Which Team Will End The Canadian Cup Drought?

Montreal has won 24 Stanley Cups, while the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13.
Montreal has won 24 Stanley Cups, while the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13. | Source

22 Years and Counting...

The birthplace of hockey has not seen a Stanley Cup win since 1993. In that year, the Montreal Canadiens outclassed a Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings team four games to one. The following year, the Vancouver Canucks had a chance to reach the summit for the first time, but a mighty New York Ranger team beat them in seven games. After that, Canada had four chances to win one (Calgary 2004, Edmonton 2006, Ottawa 2007, 2011), but to no avail.

The Stanley Cup has been a part of Canada's collective heartbeat since it was first awarded in 1893. North of the border, he sport of hockey is life. So, the question today: Out of the seven Canadian-based teams in the NHL right now, which one will snap the Canadian Stanley Cup drought first?

Canada's last Stanley Cup - 1993 Montreal Canadiens

#7 - Edmonton Oilers

Jordan Eberle (#22 overall, 2008) Taylor Hall (#1, 2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (#1, 2011), Oscar Klefbom (#19, 2011), Nail Yakupov (#1, 2012), Darnell Nurse (#7, 2013), and Leon Draisaitl (#3, 2014) are the nucleus of the team. All of them are supremely talented players. But, success has yet to find the Oilers. They ended this past regular season with the third worst record in the NHL. They gave up a league worst 283 goals during the year.

Recently, a rumor surfaced that the Oilers may be willing to trade their 16th overall pick to the New York Rangers to acquire goaltender Cam Talbot, who had the fourth best save percentage in the NHL despite being the team's backup. If they are able to acquire a goaltender, that's only half of the battle. Edmonton will need to shore up their defense and build it around captain Andrew Ference. Also, the Oilers had the fifth fewest goals scored in the league, so scoring depth is a problem.

Jordan Eberle led the Oilers with 63 points and six power play goals this season.
Jordan Eberle led the Oilers with 63 points and six power play goals this season. | Source

They have three defenseman in their system that could make it to the lineup at some point, but the Oilers lack forward depth in their system. Trades aside, because of their lack of system depth, their trouble scoring goals, the lack of a true #1 goalie (for now), and an ineffective defense, the Oilers are the furthest from winning a Stanley Cup anytime soon. There is hope though with a new GM in former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and a new head coach in Todd McLellan. A change in culture could potentially draw something out of the talent there, but it will take time.

Edmonton's Last Cup Win - 1990

#6 - Winnipeg Jets

When it comes to their roster, there are two storylines with the Jets. First, Winnipeg could start a new game show called "Who Isn't A Free Agent?" The Jets are faced with several UFA's and RFA's this offseason.

Forwards Michael Frolik, Drew Stafford, Jim Slater, Jiri Tlusty, Lee Stempniak, and Matt Halischuk will all be UFA's on July 1st unless they are signed beforehand. Also, you must factor in for the fact forward Andrew Ladd and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will be UFA's next offseason, while Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry will be RFA's.

Corsi/Fenwick Percentage Rankings - Regular Season

Team
Corsi For Percentage
Fenwick For Percentage
5 on 5 Shooting Percentage
Corsi For Percentage Close
Calgary
28th
28th
2nd
28th
Edmonton
24th
24th
27th
24th
Montreal
23rd
21st
14th
15th
Ottawa
18th
22nd
11th
20th
Toronto
27th
27th
19th
27th
Vancouver
19th
18th
16th
18th
Winnipeg
8th
11th
13th
5th
For a detailed explanation on these ratings/percentages, go to: http://www.nhl.com/stats/enhanced
Ondrej Pavalec and the Winnipeg Jets fought hard to make this year's playoffs, but lost in a first round sweep by the Anaheim Ducks.
Ondrej Pavalec and the Winnipeg Jets fought hard to make this year's playoffs, but lost in a first round sweep by the Anaheim Ducks. | Source

The second story line is their prospect base. Forwards Joel Armia, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Nicolas Petan give the Jets some up and coming forwards that could see NHL time soon. You can also add defensemen Josh Morrissey and recently signed Chase De Leo to that list. Unfortunately, Winnipeg lacks depth beyond those players and this could prove problematic for them in the coming years.

Still, Winnipeg was one of the best scoring teams at even strength. They were in the middle of the pack for most offensive categories, while they were in the upper half defensively. It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with the $20 million plus cap space that they will have this offseason.

Winnipeg could use a couple snipers to help out with scoring in general, especially on the power play. If Winnipeg could find a solid goalie in the upcoming draft, they shouldn't hesitate to draft them. The Jets' system lacks depth at that position. Winnipeg will need a number of pieces before they can truly contend for a Cup.

