Odds for Each of Canada's NHL Teams to Win the 2014-15 Stanley Cup
The 2013-14 season was a tough one for hockey fans in Canada.
For the first time since 1973, per Tim Wharmsby of CBC.ca, only one north-of-the-border franchise qualified for the postseason.
In 1973, the Montreal Canadiens captured the Stanley Cup. In 2014, the Habs had a good run, winning 10 playoff games before falling to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
In 1973, there were just three Canadian franchises. In 2014, six of Canada's seven squads sat on the sidelines, with plenty of time to ponder the changes required to improve their fate for 2014-15.
With the draft complete, free agency all but over and a national drought that has now stretched to 21 years and counting, here's a look at Canada's chances to finally claim the Stanley Cup in 2014-15.
Reason to Buy: The Calgary Flames started to rebuild after the departures of Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka Kiprusoff, per NHL.com. The 2013-14 Flames were short on stars but became a tough team to play against. Coach Bob Hartley is building a foundation that could turn into a winning formula as his team's talent level starts to rise.
Reason to Sell: After five years out of the playoffs, the Flames have a long climb back to Stanley Cup contention. The Flames should improve in 2014-15 but are a long way from matching the elite Pacific Division teams like the current champion Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks.
They'll Win the Cup If...Jonas Hiller has a career year and the Flames get a big boost from their young talent. Free-agent signing Hiller is an upgrade over Calgary's 2013-14 tandem of Karri Ramo and Reto Berra. To contend for the Stanley Cup, high-skill prospects like Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett will need to exceed expectations and make an impact the way Sean Monahan did in 2013-14.
Championship Odds: 80-1
Reason to Buy: The NHL's worst defensive team in 2013-14 will be better thanks to a full season from goaltender Ben Scrivens and new blueline additions Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin. With one full year under his belt, Dallas Eakins should be that much closer to seeing results from his coaching methods.
Reason to Sell: It's now been eight years out of the playoffs since the Edmonton Oilers' 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Despite a slew of young talent, the Oilers have yet to gel into a team.
This summer, the revolving door has spun again. Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot have been added on the wings, but after shipping out Sam Gagner, the Oilers are without a proper second-line center unless Leon Draisaitl can step right into the lineup.
They'll Win the Cup If...Scrivens stuns and Draisaitl dazzles. Despite all its lottery picks in recent years, Edmonton has never produced a Calder Trophy winner. If Draisaitl can mimic the fine first-year performance of the Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon in 2013-14, the Oilers could find themselves climbing the standings like the Avalanche did last season.
Championship Odds: 70-1
Reason to Buy: Paul Maurice turned the Winnipeg Jets around during the second half of the 2013-14 NHL season, coaching them to an 18-12-5 record during his 35-game stint. The Jets' young core continues to improve and could take another step next season.
Reason to Sell: Goaltending. Ondrej Pavelec's 3.01 goals-against average and .901 save percentage were his worst performance numbers since the days of the Atlanta Thrashers, per NHL.com. Pavelec's now 26 but has yet to mature into the top-flight goaltender that the Jets need to become a playoff contender.
They'll Win the Cup If...Evander Kane is traded for a Grade-A package. In three years at the helm in Winnipeg, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has declined to move any of his blue-chip pieces, but Kane might never be fully invested in the Jets.
In July, he told TEAM1040 radio in Vancouver, via the Winnipeg Free Press, "You know, we'll see what happens and we'll carry on as if I'm a Winnipeg Jet." With Kane turning 23 with a 30-goal season under his belt, trading such a young power forward could deliver the bounty that the Jets need to take the next step.
Championship Odds: 55-1
Reason to Buy: The Ottawa Senators' young players showed plenty of promise during 2012-13, when the team was ravaged by injury: Captain Jason Spezza played just five regular-season games. With Spezza now departed for the Dallas Stars, the big, talented youngster Alex Chiasson has been added to an already potent mix. David Legwand has been signed as a reliable two-way center.
Reason to Sell: Ottawa finished the 2013-14 season on a high note, but losing Spezza and Ales Hemsky changes the fabric of the forward ranks. Without bringing in high-end offensive players to replace the pair, the Senators have no choice but to hope that their younger players are ready to make bigger contributions.
