avalanche are doing.   Joe Sakic looked good on the Duchene deal, but there are still more questions than answers.  The team still hasn’t recovered from the Patrick Roy debacle.

Carolina – The team has made strides, but they’re more baby steps than big steps.   Growing pains with their younger players and simply not making the moves to advance more than they have.   Almost a bubble team.

Bubble – Edmonton should not be a bubble team.  The team has fumbled and floundered clearly missing Sekera who’s finally back from injury.   More upside and this should be a playoff team if not a cup contender soon.   The trick for the Oilers is not to panic or listen to sports talk radio.   They seem to be missing one good d man, and have to settle in goal.  Talbot may not be the guy to get them to Nirvana.

Philadelphia – If patience is a virtue Flyer fans and management should be putting up statues to GM Ron Hextall.  The team is moving forward with homegrown talent, but the Schenn trade to the Blues was brutal unless they hit a home run in the draft.    Need to decide which way to go with their forward corps.   Some big salaries to carry unless a trade is made.   D is looking awesome, and questions still in goal, although better than last season.    They should be a playoff squad.

Chicago – Always looking to make the playoffs and really close, but looking at the squad they should ease off and realize that this team isn’t made for a deep run.   Depth and a need at 2C are holding the team back.  The latest injury to Crawford should be put a fork in it time.    It might be time to refill the cupboard and see if they can move Seabrook and find a GM like Marc Bergevin that would take Ansimov.  Very few assets for trade that the team can afford to trade.

Calgary – I nearly was going to upgrade the team from bubble as they are playing below their capabilities.   Seem to be missing something….like an Evander Kane.   The team needs some scoring support to keep their studs from being worn down and keyed on.  The Smith in net move has paid off.

San Jose – A team that needs to reboot.   Not sure why they went all in on Brent Burns at his age and with the team being in the situation it is.  Their best players are aged, but they don’t have the horses to make a run and will probably miss the playoffs.

Minnesota – Constant underachievement for what seems like a veteran filled club.   Total waste of the Staal contract.  Depth issue and key performers injured or underperforming.

NY Rangers – A team changing on the fly.  Could make the playoffs, but shouldn’t be burning resources for a run.  David Desharnais has had a terrific season as a 3rd line role player, but some UFA’s that may be traded.  The team needs to become younger and needs to be able to score.  It’s also coming time to address who will replace King Henrik.

Columbus – Injuries and weak performances are deflating Columbus. Should make the playoffs.  Anything can happen if “Bob” turns it on for the playoffs.

New Jersey – The Devils have out performed expectations for them this season.  It’s been a great year for their kids to advance and for some names to come out of nowhere and put up numbers.   While the Vatanen trade hasn’t produced points, it was a great pick up for the team.

Las Vegas – One of the most talked about teams this season and deservedly so.  Gerald Gallant has shown why he should’ve been hired to be the Habs coach and squeezed a lot of value from this expansion roster.  He clearly is the coach of the year and should bring home some hardware to show for it.    But hockey toughens up the closer we get to the playoffs and this team is small and doesn’t have enough sandpaper in its stars.   It should be interesting to see how deep this team can go as they are the feel good story to this entire season.

Boston – The Bruins should be in the contender spot, but they’ve been overachieving all season and bubbles burst.  They’ll most likely make the playoffs, but they still are an evolving group of young players with some key veterans.   The B’s are doing a great job of managing their cap and roster. Chara has some young studs to mentor.

St. Louis – The Blues have a way of finding ways to give their fans the blues.  This year is no different.   No dissing Scottie Upshall, but if he’s in your top ten in scoring at his stage of his career you have depth issues.    Something is missing from the Blues.

Play Off Contenders

NY Islanders – I like the Islanders.   They’re one Erik Karlsson away from making a run into the playoffs. Yes, the Tavares question sucks all the oxygen in the room, but a deep run to the Cup can only enhance his value to the team or on the market.   The Islanders have two firsts and two seconds in a deep draft and some young prospects.  This is a time to go all in.

Pittsburgh – Crosby is having a tough time this year.  Malkin, Kessel, Letang, this team will be there in the playoffs.  The question is what Jim Rutherford can do to help them for their run? Kessel’s having an amazing season.   If the team can get Schultz back in time for a run and tweak up the roster the team will be there.   One issue they have is cap space.  Some creativity will be needed.

Washington – Alex Ovechkin seems on a mission this season.  He started in better shape physically with a bunch of goals scored early in the season.  The emergence of Tom Wilson is interesting and true power forwards are very rare in the NHL.  Washington makes you pay a price as they are  strong and physical team.   One area the can improve on is offense from the back end.

Anaheim – The Ducks do a lot right.  Strong d Corp.  Studs up the middle when they’re healthy and right now it looks like both Getzlaf and Kesler are back. Kesler had an amazing first season in Anaheim.   This season has been marred by injury.   If they can improve, an offensive D man would help their forward corps.  They need Corey Perry back too. The goalie tandem of Gibson and Miller is very strong.

Dallas – While the team’s been struggling, their stars are too talented to not enjoy a deep playoff run.  Can Jason Spezza get his A game back?  Esa Lindell is developing nicely to complement Klingberg.  The team should find out if Ben Bishop is a money goalie or not.

Tampa Bay – Sergachev for Drouin?  Stevie Y has already won enough this season, but his team is primed for a deep run into the playoffs.  His best players are playing their best and Sergy has put up some major points for a rookie. This might be their year to win it all and Steve Stamkos deserves a big win.   Sergachev has put up 23 points in 38 games playing a sheltered 15 minutes per night.  There biggest question mark is in goal and tweaking their bottom six.

Toronto – When you have one of, if not the best coach in the NHL and make the playoffs it’s showtime.   The Leafs will make the playoffs.   They need to keep Auston Matthews safe and healthy though.   Having Marleau for the playoffs should help, but what the Leafs are missing is a power forward or two.   And while Ron Hainsey is having a renaissance in Toronto, they can use another top 4 D man.    Frederik Anderson has had success in the playoffs. It should be another step for the Leafs young guns forward.

Nashville – The Kyle Turris trade will be the most talked about deal by the end of this season.   He was a steal too, essentially going for two prospects and a 2nd.   That’s some horsetrading!   He’s now locked up at a team friendly 6x $6M and has put up 17 points in 21 games while taking pressure off Johansen.  The Preds are primed for the playoffs.

Winnipeg – I root for teams like Winnipeg.  The challenge of being a Canadian small market team means that you don’t get the high profile free agents.   GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has patiently accumulated an awful lot of talent without making too many faux pas.    The team is deep and strong and in great cap shape.  They have the assets to tweak.     It’s interesting that the Oilers let go of Matty Hendricks who’s been a solid citizen for the Jets.   Good faceoff numbers and some grit and scoring from the bottom of the roster has added some character and veteran leadership to the team.

And there you go hockey fans.  As much press and hype as the Leafs get, Winnipeg is the Canadian team with the best shot of success in 2017/18.     Connor Hellebuyck is giving the team chances to win and Ehlers and Laine are true snipers. A deep d corps and some talented forwards round up a well equipped team.

The question if is Chevy can beef them up as the trade deadline approaches?

Do you see any Canadian team making noise deep this year besides  the Leafs and Jets?  You can post your comments below.

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