As it stands, there aren’t any teams of Canadian descent occupying a playoff spot. Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto all reside at least three points away from a Wild Card spot.
Last season: Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg made the playoffs.
So who could make the playoff after the All-Star break?
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Toronto Maple Leafs – 12 points from playoffs
Toronto currently boasts the worst record amongst the Canadian teams – only 17 wins, 22 losses and nine overtime losses – and they almost certainly won’t make the playoffs this season. From the goalkeeping to the forwards, there just isn’t enough quality in the Maple Leaf ranks.
ESPN records them as having the: fifth worst goals for per game, at 2.29 – despite them having the 6th most shots per game in the league, at 30.8 – and the 9th highest goals against per game, at 2.69. TML stand with a -20 goal difference and are 1-7-2 in their last ten games.
Edmonton Oilers – 10 points from playoffs
Edmonton has a high calibre set of young forwards, with Taylor Hall currently highlighting the crop. But their struggles mainly span from lack of defensive strength and inexperienced goaltending. The Oilers are anticipating the return of Connor McDavid but even he won’t be able to make them into a playoff team.
The Oilers stand at a 19-26-5 record but are woeful away from home – with only six of their 19 wins coming away from Rexall Place. Their defensive and goalie troubles are highlighted by their -27 goal difference. Although they have a bright future, if they can bolster their defence, they have little hope of making the post-season in 2016.
Winnipeg Jets – six points from playoffs
The Winnipeg Jets would become greater playoff contenders if they could stay out of the penalty box. ESPN records them as totalling the third highest amount of penalty minutes with 598 PIMs – which isn’t helped by them sporting the league’s 4th worst penalty kill percentage, 77.2%.
They’ve hit another poor run of form recently, going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and they hold a -14 goal difference. But this could all be drastically improved if they played a little cleaner and hadn’t conceded the NHL’s highest total of powerplay goals against, at 40.
But it gets worse for the Jets. Star players Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd are still set to be out of contract come season’s end. It’s also very uncertain as to whether or not the captain or Byfuglien will be traded away.
Calgary Flames – eight points from playoffs
It’s a real shame that the Calgary Flames were unable to start this season as well as they ended the last. In a quite shocking turn of events, the Flames made the playoffs - whilst the San Jose Sharks and the LA Kings did not. Last season they ended the 82 games with 97 points – earning them third place in the Pacific – and now, after 48 games, they’re only on 45 points.
Even with Sam Bennett’s sudden burst of goalscoring form, the Flames still can’t win consistently. Calgary also has a 3-6-1 record in their last ten games and have a very unfavourable goal difference of -20.
Ottawa Senators – three points from playoffs
Ottawa is another Canadian team that made the playoffs last season, but they got there on the back of winning 21 of the last 27 regular season games – which included a five and a seven-game win streak. This season, they’ve passed the halfway point with a 23-21-6 record.
Can they do it again? They have the personnel to do it, but they lack consistency in their play and are 4-6-0 in their last ten games. Ottawa also has a negative goal difference, at -16. However, there’s every chance that they’ll surge up the ranks towards the end of the season again.
Montreal Canadiens – three points from playoffs
The Canadiens started the season with a nine-game win streak and, once again, looked to be one of the league’s top Stanley Cup contenders. Then they lost 2015’s Vezina award winner Carey Price in game 11 – in the loss to Edmonton on October 29. Price missed nine games, came back for three, and returned to the injury reserve on November 25.
On January 21, the NHL reported that Carey Price will most likely be out for a further three to four weeks due to his recovery being “much slower” than previously anticipated. This means that he’ll miss at least 12 more games.
Now Rotoworld has revealed that the Habs may even shelf Price for the remainder of the season if they’re out of the playoff picture when he’s ready to return.
The whole team has slumped lately, which makes wins extremely hard to come by when they don’t have a superstar keeper backing them up. Montreal has a 2-7-1 record in their last ten games.
Unless Price comes back, the Canadiens seem unlikely to contend with the other playoff hopefuls in the East. But if he does, they’ll have a maximum of 23 games to turn their season around.
Vancouver Canucks – two points from playoffs
Vancouver are in the weaker Pacific Division but the Western Conference’s Wild Card spots have recently been dominated by Central teams, and it looks to go that way this year too.
So Vancouver’s most viable option of making the playoffs is getting in the top three of the Pacific. As Arizona have chilled out a bit – after their emphatic start to the season – and Anaheim, Calgary, and Edmonton are all pretty poor away from home, the Canucks are among the top contenders to make the Pacific playoff spots. Especially now that they have Ryan Miller back in the crease.
They’ve lost a bit of momentum recently, posting a 5-3-2 record, but still perform well when away from home, something that their divisional competitors seem to struggle with.
Canada’s post-season outlook
So maybe Vancouver are Canada’s best hope of having a playoff team, but there’s still the most crucial part of the season to go.
Out of the remaining six teams, Ottawa look the most likely to push for a playoff spot – Montreal would do too if they perform well enough to warrant Price’s return.
As it stands, none of the teams hailing from the great white north looks good to make the playoffs.
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