Many Canadians know that the cup drought in Canada has been long--- it hasn't been here since 1993 when the Canadiens won it. Some teams have come close with the Canucks (X2), Senators, Oilers, and Flames all going to finals coming up just short. While I don't think it really matters who is "Canadas team", it still is interesting that in 20 years nobody in the country has won. Here are our best options at winning it all ranked 1-7:
Based on who has the best chances in the next 2-3 seasons? It has to be Vancouver, however their window is closing. Especially after trading Cory Schneider, they are not getting any younger. They still have a solid core with the Sedins, Burrows, Kesler, Bieksa, Edler, Hamhuis, and Luongo. This team still shouldn't be taken lightly just because they had back-to-back poor playoff performances. I loved that they picked up Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk at the draft, because their prospect system desperately needed some blue-chippers. After those two, some good prospects include Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Frank Corrado, annnndd...that's about it. This team is built for the present, so don't be surprised if they go all the way. If they don't however, it might spell rebuild in a few years.
It's hard for me to be unbiased in this write-up, but how could you pick anyone else but Ottawa at number 2? They've been the last-standing Canadian team two straight years (albeit shortly in 2012), and have lots of youth coming into the system. Jason Spezza is considered an old guy on this team, yet he's only 30. I think they have a great core with Spezza, Alfredsson, Turris, Michalek, Karlsson, and Anderson. That list could even expand to guys like Zibanejad, Silfverberg, Cowen, and Methot. I truly believe they are just 2 players away from being a true contender for next season. They sorely need a top-4 dman, and an elusive "top-6 power forward" could really put them over the top at least for the forwards. This team is built for now, but also for the future which is exciting. Some very good prospects like Matt Puempel, Stefan Noesen, Mark Stone, Shane Prince, Cody Ceci and Curtis Lazar among others haven't even been on Ottawa's radar for making the team. Yes, I'm a Sens fan, but I'm extremely excited for their chances at being the next Canadian team with the Cup.
Ending the season in the number 2 spot in the East might have been a bit higher than this team should actually be. They are a solid team with good depth, but are lacking some true fire-power and elite level players. Their weaknesses were obviously exploited against Ottawa (mainly Price playing poor), but they may just have the answers to fix their problems. They have a good farm system with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher already in the NHL, and others like Sebastian Collberg, Nathan Beaulieu, Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon, and Zack Fucale on their way in a few years. They are partially built for the present, but I don't see them as contenders just yet. With an infusion of youth coming soon, that may just change though.
The Leafs surprised everyone this year by making the playoffs. I think they have a decent team, but like always are lacking a number-one centre. They also have good depth at forward, but there are still some holes. The Jonathan Bernier trade surprised me a bit, mostly because they have essentially put little faith in James Reimer. Their farm system is a whole lot of "meh", but also has blue-chipper Morgan Rielly, and some good prospects in Tyler Biggs, Frederik Gauthier, and Josh Leivo. They were oh-so-close to upsetting the Bruins, yet I still have a hard time seeing this team go deep in the next few years. A large part of that is due to their abysmal puck-possession numbers, and some players who had unsustainably high shooting percentages. They still should be a playoff team, but a few trades might need to be done for the Leafs to take the next step.
This team is probably the most confusing of all 7 teams. They have the "up-and-coming stars" that should make them a contender. Having Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, Gagner, Paajarvi, and Schultz should make them set for a while. They still had some streaky goaltending from Devan Dubnyk, and their D needs some upgrades. I feel like this team could just take off at any moment, mind you it seems like we've been saying that for a while. How long has this rebuild taken anyway? Even with all their graduated prospects they still have good defenseman coming up wtih Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, and Martin Marincin. At this point, I have to rank them low simply because they haven't made the playoffs in 7 years. Make no mistake about it though--- the potential is there.
The Jets/Thrashers have long been in "no mans land" always slightly missing the playoffs but usually aren't last in the conference to get a high pick either. I don't see them as a playoff team, but with some upgrades and surprising performances, they may squeak in. Evander Kane is the only forward who I really see as an elite-level talent, and even he hasn't reached that potential just yet. They have some good pieces with Byfuglien, Enstrom, Ladd, Wheeler and Little, but I feel like there is a big drop-off of talent in the bottom 6. Besides some solid prospects like Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, and Nic Petan, I don't think they have many potential future NHLer's in the system. I don't think they should rebuild to try and get good draft picks, but it must be hard for the organization to always be so close to the playoffs, but unable to get there. They still seem like a ways away from a Cup.
This was probably the easiest team to decide in the order. The Flames stripped the core, and FINALLY decided to rebuild. I've been critical of Flames management/ownership for the past 5 years. They've missed the playoffs 4 straight years, and are the worst case scenario of being in "no mans land." They were adament on keeping aging players like Iginla, Kipprusoff, Jokinen, and Tanguay amongst others just so they didn't have to bring out the dreaded 'R' word (rebuild). They might be on the right path right now, but it's still going to take a very long time for this team to be close to winning a cup. They added a bit more prospects in the draft this year, and they really needed some blue-chippers. This past year they have done a good job of stockpiling some talent. They have two very good players in Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan, with some other good prospects in Morgan Klimchuk, Emile Poirier, Mark Jankowski, John Gaudreau, and Markus Granlund. While the actual team has gone downhill the past 2 years, the farm system has improved a bit. It's still around average or a bit below, but right now prospects are the only hope this team has.
What Canadian team do you think will hoist the Cup next?