Toronto's Phil Kessel could be on the way out.  He lead the team with 61 points, but was a -34 this past season.
Toronto's Phil Kessel could be on the way out. He lead the team with 61 points, but was a -34 this past season. | Source

#5 - Toronto Maple Leafs

To say the Maple Leafs had a lackluster year would be an understatement. Overall, they were 27th in the league with a record of 30-44-8. Toronto was 24th in goals per game and an even lower 26th in goals against per game. The Leafs were also the second worst team in the NHL in shots against per game. Their power play ranked 26th, while their penalty kill was 22nd. In addition, Toronto was 24th in save percentage while at even strength. The Leafs' top line of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Tyler Bozak had a combined -101 plus-minus for the season. Toronto's top four defensemen were just as bad with a -72 plus-minus.

Team president Brendan Shanahan wants to lean towards drafting and prospect development to fix the team's issues. Recent reports have stated the Leafs are looking to deal forward Phil Kessel before the upcoming draft, but that will not be easy. A number of teams are right up against the cap and will probably be looking to dump some salary themselves.

Toronto's Last Cup Win - 1967

Also, Kessel has a limited no-trade clause. Toronto can only deal him to any of eight chosen teams. The 27-year-old is an $8 million cap hit, one of the highest in the league. One other item of note about Kessel contract - he doesn't become an unrestricted free agent until 2022.

Captain Dion Phaneuf and his $7 million cap hit may need to be moved as well. Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul only scored 10 goals and 21 points despite being an over $5 million cap hit. The Maple Leafs will have to figure out their goaltending situation as well. Jonathan Bernier is a restricted free agent this offseason. James Reimer will be unrestricted next offseason.

Toronto does have a tremendous talent in William Nylander, son of former NHLer Michael. His playmaking ability makes him the most important prospect in their system. Some of their prospects including Nylander, defenseman Stuart Percy, and recently signed Andreas Johnson will have to work on their strength before hitting the ice in the NHL.

Also, as far as the Leafs' prospects, there's a lot of potential third and fourth line help on the way, but outside of Nylander, they lack any high-end scoring talent in their system. Then again, that could change depending on whether they trade Kessel and/or Phaneuf and what the return for them is.

Shanahan is taking the reins big time. His first true move was to fire head coach Peter Horachek and GM Dave Nonis and hire celebrated head coach Mike Babcock away from the Detroit Red Wings. He's already a proven, having coached the Red Wings to a Cup in 2008, but if Babcock leads the Leafs to one, he will be legendary.

Vancouver's last Stanley Cup Final appearance - 2011

#4 - Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are led by the Sedin brothers, who both had solid 70+ point seasons. Forward Radim Vrbata had 31 goals this season. In fact, Vancouver was ranked 7th in goals for, 2nd in penalty killing, and 9th in power play percentage.

But, the team was ranked 22nd in goals against, 22nd in even strength goals for/against ratio, and 29th in faceoff win percentage. The Canucks were good enough to have the eighth best record in the regular season, but they were ousted by Calgary in six games in the first round.

After next season, Vrbata - the team's leading goal scorer - will be an unrestricted free agent. Joining him will be defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, both of whom were even on plus-minus for the season. The team will have to decide whether to keep Eddie Lack (UFA after next season) or Jacob Markstrom (RFA this year) to backup Ryan Miller in the net.

Canada Dry

Which team will end Canada's Stanley Cup drought?

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Alex Edler led the Vancouver Canucks with a +13 rating this season.
Alex Edler led the Vancouver Canucks with a +13 rating this season. | Source

Vancouver could come up with a package deal to shore up the defense. Vancouver's top six defensemen was a +17 this season, but Hamhuis and Bieksa were even and Luca Sbisa was a -8.

They will also need a center who is good at winning faceoffs. Center Bo Horvat is the only Canucks center with a faceoff percentage above 50%. If Vancouver is going to win a Stanley Cup, they will also need a top 3 forward with tons of goal scoring acumen.

Using Corsi and Fenwick stats, Vancouver is in the bottom half of the league. In their system, the Canucks have depth at center with Cole Cassels and Jared McCann. Adam Clendening also shows a lot of promise on the blueline. But, despite their regular season, the Canucks are missing a few pieces that could put the long suffering fans of the franchise at ease. This will take time.

#3 - Ottawa Senators

Ottawa's push to the playoffs was an awesome sight to see, but it seemed the team ran out of gas in the first round against Montreal. Still, things are looking up for the Senators, who were ninth in the league in goals per game and 13th in goals against.

