The return of a more conventional NHL season for 2021-22 after the Coronavirus pandemic hit the last two years has been welcomed by all, especially those competing teams from North of the border.
Last season, because of strict cross-border travel restrictions, Canadian teams were all placed in the same division and every team played only against divisional opponents. Now the “North” Division has been disbanded and intra-divisional games are back.
That doesn’t mean everyone has stopped caring about who the best team in Canada is.
When a Canadian team is playing poorly, the other six fan bases will be ready to pile on.
Despite a couple of disappointing starts to the new campaign most of the seven Canadian franchises have started strongly, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs who are flying high in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
In the Western Conference Pacific Division the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are knocking on the door at the top of the standings but the Vancouver Canucks continue to struggle, whilst the Winnipeg Jets are solidly middling in the Central Division.
Back to the Eastern and the less said about Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, the better. Both have had poor starts to the new campaign and are still yet to get into double figures for wins.
Looking forward to the upcoming fixtures perhaps isn’t the wisest thing at the moment with an increase in Covid cases across the North Americas. Canadiens have seen their chance to start picking up a run of wins hit by the postponement of their fixture against Bruins.
Meanwhile, Flames have had to cancel their next three games against the Blue Jackets, the Ducks and the Kraken.
So far providing no more fixtures are lost to the restrictions, Maple Leafs’ assault at the top of their division looks set to continue when they take on the struggling Canucks and Kraken in their next two fixtures. It’s probable that they’ll be picking up two valuable wins ahead of a tougher assignment against the St Louis Blues on 23 December.
The Canadiens will be hoping to start climbing off the foot of the table soon and upcoming matches against New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, both only a couple of places above, will give them the perfect opportunity to do it. But they’ve had such a bad start to the season, losing 21 of their 31 games so far, that the odds will be stacked against them.
Likewise, Senators are in just as bad a position as the Canadiens and it doesn’t look like things will be improving any time soon with upcoming fixtures against the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins and St Louis Blues.
With the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks sitting in the lower-middle of the Western Conference standings it’s difficult to tell how they will fare over the holiday period of games. However the Canucks are on a superb six-game winning streak to lift them up to that position and will be confident of extending their run against the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.
There’s just a small matter of a fixture against the Maple Leafs to overcome first.
Jets, meanwhile, face tough opponents next up in the form of St Louis Blues and Nashville Predators aso could well be switching places with the Canucks.
Edmonton ended a shocking six-match losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets last time out to lift them back into the top half of the division alongside their compatriots Calgary, who are hanging onto third place after four defeats in a row of their own.
With the Flames having an enforced break the Oilers have the perfect chance to leapfrog them as four of their upcoming five fixtures come against teams below them in the Conference standings. Only Anaheim Ducks who are joint-top of the standings could pose a tough test.
Hockey fans on both sides of the border will find the best odds on the expected wins for Maple Leafs and Oilers and likely defeat for Canadiens and Senators at gambling.com – where, if you’re a loyal die-hard fan of the latter two teams, you can also see some competitive odds offered in the win markets – however unlikely that outcome is.
Hockey is one of the most popular sports in Canada to watch, play and bet on. And although the Canadian Hockey Federation is reassessing its laws on single-game and multiple-game betting, things are not expected to change too much.
Whether you’re a die-hard NHL fan or new to hockey sports betting, wagering on NHL odds can be both exciting and challenging. If you want to make the most from your NHL bets it pays to search around for the best provincial sports betting services or by signing up to an online sportsbook.
Whilst enjoyment through watching and betting on the immediate forthcoming NHL rounds could be tempered by the constantly changing pandemic rules and possible further fixture cancellations, that doesn’t stop us enjoying a timehop back into the past.
Here we take a look at the best FIVE Canadian teams in the history of the NHL…
1. 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
Led by the greatest player of all time, the 84-85 Oilers claimed a second straight championship on their way to creating a dynasty. Wayne Gretzky capped a league-high 208-point regular season to go 49-20-11 and rank top of the scoring charts. A 4-1 series win over the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final ended a playoff run which saw just three defeats in total.
Gretzky set NHL playoff records for most assists (30) and points (47) in a single postseason. Coffey’s 12 goals, 25 assists and 37 points all were NHL records for a defenseman. Kurri scored 19 goals, tying the NHL mark for most in one playoff year.
The reason this team is ranked at the top of our list is for the air of confidence and swagger they played with following on from their first success the previous year.
2. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens
This Canadiens team really pushed the 84-85 Oilers close in this list. They had an excellent regular season going 60-8-12 with 132 points scored – no team in an 80-game regular season has lost less. They were led by Yvan Cournoyer and even though he didn’t play in the playoffs the Canadiens went on to sweep the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals with a playoff record of 12-2.
In an incredible season, a mark as to why they could be considered joint-best with the above Oilers team, the Canadiens lost just one of their 40 home games, scored an NHL-high 387 and conceded an NHL-low 171, featured 11 future Hockey Hall of Famers – and recorded a 132-points total which remains a record over 40 years later
3. 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers
The start of the dynasty – the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Oilers defeat the Islanders in five games for their first ever Stanley Cup title, beginning that spanned almost a decade. that won four straight championships and 19 consecutive se
This team was the first team with three 50-goal scorers: Gretzky (87), linemate Kurri (52) and Glenn Anderson (54). Gretzky led the team to one of the best-ever seasons, scoring 205 points (way ahead of anybody else).
With a 57-18-5 record and the most points in the history of the NHL, the young, brash and ultra-talented Oilers went on to beat the New York Islanders to win the Stanley Cup and begin a dynasty that spanned almost a decade long.
4. 1987-88 Edmonton Oilers
No team ever scored goals like the 80’s Oilers, but the 1987-88 edition revealed new dimensions. While still filling the net, the Oilers adopted a more rugged attitude and showed, as champions often do, that they could win playing any style.
This was the first season since 1980-81 that the team not only finished off the top spot in the Smythe Division (second behind Calgary Flames), but also failed to reach 100 points and failed to top the scoring chart. It was all down to the injury that led to Gretzky only featuring in 64 games.
Even so, Edmonton dominated the postseason and cruised to their fourth title in five years thanks to a 16-2 playoff record. They put out the Flames in the Smythe Division Final and then overcame Boston Bruins, the third-best defensive team in the NHL, in the Cup Final to cement their greatness once again.
5. 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens
The second Montreal Canadiens team to make our list is their squad from the 1977-78 season. They were led by hall of fame coach Scotty Bowman to a 59-10-11 season and were the best team on both ends of the ice.
The Canadiens ruled the roost in the late 1970’s, winning four consecutive titles and this was the third of them – scoring a league-high 359 goals and conceding just 183, they eased to victory over six games with Boston Bruins, whom they had beaten to the crown the year before.
This 77-78 edition was as good as any of the four in the dynasty and fifteen players dressed for all four teams – meaning all of their opponents pretty much knew they were beaten by a perfect blend of superstars and role players on one of the greatest teams ever.
So there we have it – five teams from two of Canada’s franchises that are held in the highest regard in NHL folklore. It could be quite some time before another team from North of the border joins them in the annals of history.