Canada's Stanley Cup drought reached 30 years even after last season saw none of their seven franchises made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since 2011, these have been the seven Canadian teams in the NHL: the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Montréal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Winnipeg Jets. Only the Jets (both versions) have never been to the Final, and out of the six who have been there, only the Canucks and Senators haven't won the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens' 24th Stanley Cup Championship in 1993 is not only the team's most recent Cup, it's Canada's most recent Cup overall. Since then, Canada has been represented in the Cup Final only five times; the last time in 2021 (also the Canadiens). A Canadian team has been part of the NHL's Final Four on a number of occasions, the last time in 2022 (Oilers). And part of that curse also includes 2016, the year where none of Canada's teams reached the playoffs.
The All-Star Break is here, and it's been an interesting year for the NHL overall, especially for Canada's teams. Well, some of them. Here's how all seven teams stand entering the break, from worst to best:
Ottawa Senators (28th - 20-25-2; 42 pts)
Oh, poor Ottawa Senators. I do mean this. This is Year Seven. Year Seven since the Senators' crazy run to double overtime in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final. It was early in that 2017-18 season that the famous Matt Duchene trade was made involving the Colorado Avalanche and the Nashville Predators, and the result: Preds remained a playoff contender, Avalanche became a playoff contender and went on to win the Cup, but the Sens? Oh man. That trade really did destroy the Sens. It truly did. I honestly expected this season to see some improvements for Ottawa, but no matter what they've don in the last three seasons, nothing is working.
So it looks like it'll be another failed year for the Senators. I don't know how long it'll be until they end their current drought, but it has to end eventually. As it stands now, the Senators are 16 points behind the playoff line, and they are tied for the lowest point total in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Montréal Canadiens (26th - 20-21-8; 48 points)
For the Montréal Canadiens, it's a bit different. They are in their third season removed from their magical run during both COVID-affected seasons. We all remember those years. 2020 saw the Canadiens barely--and I mean, barely--qualify for the 24-team playoffs, yet they (as a #12 seed) actually upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifying Round. Now they ended up losing in Round 1, but the following year was the kicker there. They were clearly the worst overall team in the playoffs, yet they found lightning in the bottle; turning a 3-1 series deficit into an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, they haven't come close to that season, but that's mainly because Carey Price's career is done, and they've torn it all down right after. Even so, this year has seen some positive flashes, but I don't know if that will turn into something good. The Canadiens are 10 points out of a playoff spot, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it is. If they want to make a run for it, they'll have to get hot fast after the break.
Calgary Flames (24th - 22-22-5; 49 points)
While the Senators and Canadiens' falls from grace had some caveats, the same can't be said for the Calgary Flames. Plain and simple, the Flames went from sugar to shit in only one season. Remember when this team finished first in the Pacific Division? That was two seasons ago. Yet similar to the 2018-19 season, they blew it. The following season (last season) saw them lose Johnny Gaudreau to free agency, allow the Florida Panthers to take Matthew Tkachuk from them (and reach the Cup Final to boot) and only leave them with some magic beans, and the Flames were nice enough to pay Nazem Kadri's Cup tax for the Colorado Avalanche.
The result saw a season that ended with no playoffs for the Flames, and this year looks like more of the same. They're five points behind the Western Conference's playoff line, but they are 10 points behind the Pacific Division's playoff line. Now, both deficits are manageable, but from the looks of it, the Flames appear to be waving the white flag, as they just recently traded Elias Lindholm to the Canucks.
Toronto Maple Leafs (12th - 25-14-8; 58 pts)
Oh boy. You know, it's never a dull moment for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Heartbreaking, chaotic, nerve-wracking, yes, but never dull. This whole year has been about the good, the bad, and the ugly for the Leafs. The good, of course, is Auston Matthews getting 40 goals before the break. The bad has been the goaltending, and the ugly has been the blown leads. The Leafs are coming off getting a huge monkey off their backs. They won a playoff series for the first time in 19 years. That's big. So for this type of season to happen to them after that high? That's devastating.
The Leafs are above the playoff line per usual, but they enter the break in the Wild Card standings. Again, not good. They are tied with the Detroit Red Wings in points, but the games in hand place Toronto in the #1 Wild Card position, one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the standings. They need to get back on track if they want to get better positioning; otherwise, they'll have to deal with a heavyweight contender in the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers (10th - 29-15-1; 59 pts)
Remember when the Edmonton Oilers were tied with the worst record in the league? We all had a good laugh, didn't we? Flames fans laughed at them. Leafs fans laughed at them. Avalanche fans have been laughing at them since 2022. I was definitely among the Avs fans who was laughing at the Oilers and their fans, and I actually laughed more when they fired Jay Woodcroft as head coach. Apparently, the Oilers heard that laughter and took it personally. What did they do? Oh nothing. Just enter the break winning sixteen straight games. That's all. It's only one short of the NHL record. No big deal.
Here's the thing. I make fun of the Oilers and their fans, but come on, they know what's at stake. They went backwards last year, and then they had that terrible start this year? Yeah, they went into emergency mode and kicked ass since then. Again, they know what's at stake. It's Year Nine with Connor McDavid. Other superstars have won already. He had to watch Nathan MacKinnon get there at his expense. McDavid is pissed! The Oilers are dangerous right now. Time will tell if all of that anger leads to something.
Winnipeg Jets (6th - 30-12-5; 65 pts)
It's amazing what the Winnipeg Jets have done this season, and the crazy thing: most of it has been without their star scorer, Kyle Connor. The Jets have quite the franchise history, they're actually Jets 2.0; originally debuting as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999 and playing 11 seasons before moving to Winnipeg. Here's the thing: neither incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets has reached the Stanley Cup Final. Regarding Jets 2.0, they last reached the Final Four in 2018, and they've been chomping at the bit for another long playoff run.
The Jets had been leading the Central Division for the last few weeks, but a few losses at the wrong time have resulted in the Jets dropping to third place entering the break. Even so, they are 11 points ahead of fourth place Nashville at this point, so it looks like the Jets will be in a good position for the rest of the regular season.
Vancouver Canucks (1st - 33-11-5; 71 pts)
I have thoroughly enjoyed what the Vancouver Canucks have done this season. It's been amazing. Now, to be honest, while this run has been hot for the Canucks, I figured that they would just keep in pace with the Vegas Golden Knights. Instead, not only have the Canucks surpassed the defending champs in the Pacific Division standings, they entered the break as the overall #1 team in the entire National Hockey League.
Now does this mean a Cup is inevitable? History says no. However, one thing is certain: the Canucks mean big business. They are not to be overlooked. Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, and now, Elias Lindholm. Good grief, this team is dangerous. They were dangerous before Lindholm. Now they're lethal.
So that's the picture; the seven Canadian teams and where they stand entering the All-Star Break. The road to ending their Cup drought continues, and it's been interesting this year. Four of the seven teams are above the playoff line, and it could increase or decrease by the time the season ends.