Thanks to Ottawa returning to the ice, all the teams north of the border are now at least 20 games into the 2021-22 season. It’s been clear for a while now that there’s a real have and have not’s divide developing amongst the seven teams, you can argue one of any three could be number one as easily as one of any other three can be in the basement. But it’s always fun to make lists and ranks so let’s get started from the top.
1. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have started the season fantastically and even if you weren’t paying attention, you probably know the architects at hand. In 20 games, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for 76 points, and solid contributions from the supporting cast of Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman and Puljujarvi make Edmonton one of the most dangerous teams in the league and the top scorers in
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
Remember that time the Leafs lost 7-1 to the Penguins and a fan threw their jerseys on the ice after losing to the Sharks? Now the Leafs are the form team of the league. They’ve shot up to first in the Atlantic leapfrogging two strong Florida teams in the Lightning and Panthers. The usual suspects Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares are all scoring, but it’s the Toronto defence and goaltending that’s been the story with Jack Campbell in goal firmly establishing himself as one of the best in Hockey.
3. Calgary Flames
If you told me the Flames would be in this position, have seven shut-outs and Andrew Mangiapane would be their top scorer when the season started… I’d tell you to stop getting rookie mode NHL22 mistaken with real life. Daryl Suttor’s men have been a defensive machine this season being amongst the elite teams in goals conceded. Mangiapane, Lindholm, Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk have all been chipping in with the points and if Sean Monahan can also turn it on then there’s no telling what the ceiling is for this side.
4. Winnipeg Jets
And now we drop down a few pegs. Winnipeg takes the fourth spot on the merit of simply not being as bad as the bottom three but they need to tread carefully. The Jets have shown inconsistent form and in a tough central division, they need all the points they can get with the Avalanche, Wild and Blues around them. Blake Wheeler has made a disappointing start to the season and his struggles epitomize a team that has been shut out three times in November including a 1-0 defeat to the lowly Coyote’s. They’ll need to find their scoring instincts again soon to be in the running come April.
5. Montreal Canadiens
It was really a coin toss between the Habs and the Canucks for this position and I’m giving the Canadiens the slight edge for two reasons. They’re being proactive, and ownership has pulled the trigger firing long-term GM Marc Bergevin, assistant GM Trevor Timmins and senior vice president Paul Wilson. It’s been a disastrous season so far in Montreal and the Molsons are showing they aren’t willing to wait around and do nothing. (See the team below as an example of what NOT to do). Carey Price will also be coming back in the near future, while Jake Allen has been good, the presence of the Habs long-term goaltender and heart of the team can hopefully give a boost to a team that has looked lost.
6. Vancouver Canucks
Oooooh boy. Disappointment in this team is an understatement, on paper this team should be much better than they are. They started off okay, but they just haven’t recovered from an astonishingly bad seven-game homestand that saw them go 2-4-1 and followed it up with conceding 23 goals in four games. Elias Petterson has been the invisible man this season and Brock Boeser is his partner in crime with just nine points all season. It would grim to imagine what this team would be like without Thatcher Demko who has single handily won them a lot of games this season. Owner Francisco Aquilani has yet to pull the trigger on either head coach Travis Green or GM Jim Benning, surely it has to be a matter of time before someone is a casualty of this season? The Canucks look set to miss the playoffs for the sixth in seven seasons and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Canucks be a selling team as we get closer to the trade deadline. Also, the less said about the special teams the better.
7. Ottawa Senators
While for sure I didn’t expect them to be contenders or anything, I had hoped for this young Sens to take the next step after fishing last season in good form and there was optimism that the rebuild erw was over. It hasn’t however gone according to plan in the capital however as the Sens have won the least amount of games all season of any of the 32 teams in the league and are on a downward slide with their form. Matt Murray has been a huge disappointment for Ottawa, and his being released this week brings an end to an underwhelming signing. Ottawa’s season can hopefully only get better, but all else fails, at the very least there’s always the chance at Shane Wright in the draft lottery next year.