The 2021 NHL season will be unlike anything we’ve seen before, with four divisions and teams only playing divisional opponents. In the mid-to-late 1980s, the NHL had four divisions and teams played divisional rivals eight times, but that was only 40% of their total games played.
This season, 100% of every team’s games will be within their division. It is difficult to predict how the season will go because there are so many new factors, but I wanted to try. So let’s look at the Canadian division.
We can look at last season as a good starting point. Most teams will return 75-80% of the same rosters, but Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa have made some significant changes.
Let’s begin by looking at how the seven Canadian teams ranked across the NHL in various categories ranging from points%, goals for, goals against, 5×5 goals for, 5×5 goals against, power plays and penalty kills. (Ranked 1st-10th in blue and 21st-31st rankings in red.)
|Team||Points %||GF/G||GA/G||5×5 GF/G||5×5 GA/G||PP||PK|
|Edmonton||12th (.585%)||15th (3.14)||15th (3.03)||17th (2.03)||26th (2.16)||1st (29.5%)||2nd (84.4%)|
|Toronto||13th (.579)||3rd (3.39)||26th (3.17)||2nd (2.30)||27th (2.22)||6th (23.1)||21st (77.7)|
|Vancouver||16th (.565)||8th (3.25)||21st (3.10)||13th (2.08)||24th (2.13)||4th (24.4)||16th (80.5)|
|Calgary||18th (.564)||20th (2.91)||16th (3.06)||21st (1.87)||21st (2.08)||12th (21.2)||8th (82.1)|
|Winnipeg||20th (.563)||17th (3.00)||10th (2.83)||19th (1.95)||12th (1.98)||15th (20.5)||22nd (77.6)|
|Montreal||24th (.500)||19th (2.93)||19th (3.10)||14th (2.07)||16th (2.00)||22nd (17.7)||19th (78.7)|
|Ottawa||30th (.437)||25th (2.68)||30th (3.35)||24th (1.80)||29th (2.25)||31st (14.2)||28th (76.1)|
Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg were very close in P%. A total of five points separated them when the regular season stopped, with Edmonton at 83 and Vancouver at 78, but Edmonton had played two more games.
The Jets were the only team in the top half of the NHL in 5×5 goals against, which is impressive considering they lost Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers from the previous year. Connor Hellebuyck earned his Vezina trophy.
Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary were all 21st or lower in 5×5 GA. If that trend continues the Canadian division could be the highest scoring division in the NHL this season. Sign me up. I love offence.
There was significant movement on the Canadian teams rosters, and we have to factor those changes in when looking at projections for next season.
In: Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun, Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyson Barrie. Also Tyler Ennis, Kailer Yamamoto and Caleb Jones will start season in Edmonton. They weren’t with team to start last season.
Out: Oscar Klefbom (injured), Andreas Athanasiou, Matt Benning and Riley Sheahan.
Edmonton improved their depth scoring. Barrie and Jones are in on blue line and Klefbom and Benning are out.
In: Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd, TJ Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Mikko Lehtonen. Also Jake Muzzin, Jack Campbell and Nick Robertson will start the season in Toronto.
Out: Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Freddie Gauthier, Kyle Clifford, Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie and Martin Marincin (don’t see him in top-seven D).
Toronto made lots of changes, but kept their best players and added veterans who are either grittier or better defensively. They improved the overall makeup of their team.
In: Nate Schmidt, Jack Rathbone and Braden Holtby.
Out: Josh Leivo, Chris Tanev, Troy Stetcher, Oscar Fantenberg and Jacob Markstrom. Also Tyler Toffoli, who was added at trade deadline and played well in playoffs signed in Montreal. Michael Ferland also likely out due to concussion.
I really like the Schmidt addition, but overall I don’t see how they have improved. Their improvement will have to come from Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
In: Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom, Dominik Simon, Chris Tanev, Juuso Valimaki (returns from injury), Nikita Nesterov and Jacob Markstrom.
Out: Tobias Rieder, Alan Quine, Zac Rinaldo, Mark Jankowski, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Cam Talbot. Also trade deadline acquisitions; Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort are out.
The Flames significantly changed their blue line and goaltending. Hamonic and Brodie played 21 and 20 minutes/game respectively last season. Rasmus Andersson is ready to play more, while Tanev and Valamaki will bolster their blue line as well. Markstrom is a big upgrade in goal and I see the Flames as a playoff team for sure.
In: Paul Stastny and Derek Forbort. Also Dylan Demelo starts the season with them after being acquired at the deadline.
