Which of Canada’s seven NHL teams stand the best chance of ending the nation’s 20-years-and-counting Stanley Cup drought this season?

Rule out the Calgary Flames, who’re entering the first season of their long-overdue rebuilding process. It would take a miracle of biblical (or Hollywood) proportions for the Flames to win the Stanley Cup next spring. Their players, particularly their veterans, resent many experts select them to finish dead last in the Western Conference and overall league standings. Their pride is understandable, but their playoff hopes are remote and a Cup championship an impossibility.

The Edmonton Oilers are trying to end a seven-year playoff absence, so they’re also long shots to end Canada’s Cup drought. The Oilers possess talented young players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, but concerns remain over their goaltending and defensive depth. For this season, the goal is simply to make the playoffs, which at this point would come as a relief to their long-suffering fans.

Which Canadian team stands the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup?

Which Canadian team stands the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup?

Another club hoping to end a lengthy playoff drought are the Winnipeg Jets, who last made the playoffs in 2007 when they were still the Atlanta Thrashers. Like the Oilers, they have some notable talent (Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian) but questionable goaltending and defensive depth. Winnipeg fans have been patient with Jets version 2.0 and at this point would be thrilled if they reach the postseason.

The Vancouver Canucks were the last Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Final, but they’ve been in decline since coming within one game of a championship in 2011. There’s enough veteran talent (The Sedins, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrow, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler) to keep the Canucks in playoff contention, but their core is ageing and there’s not enough promising talent in their system to help the vets. Their Stanley Cup window has closed.

Last season the Toronto Maple Leafs ended a seven-year playoff drought and came within a overtime period of upsetting the Boston Bruins in the Conference quarterfinals. Making the playoffs, however, won’t be good enough this season. The Leafs have a good mix of skilled veterans (Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk) and budding young talent (Nazem Kadri, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Jake Gardiner) to make the playoffs and win a round or two, but face long odds of ending their 46-year Cup drought.

The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens over twenty years ago. Like the Leafs, they also possess a good mix of skilled vets (Max Pacioretty, Daniel Briere, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges) and promising talent (Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk), plus a charismatic superstar in 2013 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. Ultimately, their playoff hopes rest with maddeningly inconsistent goaltender Carey Price, whose shaky postseason performances have proven costly for the Habs. If that trend continues, they can forget about ending their Cup drought next spring.

Of the seven Canadian teams, I believe the Ottawa Senators stand the best chance of winning the 2014 Stanley Cup. The goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner is among the best in the league. 2012 Norris winner Erik Karlsson anchors a solid blueline mix of veterans (Mark Methot, Chris Phillips) and promising youth (Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch). Their first line (Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and the recently-acquired Bobby Ryan) could be among the most lethal in the league this season. They also have depth in good young forwards, like Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Mika Zibanejad, Cory Conacher and JG Pageau. Head coach Paul MacLean, winner of the 2013 Adams Trophy, is among the best in the business. They also demonstrated incredible tenacity last season, overcoming a rash of injuries to stars like Karlsson, Spezza, Anderson and Michalek to clinch a  playoff berth and upset Montreal in the first round.

Granted, there are potential problem areas. Spezza and Michalek have injury histories. Anderson faces too many shots on too many nights, running the risk of burnout or injury come playoff time. Some of the youngsters have yet to fully establish themselves. They’re only two years removed from the commencement of a major rebuilding process, and their inexperience was painfully obvious in their conference semifinal series last spring against the veteran-laden Pittsburgh Penguins.  The departure of long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson could prove a difficult void to fill.

Still, given their significant improvement over the past two seasons, the Ottawa Senators are Canada’s best bet to win the Stanley Cup in 2014.

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8 Responses to Searching for Canada’s Team (2013-14 Edition).

  1. Nicholas Lovett says:

    Lot’s of media drinking the Ottawa kool-aid, their three best players best players get injured like no one’s business (Karlsson, Spezza, Anderson), Cowan is off of surgery, and their second line includes Clarke MacArthur! What about that says “2014 Stanley Cup Champions?”

    • Lyle Richardson says:

      Yes, that’s right, I’m guzzling Senators koolaid like there’s no tomorrow (eyeroll).

    • Nick Badgio says:

      Karlsson gets his ankle cut in a bizarre accident and he is now injury prone? Wow. Tough crowd!

    • Tree says:

      Is this comment a joke? Karlsson suffered 1 major injury – which was a complete fluke. Cowen (notice the spelling, it helps to spell players names correctly when trying to put forward an opinion on them you hope to be taken seriously), is not coming off of surgery – he played games last season, and the entire playoffs. Anderson? Did you miss the part about having a great tandem (hint: tandem means more than 1).

      I read nowhere here where it said they’d win the Cup this year, simply that they have the best shot of any Canadian team. Perhaps you could explain who has better chances and why?

    • Arnold says:

      Stopped reading after “Lot’s”

  2. JJB says:

    The Senators lost their best players and still proved deep enough and capable enough to make the playoffs and even make it to the 2nd round. The previous year when they were a ‘right off’ they took the Rangers to game 7. Every team has injury history (Karlsson or Spezza are not nearly has bad as you make it seem). However the Senators are a pesky and deep organization that knows how to play their hearts out.

    You don’t need to drink ‘media’ kool-aid you just have to watch the guys play.

  3. Rhett Hardowa says:

    As an Oil fan, I would agree the Sens have the best chance. And Karlsson injury prone?!? What kind of kool-aid are you drinking? I wish the Sens the best, because no one really seems to like them and there doesn’t seem to be a reason. The hate for the Leafs, Canucks and Flames is well documented lol. Let’s play hockey!

  4. Ranzeir says:

    Agree Lyle, here’s my $.02 If the planets align and the Sen’s can avoid that dark injury cloud that hovered over the nations capital last season they have a very good chance to come up big this year. Having said that I believe that they’re likely one year away and then providing the owner’s willing to step up and move a little closer to the cap.
    Vancouver needs to bite the bullet and start a re-build which means trading away assets before they’re not assets. Edmonton on the other hand is gathering all the right assets however can they make them all function as a team? Calgary made the right decision to re-build but there’s some serious pain is coming this year and likely next. Winnipeg is a big question mark, do they need a new coach? Toronto has the usual problems, far too much money and a ridiculous amount of media attention (pressure) on their players. Montreal’s a team that may surprise some people this season. In order to do so though Price will have to rebound from last season’s somewhat mediocre play.

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