The Sens were 10th in the league in even strength goal scoring ratio (for/against). They struggled to 22nd in the league on the power play, just over Montreal. Their penalty kill was 11th in the NHL this season.

The success of goalie Andrew Hammond means Ottawa will likely have to find a new home for either netminder Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. Getting rid of Anderson's $4.2 million cap hit would help them sign their five restricted free agents and UFA Erik Condra.

Next offseason should be interesting as defensemen Chris Phillips and Eric Gryba will both be UFA's along with forwards David Legwand and Chris Neil. There's a chance that Legwand (34 years old) and Neil (36) could be out of Ottawa by then, especially since next offseason will see defensemen Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Ceci both as RFA's.

Ottawa does have a few prospects that are close to being ready for the NHL. Defenseman Fredrik Claesson was just signed to a one year, two-way contract. Forwards Nicholas Paul and Cole Schneider could make an impact on the Sens roster in the coming years.

Meanwhile, forward Mark Stone had a strong rookie year with Ottawa, so did center Mike Zibanejad. In fact, Stone led all Sens forwards in plus/minus (+21). In second place was forward Mike Hoffman, who had a +16 in his first full season in the NHL. Ottawa will need to solidify their defense, perhaps by getting a better puck moving defenseman who can quarterback their second power play unit and a very solid defensive defenseman who can help improve the penalty kill.

Johnny Gaudreau, otherwise known as Johnny Hockey, was 3rd in assists and 2nd in points during the regular season for the Flames.  He was their leading scorer in this year's playoff run.
Johnny Gaudreau, otherwise known as Johnny Hockey, was 3rd in assists and 2nd in points during the regular season for the Flames. He was their leading scorer in this year's playoff run. | Source

#2 - Calgary Flames

The Flames had an impressive showing in the playoffs. They were especially impressive against the Anaheim Ducks, despite losing in the series. Youngsters like Johnny Gaudreau (4 goals, 5 assists in 11 games) and Sean Monahan (3 goals, 3 assists in 11 games) showed the entire league that Calgary will never be an easy draw in the playoffs.

Then, throw in Sam Bennett, who will still technically be a rookie next year (didn't play enough regular season games to be a rookie this year). Bennett had three goals in the playoffs as well. Markus Granlund played over half the season and saw a good bit of ice time.

They also have up and coming talent such as center Bill Around, defenseman Patrick Sieloff, defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon, forward Emile Poirier, and forward Morgan Klimchuk. With depth on the parent club and more depth in behind them, Calgary is going to be good for a while. Goaltender Jonas Hiller will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, while Karri Ramo could be looking for a new team when he becomes a UFA on July 1st of this year.

Southern Comfort

Similar to Winnipeg, the Calgary Flames have a number of RFA's this offseason and next. Also, Jiri Hudler and David Jones will both be unrestricted next offseason. In all honesty, this is a team that could use the services of a Kessel or a Lucic.

But, if they are going to compete for a Cup, they're going to have to make sure they make room in the cap to get Gaudreau, Monahan, Joe Colborne, and Granlund signed. All four rising stars will be restricted free agents next year.

Carey Price had an incredible year for the Montreal Canadiens. He was 44-16-6 with 9 shutouts, a 1.96 GAA, and .933 save percentage.
Carey Price had an incredible year for the Montreal Canadiens. He was 44-16-6 with 9 shutouts, a 1.96 GAA, and .933 save percentage. | Source

#1 - Montreal Canadiens

Montreal looks like a team that's a couple of pieces away from lifting a Cup. You don't have to worry about the net here. Carey Price will likely win the Vezina Trophy this year and could easily contend for it again next season.

Thanks to Price and a solid top four defense corps, Montreal lead the league in goals against per game (2.24). The trade deadline deal for defenseman Jeff Petry was an important one. With a training camp and preseason coming with his new team, the defense corps will get a chance to gel even better.

Unlike Toronto, the Canadiens' first line had a combined plus-minus of +64. This is a fairly deep team, but they will need a stronger sixth defenseman for depth and a true twine-finding sniper to add scoring depth.

A couple years old, but you'll get the point

Despite having one of the top five records in the regular season (50-22-10), they were a measly 20th in goals per game. In addition, Montreal was 23rd in power play percentage in the league this season. The difficulty on the power play was one of the things that did them in during this year's playoffs.

Although the Canadiens need more depth at center in their prospect pool, they are otherwise strong elsewhere. Defensemen Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn have both already seen some time with the parent club, but they will need more development time. Forwards such as Mike McCarron, Sven Andrighetto, Christian Thomas, Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen give this organization some offensive talent in the coming years.

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