I don’t like starting articles with a number, so that’s why I wrote this introductory sentence. But in reality I’m here to talk numbers, numbers like 1993 and 24 years. That’s how long it’s been since a Canadian team (Montreal) last won the Stanley Cup. The Oilers, Flames, Senators, and Canucks have all reached the cup finals since, only to see their hopes dashed by an American squad.
Last night, the drought was all but extended as the Pittsburgh Penguins routed Ottawa, the last remaining Canadian team in the 2017 playoffs, 7-0 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Not only did the loss put Ottawa in a 3-2 hole, but star defenseman Erik Karlsson left the game with an ankle injury. He’s apparently going to be ok for Game 6, but he’s clearly not 100%.
In reality, the Sens have defied expectations by getting to where they are. The advanced metrics indicate that they overperformed in the regular season, and continue to do so in the playoffs. If Karlsson and goalie Craig Anderson — who was pulled after allowing four goals in Game 5 — aren’t going to be all-world, Ottawa is going to have trouble notching another win, let alone the six more they need to hoist the cup. And if they don’t do it this year, it could be a long wait for fans in the nation’s capital. Their forward group is a gang of yeomen. They lack that potent one-two punch down the middle that most recent champs have had (see Crosby/Malkin; Toews/Kane; even Krejci/Bergeron).
There is hope for the north though. While Ottawa’s roster isn’t much to get excited about heading into next season, Edmonton and Toronto will be icing two of the most skilled rosters in the league. Both were able to end long playoff droughts this year and, led by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews respectively, are still on the rise and should be in the hunt for years to come.
When will they and the other Canadian teams finally bring their devoted fan bases hockey’s ultimate prize? Let’s set some over unders.
O/U Year When the Canadian Teams Next Win the Stanley Cup
Edmonton Oilers: 2022.5 O/U
The Oilers are Canada’s best hope for the foreseeable future. McDavid is already the best player in the league — with the possible exception of Crosby — and Leon Draisaitl is beginning to look like the Messier to his Gretzky. Goaltending, which has long been an issue with this team, is now a foundational element with Cam Talbot between the pipes. After losing a heartbreaking Game 7 to Anaheim in the Western Conference semis this year, the young Oilers will be one of the preseason favorites to emerge from the West next year. If McDavid doesn’t bring home a cup in the next five years, it will be considered a disappointment.
Toronto Maple Leafs: 2024.5 O/U
The Maple Leafs exceeded expectations by making the playoffs this year. Number one overall pick Auston Matthews did so as well by scoring 40 goals and 69 points. Fellow rookies William Nylander and Mitch Marner also cracked the 60-point plateau, and this offense has the potential to be scary in their second seasons. The defense is still a problem — both on the blueline and in the crease — but they’ll spend the next couple years addressing that and should, eventually, be able to pair their talented forward crop with a serviceable back end. “Serviceable” may be all it takes when Matthews, Nylander, and Marner are all in their prime.
Calgary Flames: 2027.5 O/U
The Flames have a good young core: Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Dougie Hamilton, Matthew Tkachuk. But it’s not on par with the Oilers or Flames, and they don’t have a transcendent goalie to make up for it. Sorry Brian Elliott. Just like in the 80s, they’re going to be Alberta’s second-fiddle for a while.
Montreal Canadiens: 2028.5 O/U
The Canadiens don’t really deserve to be this high. They’re roster is pretty barren, except at the one place it matters most (especially in the playoffs): goalie. Carey Price is arguably the best tender in the world. Any year the Habs sneak into the postseason with Price between the pipes, they are capable of making a run.
Ottawa Senators: 2030.5 O/U
Apparently Erik Karlsson + Craig Anderson + a bunch of hard-working, blue-collar forwards is enough to mount a serious cup push. Just don’t bank on it happening on a yearly basis.
Winnipeg Jets: 2032.5 O/U
Rookie Patrick Laine was every bit Matthews’ equal for most of the year. He’s going to be a 40-goal scorer in this league, and Mark Scheifele is a true number one center. But the roster isn’t deep, the defense is bad, and the goalie situation is one of the worst in the league. This team is more than a piece or two away from being a true cup contender.
Vancouver Canucks: 2033.5 O/U
The Sedins aren’t what they used to be, nor are they long for this NHL world. The Canucks are finally starting to take their rebuild seriously — i.e. no longer trying to call it a “re-tool” — but there are going to be some lean years in the Pacific Northwest as Bo Horvat tries to shoulder the offense.