Preseason prognostications had the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers as the top choices to end Canada's Stanley Cup drought.
The pause of the NHL's schedule for the holiday break presents a good time to reexamine the prospects of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Oilers along with the other Canadian team contenders.
Most NHL teams have surpassed thirty games played and have settled into their respective spots in the standings. A significant amount of the schedule has been completed so that a fair determination can be made on each team's strengths and weaknesses.
The current Stanley Cup odds still has the Leafs and Oilers with the best chances of bringing Lord Stanley back to Canadian soil. This, despite the dreadful start to the season by the Oilers, and the Leafs somehow gathering points in many games where the numbers suggested they shouldn't have.
Evaluating the Stanley Cup Prospects of the Canadian Teams
Somewhat surprising has been the play of the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets. Preseason predictions suggested they were a long shot for a championship. Both were considered fringe playoff teams, with +5000 odds for a title, behind 17 other teams.
The Calgary Flames are playing closely to their preseason expectations, a borderline playoff team and down the list of contenders.
Not much was expected from the Montreal Canadiens this year, but they have pleasantly surprised with their play and place in the standings.
This was the year many expected the Ottawa Senators to climb the standings and challenge for a playoff spot. Instead, they have languished near last place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference for most of the season. Plus, they fired their coach to try and right the ship.
Barring a drastic turnaround during the second half of the year, which rarely happens, the Leafs, Oilers, Jets, or Canucks will be carrying the hopes of the nation when the playoffs begin.
What have the first thirty-plus games shown us about each team? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Most importantly, which, if any, of the teams can contend for a championship?