Canadians take hockey seriously. The country doesn’t have a separate division in the NHL, but you can bet that people in the cities north of the border are keeping track of their internal competition. Last year, for the first time in 46 years, no Canadian teams were part of the playoffs. You can bet the teams, like the four highlighted below, will all be bringing their A games this year for the NHL’s 100th season.
The Edmonton Oilers
Image via Flickr by IQRemix
The Edmonton Oilers have played at Rexall Place since 1974, but this season, they’ll be moving into their new lodging at Rogers Place. Connor McDavid hopes to lead the team back into the playoffs. The Calder Trophy “Top Rookie” finalist was the top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and he scored 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games last season. The Oilers will open their season in their new stadium against their Alberta rival, the Calgary Flames.
The Flames didn’t make the playoffs last season, a situation due partly to Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie being out with injuries. Having those two strong players back on the ice in a full-time capacity will make the Flames a team to watch this year. Clearly, the team needs to find an effective starting goalie to do well this year.
The Flames are expected to bring in an experienced veteran this season, perhaps someone who is being let go by a team that is looking for younger blood. However, the Oilers may bring in James Reimer.
Last season, the Jets surprised everyone by earning the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference through hard work, speed, and brute strength. However, Winnipeg plummeted to the bottom of the standings. Injuries and the loss of captain Andrew Ladd contributed to the team’s decline.
Like the Flames, the team suffered at the goal, with Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage dropping from .920 to .906 during the season. Pundits hope that Pavelec will bounce back or that Connor Hellebuyck can pick up the slack. Either way, hockey insiders widely believe that this team has what’s needed to get back in the game.
The Canadiens also suffered due to player injury last year. Carey Price played in only 12 games during the season. When Price was in the game, the team looked like a playoff contender, but without him, they disintegrated. The team could use more strength on defense and down the middle, but the Canadiens were playing well even with the lineup weaknesses — as long as Price was on the ice, however. The team hopes they can keep him healthy this year so that he can lead them to a winning season.
Canada is hungry for Lord Stanley’s Cup after last season’s shutout, and when it comes to hockey, the Canadians are fierce competitors. These teams from north of the border will come to the ice ready to rumble in October. If their players can avoid the injuries that plagued these teams last season, they stand an excellent chance at the playoffs.