If there’s something that might be able to unify the majority of the population in Canada, it’s a desire for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. Could that team be the Edmonton Oilers? With the latest win streak under new head coach Jay Woodcroft, Oilers fans once again are entertaining thoughts of the playoffs and a potential Stanley Cup run. This just might be the year that the team with two of the best players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl break through and win it all. But what’s realistic and where do the Oilers rank in terms of Canadian teams who have a legitimate shot of winning the Stanley Cup?
Flames, Leafs and Oilers All Playing Solid Hockey at Midseason Point
When you look at where Canadian teams rank in their chances to win the Stanley Cup, the latest odds from sports betting sites have the Toronto Maple Leafs ranked highest for Canadian teams, followed by the Calgary Flames and then the Edmonton Oilers. In terms of overall points in the NHL Standings, the Leafs and Flames both rank in the top ten overall while the Oilers are knocking on the door in 15th place.
With the Oilers enjoying a turnaround under Woodcroft, this might be the year they go far in the postseason. When you have McDavid and Draisaitl on your team, you have to believe they have that magic that other teams wish they possessed. Two superstars can’t win it all on their own, and though the Oilers as a team are getting better, questions still remain as to whether they have what it takes to break through and reach the potential so many believe they possess.
How Do the Oilers Stack Up Against the Leafs?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment. They are riding the talents of Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner and Jack Campbell. Matthews currently sits in the top ten in the NHL points race and third place overall for goals. He looks destined for a 50-goal campaign this season. Campbell is also having a good season and is currently among the top ten goalies in the league for wins and save percentage.
As it sits right now, the Maple Leafs seem years ahead of the Oilers in terms of a realistic chance of advancing far into the playoffs. We’ve been down this road before with them as they show great regular season promise only to tank in the postseason. You could say the same thing about the Oilers, but with the coaching change and the Oilers looking stronger with each passing game, they look like they’re starting to build something positive at the right time in the season. Their one advantage over the Leafs might be that they are truly battle-tested after enduring a challenging 2021-22 season.
How Do the Oilers Rank Versus the Calgary Flames?
The Flames’ recent acquisition of forward Tyler Toffoli seems to have solidified an already strong roster and they look poised to make a long run in the playoffs. They are built for Darryl Sutter-playoff hockey with an emphasis on defence, grit, timely scoring and solid goaltending. Under his guidance as head coach, players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are enjoying big years offensively. Meanwhile, goaltender Jacob Markstrom has rebounded from a subpar 2020-21 season, and is again among the top goalies in the NHL this season in terms of wins, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). He also leads the league in shutouts with eight at the midway point of the season.
Much to the chagrin of Oilers fans, the arrows are pointing up for the Flames. Way up. Though if there were to be a Battle of Alberta in the playoffs this season, you just never know. So far, the Oilers have held the advantage with two wins over their southern Alberta counterparts this season, but that can only take you so far once the playoffs start. With strong offensive skills on both teams, it could come down to goaltending. If Oilers goaltender Mike Smith can avoid injury and turn back the clock similar to Tom Brady in the National Football League (NFL), then they have a realistic shot. In fact, for as good as Markstrom has played in the regular season he is still unproven in the postseason which could give them the advantage should the Alberta teams meet up in the playoffs.
You have to hope that the Oilers and Flames face off against each other this postseason. Renewing the hostilities in the Battle of Alberta would be great not only for hockey fans in Alberta but for fans across Canada.
Are Zach Hyman and Evander Kane Enough To Turn the Tide for the Oilers?
The Oilers are playing solid, disciplined hockey under new head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson and it appears that the firing of Dave Tippett might have been just what the team needed to save the season. While McDavid and Draistail continue their scoring dominance, wingers Zach Hyman and Evander Kane have brought some much-needed toughness and grit to go along with their scoring talents.
Both players bring dimensions and an edge that the Oilers have clearly lacked in the past few seasons. They have bolstered an already strong forward group, but they may need to shore up the defensive side of the roster and goaltending by the March 21st NHL Trade Deadline. One of the positives of the recent injury to veteran defenceman Duncan Keith is the emergence of Markus Niemeläinen on the blue line. His physical play and presence have likely earned the kid a permanent spot in Edmonton.
Oilers Fans Are Starting to Believe
Oilers fans are not only hoping the team makes the postseason but can get on a run that could carry them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Montreal Canadiens made it all the way there last season, so why couldn’t the Oilers do the same? Bringing a Stanley Cup back to Canada would provide a positive boost to a country that has endured so many challenges over the past couple of years. If they don’t have what it takes, the Leafs or Flames might prove to be the teams that could win it all. If the Oilers falter, would their fans still cheer for a Canadian team like the Leafs or Flames to win the Stanley Cup? I think this year I might, especially after everything our country has endured recently.
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D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.