They'll Win the Cup If...goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner deliver world-class performances. Anderson led all regular NHL goalies in the lockout year with a stunning 1.69 goals-against average, according to NHL.com, but dropped to 44th place and 3.00 in 2013-14.
The Sens put their money on Lehner as their heir apparent when they traded Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2013 trade deadline. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that assistant general manager Pierre Dorion thinks Lehner is a key piece of the goaltending puzzle:
We have two guys who are quality NHL goalies and it worked well at the end of last year. People don’t talk about it, and people might say it the games didn’t mean much, but in the last 10 games of the year we were the best team in the league and we weren’t that far off the playoffs.
Championship Odds: 50-1
Reason to Buy: After a disastrous season in 2013-14, the Vancouver Canucks have completely remade their team. President Trevor Linden, general manager Jim Benning and head coach Willie Desjardins are all new faces. They're tasked with implementing a marked departure from last season's John Tortorella-coached squad.
Reason to Sell: In Tortorella's final Vancouver media address at the end of 2013-14, he questioned the present-day effectiveness of the Canucks' core players. "I felt from Day 1 that it’s stale," he told Jason Botchford of The Province. "That’s not their fault. This is a group that’s been together for a long time. It needs youth. It needs a change."
Ryan Kesler is now out of the mix, but if returning players like the Sedins, Alex Burrows and Alex Edler don't bounce back from their subpar seasons, the Canucks will have another tough year.
They'll Win the Cup If...Ryan Miller lives up to his billing. If the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner can bring his A-game to Vancouver, fans will move on from the abrupt departures of Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. Strong goaltending will be the first step to Vancouver's climb back to respectability.
Championship Odds: 45-1
Toronto Maple Leafs
Reason to Buy: The Toronto Maple Leafs have addressed the team's 2013-14 collapse with plenty of new bodies on the ice and two new brains in the boardroom: president Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Kyle Dubas. As Michael Traikos of the National Post explains, a long-overdue culture shift is underway:
The Leafs have kept their head coach and their captain, but Shanahan has been busy making sure the team that ended the season is different from the one that will begin next season.
Whether it was choosing skill over size at the draft, replacing Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin with a 28-year-old with zero NHL experience or signing more players than the team has roster spots in hopes of creating competition, the culture is being changed.
Reason to Sell: Daniel Winnik. David Booth. Mike Santorelli. Roman Polak. Do these look like game-changers to you?
With limited room to move under the salary cap, according to CapGeek.com, the Leafs have mostly been shopping in the bargain bin for players to fill out their roster. New acquisition Stephane Robidas has been a solid defender over the years but is now 37 and coming off a season where he broke his leg twice, per The Score. His best days could be behind him.
They'll Win the Cup If...Shanny's championship savvy penetrates the team from the top down. The new president is a Hall of Famer with three Stanley Cup rings, an Olympic gold medal and many more accolades to his name, per HHOF.com. He knows how to win. If the Leafs can dial into Shanahan's spirit, they could find themselves back in the playoffs and successfully advancing beyond the first round.
Championship Odds: 40-1
Reason to Buy: General manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien have done well during their two seasons in Montreal. After an impressive regular season in the lockout-shortened 2012-13, the Canadiens took the next step and became playoff contenders in 2013-14, knocking off the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins before falling to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
Reason to Sell: Both captain Brian Gionta and heart-and-soul defenseman Josh Gorges have departed for the Buffalo Sabres, leaving a void in the dressing room. The Canadiens' awkward attempt to trade Gorges to the Toronto Maple Leafs turned into an especially "unpleasant episode," per Arpon Basu of NHL.com, when Gorges refused to waive his no-trade clause. Ongoing contract tension with P.K. Subban continues to be a distraction.
They'll Win the Cup If...the next generation can take over the team's leadership. With Gionta and Gorges gone, this team now belongs to players like Subban, Max Pacioretty and Carey Price. The Canadiens will go as far as their young stars can carry them.
Championship Odds: 20-1