Out: Logan Shaw, Gabriel Bourque, Dmitri Kulikov and Anthony Bitetto. Cody Eakin was acquired at trade deadline, but won’t return.
Stastny is their big acquisition as they looked for a second line centre. The most interesting move they made was adding Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. He is the father of third line centre Adam Lowry. Many players didn’t like the move. Not because Lowry isn’t a good coach, or that the younger Lowry isn’t established as a player, but because it changes the dynamics of the room. Players sometimes need to vent about an assistant coach, and can they vent about Lowry around his son? I’ve had many current and former players tell me they don’t understand the decision. Especially if Lowry won’t be on the bench, but will be the eye in the sky. Why not just hire someone else? I’m curious how it plays out.
In: Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson, Alexander Romanov and Jake Allen.
Out: Max Domi and Dale Weise. Xavier Ouellet and Cale Fleury are still in organization, but are pushed down the D depth chart.
The Habs acquired Allen to reduce Carey Price’s playing time, and he’s a better option than Charlie Lindgren, Keith Kinkaid and Cayden Primeau, who all played games last season. Anderson gives them a power forward, while Toffoli is a solid player. They’ve improved, but they will start the season with two young centres in Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi as two of their their top-three centres. Are they ready to battle the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Mark Schiefele, Paul Stasny, Sean Monahon and Mikael Backlund every night? The Habs centres are the weakest among the top six teams.
In: Evgeni Dadonov, Alex Galchenyuk, Auston Watson, Erik Gudbranson, Josh Brown, Christian Wolanin and Matt Murray.
Out: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Duclair, Bobby Ryan, Tyler Ennis, Vlad Namestnikov, Ron Hainsey, Mark Borowiecki, Dylan Demelo and Craig Anderson.
The Senators made a lot of moves, but how much better are they? Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot are their best young players, but they need much more than seven goals from Colin White as he enters the second year of his $4.75 AAV six-year contract. They could improve, but I don’t see them competing for a playoff spot.
With so many new faces on each team, and an increase in how much they play each other, I’m not sure how relevant it is, if at all, how the Oilers fared against these teams last season. But here’s a quick look.
|Calgary||1-2-1||15-15||12-13||144-118||2 for 10||1 on 6|
|Vancouver||2-2||10-13||7-9||109-131||3 for 9||2 on 11|
|Montreal||2-0||8-5||5-3||52-63||2 for 7||1 on 3|
|Toronto||1-1||7-8||4-7||72-68||2 for 7||2 on 5|
|Winnipeg||1-1||5-6||3-5||88-89||2 for 5||0 on 6|
|Ottawa||0-1||2-5||1-4||26-25||1 for 7||1 on 2|
|Total||7-7-1||47-52||32-41||491-494||12 for 45||7 on 33|
Edmonton was 7-7-1 against Canadian teams last season and 30-18-8 against American teams, and had a better GF-GA ratio at 176-163.
Again, it is a small sample size, and over the past three seasons the Oilers are 22-24-5 against Canadian teams. They’ve dominated the Canadiens, going 5-0-1 in that span, but that is the only team they have a winning record against in the previous three years. They are 6-6 v. Vancouver, 6-6-1 v. the Flames, 2-5-2 v. Winnipeg, 1-5 v. Toronto and 2-2-1 v. Ottawa.
Again, the past is just a reference point, and with new players, new coaches, a different schedule, more head-to-head matchups, likely more back-to-back games, as well as COVID and no fans to start the season, it is difficult to assess accurately how this season will play out. No preseason games make it even more interesting, and I feel the teams who play well early will have a big advantage in a shortened season with only six opponents.
I have the Oilers making the playoffs, and finishing top-three with Toronto and Calgary.
Who do you like?
MONTH OF GIVING
Thanks to Kevin and Jason for their great bids and to Eagle Rock Golf Course, Visionary Eye Centre and Pro Am Sports for the great packages as we raised another $6,100 for charity.
Day 8: One Year Membership from the Farmers Business Network (FBN). The Farmers Business Network is a membership based company working with over 21,000 farms in North America and Australia and over 3,100 farms in Canada. Their mission is to create farming that puts farmers first by providing unbiased analytics, independent grain marketing advice, and creating competition for farmers’ business. Learn more at www.fbn.com.
With your FBN Market Advisory Subscription you will be provided with:
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Recently by Jason Gregor:
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- How Many Points Will McDavid Score in 2021?