Edmonton Oilers Luke Esposito (55) and Brandon Manning (26), right, battle for the puck during training camp in Edmonton on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Edmonton Oilers Luke Esposito (55) and Brandon Manning (26), right, battle for the puck during training camp in Edmonton on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A look at Canada’s seven NHL teams heading into the all-star break

The Canadian Press looks at Canada’s seven franchises as the focus turns to final stretch of season

When the NHL returns from its bye weeks and all-star break, there will be just over 30 games left for each team.

The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are the only Canadians clubs currently in a playoff spot, while the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets sit just below the cut line. The Montreal Canadiens have some serious work to do if they’re going to make a post-season return. And in Ottawa, it’s once again wait until next year for the rebuilding Senators.

With that in mind, The Canadian Press takes a look Canada’s seven franchises as the focus turns to the final stretch of the 2019-20 campaign.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (27-18-4, first in Pacific Division)

Having missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons — and four straight — the Canucks are in a good position. The club sits atop the congested Pacific Division standings, a point up on both Edmonton and Calgary. Vancouver has received terrific goaltending from Jacob Markstrom, while the additions of J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers and the improved play of Jay Beagle and Tanner Pearson have been huge pluses. Vancouver also has a Calder Trophy candidate for the second straight season in Quinn Hughes. And Elias Pettersson continues to show why he took home rookie of the year honours last June. “We still have things we can improve,” Pettersson said. “When we are working, when we are skating, we play our best.”

EDMONTON OILERS (26-18-5, second in Pacific Division)

The Oilers currently occupy a playoff spot thanks in large part to the NHL’s two leading scorers — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The dynamic duo has combined for 151 points in 49 games, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a distant third on Edmonton’s roster with 33. McDavid hasn’t shown any ill-effects from the serious knee injury he suffered last April. James Neal has 19 goals after scoring just seven with the Flames in 2018-19. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have been solid in splitting goaltending duties, while new head coach Dave Tippett has got buy-in on the defensive side. The Oilers, however, know it’s going to be a mad dash to the finish line as the franchise looks to make the post-season for just the second time in 14 years. “Every game is going to have a ton of meaning,” Tippett said. ”That’s what’s fun about it.”

CALGARY FLAMES (26-19-5, third in Pacific Division)

The Flames could have imploded in the wake of the allegations made against head coach Bill Peters that he’d directed racial slurs against a player when both were in the minors a decade ago, and that he had physically abused two others when he was behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ bench. But the team instead blocked out the noise and has thrived under interim bench boss Geoff Ward. Flames goalie David Rittich will take part in his first all-star game this weekend as an injury replacement. Calgary winger/antagonist Matthew Tkachuk will also make his first appearance at the festivities, and will no doubt be a focus thanks to his bubbling rivalry with the Oilers. “There’s a lot that went on,” Flames centre Sean Monahan said. “It’s been a crazy year.”

WINNIPEG JETS (25-22-4, three points out of a wild-card spot)

The Jets received a gut punch early with the unexpected loss of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien — the situation has still yet to be resolved — after also shedding Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chariot on the blue line over the summer. Winnipeg has managed to hang around thanks to the Vezina Trophy-calibre goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck and a patchwork defence corps, but cracks have started to show with a team that’s now lost four straight in regulation, and six of its last seven. “We’ve done a pretty good job of really not worrying about which player is out there,” blue-liner Josh Morrissey said. ”We’ve been playing as hard as we can defensively and not feeling sorry for ourselves.”

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (25-17-7, four points out of a playoff spot)

The Leafs once again started the season as a Stanley Cup favourite, but a fall swoon was enough to see head coach Mike Babcock shown the door in favour of Sheldon Keefe. Toronto got out to a 15-4-1 under its rookie bench boss, but is 1-3-2 over its last six to sit outside the playoff picture. Keefe called his team “immature” following a disastrous 8-4 loss in Florida and an ugly 6-2 setback on home ice to Chicago ahead of its bye week. Auston Matthews, who’s sitting out the on-ice portion of the all-star festivities in St. Louis with a wrist injury, is on pace to smash the franchise record for goals in a season, but the Leafs will need a lot more from netminder Frederik Andersen. Toronto has struggled minus injured defencemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, although the latter could be back soon. There’s no doubting the Leafs’ ability to score. It’s whether or not they can keep the puck out of their net. “Everyone’s invested 100 per cent,” captain John Tavares said after a recent setback. ”But when we go out and play and have games like this or have lapses like this, it’s obviously not good enough. It gets in the way of us building what we want to build.”

MONTREAL CANADIENS (22-21-7, 10 points out of a playoff spot)

After coming agonizingly close to making the playoffs last season, Montreal currently sits well back. Two losing streaks of eight games are to blame for the Canadiens, who have failed to gain traction with Carey Price struggling in the crease. The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk has provided a bit of a spark for Montreal, which won four of five heading into the break. ”We just have to be more consistent,” said winger Tomas Tatar said. ”That’s our issue.”

OTTAWA SENATORS (17-23-8, 19 points out of a playoff spot)

It seems like a lifetime ago that the Senators were a goal away from making the 2017 Stanley Cup final. Ottawa’s steep decline has been well-documented, but there’s continued reason for optimism. The club signed star defenceman Thomas Chabot to a big contract extension, while winger Brady Tkachuk, who will replace Matthews at the all-star game, is proving the Senators made the right call at the 2018 draft. The rebuild took a hit when Ottawa was minus its first-round pick last year, but the Senators could have two high selections in 2020 — their own and the one acquired from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal. “We have to continue to play hard,” said rookie head coach D.J. Smith. “We need to continue to get better.”

— with files from Shane Jones in Edmonton, Jim Morris in Vancouver, Judy Owen in Winnipeg, Kelsey Patterson in Montreal and Lisa Wallace in Ottawa.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Canucks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crown prosecutors have stayed attempted murder charges against Kelowna’s Jesse Pez. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Man accused in Kelowna Halloween stabbing has attempted murder charge stayed

The Crown only proceeds with charges when evidence provides ‘a substantial likelihood of conviction’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

A rendering of the proposed “Aqua” resort in Kelowna’s Lower Mission area. (Contributed)
Towering waterfront resort planned in Kelowna

Mission Group’s ‘Aqua’ resort has been in the works for more than a decade

A pair of Okanagan Regional Library reference librarians have created a podcast called Hard Cover that takes a zany but informative look at books, libraries and librarians. (File photo)
Okanagan reference librarians produce quirky podcast

Davin Helkenberg and Peter Critchley are behind Hard Cover

Okanagan Symphony Orchestra music director Rosemary Thomson in action at the podium. Photo by Lynda Miller.
Kelowna filmmaker gets funding to create new ‘Local Heroes’ documentary

The documentary will be focused on the director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and Opera

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

RCMP released this photo on Jan. 27, 2021 of Terrance Jones, 40, a Caucasian man with a closely shaved head, brown eyes, dirty blonde or brown hair, and a thin mustache and beard. The inside of his right arm is covered in tattoos, including one of a face. (Kamloops RCMP photo)
RCMP want public’s help to locate Shuswap man wanted on charge of attempted murder

Sicamous man was arrested previously on Jan. 11 for allegedly breaching conditions of release

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID-19: Two more deaths at Vernon’s Noric House

Total deaths climb to 17 at local long-term care outbreaks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read