Welcome to the All-Canadian Roundup, a weekly look at how the Oilers’ rivals in the North Division are doing…
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
7-2-1 (15 points)
Goals For: 33 (6th of 31), Goals Against: 29 (20th of 31)
Over the past week, the Maple Leafs took seven of a possible eight points on their four-game Alberta swing and now sit alone at the top of the North Division, though the Canadiens have a couple of games in hand on them.
The Leafs also got a first-hand view of the Matthew Tkachuk experience while they were in Calgary. In the first meeting, Tkachuk got things heated when he fell on Jack Campbell, Toronto’s goaltender, in the dying moments of the game. A couple of days later, it was Jake Muzzin getting under Tkachuk’s skin. Toronto’s defender flipped a puck at Tkachuk at the end of the game, leading to a little scrap and a full-on meltdown from Tkachuk on the bench…
Tkachuk gets puck flipped at him and doesn't like it, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/YxP0Y411gl
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) January 27, 2021
As we know, Tkachuk’s gameplan is to do aggravating and sometimes dirty things on the ice in order to get under his opponents’ skin and draw penalties. The Leafs didn’t buy into it and it was Tkachuk who ended up losing his marbles, which is a funny role-reversal to witness.
That being said, Campbell was injured on the play in the first game and will be on the Injured Reserve for multiple weeks. That’s bad news for the Leafs as they’ve already lost third-string goalie Aaron Dell on waivers and they don’t want to ride Freddy Andersen into the ground.
2. Montreal Canadiens
5-1-2 (12 points)
Goals For: 33 (6th of 31), Goals Against: 22 (8th of 31)
The Habs had a fairly quiet week after coming out of the gates flying. They played just two games and earned a split with Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames. Their 2-0 loss on Saturday was their first regulation loss of the season and they still sit tied with Toronto for the best points-percentage in the division.
I don’t know how Tkachuk is going to keep this up all season seeing these teams nine or ten times…
3. Vancouver Canucks
6-5-0 (12 points)
Goals For: 40 (1st of 31), Goals Against: 37 (29th of 31)
The Canucks had a disastrous start to the season and, this time last week, many were calling for general manager Jim Benning’s head. Brian Burke also mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada after a lopsided loss to the Habs that Benning was “under tremendous pressure.”
The best remedy for such a situation is a few games against the Ottawa Senators. The Canucks hosted the Sens for a three-game set and smashed them by scores of 7-1, 5-1, and 4-1, and then went on to handily beat the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 4-1 to erase their ugly start.
Of course, there are only so many games against Ottawa on the schedule and the Canucks have a challenge on the horizon and they head east for two games in Montreal and three in Toronto. The sky could be falling in Vancouver again soon.
4. Winnipeg Jets
5-3-0 (10 points)
Goals For: 29 (10th of 31), Goals Against: 25 (13th of 31)
The big story out of Winnipeg early this season was a blockbuster deal that resulted in a couple of disgruntled young stars swapping teams. Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic got sent to Columbus and Pierre-Luc Dubois went to Winnipeg.
The Jets split a two-game set with the Oilers and lost to the Canucks and now sit with a 5-3-0 record for the season. That’s a pretty solid start given the fact Laine played just one game and Dubois hasn’t yet joined the team because he has to quarantine.
After the trade, word came out via the Winnipeg Free Press that Laine sought a trade because of a toxic environment in the Jets’ room…
Source A made it clear to me that the problem was entirely on Winnipeg’s power brokers — from ownership to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to coach Paul Maurice to Wheeler, who runs the dressing room along with alternate captain Scheifele and have repeatedly butted heads with the more laid-back Laine. In his mind, they’ve cultivated a toxic environment that had Laine looking for the quickest exit.
“The issues in Winnipeg right now have to deal more with issues in the dressing room between competing personalities. And when there is a divided room, that gets around the league. And players generally, if they have other options, are going to exercise them until that whole situation gets cleaned up,” he said.
“I’m surprised it’s been allowed to go on this long without people in charge getting in there and cleaning it up. It’s going to have a great impact around the league with people choosing whether to play in Winnipeg or not.”
Now contrast that with what Source B told me, suggesting in no uncertain terms that Laine, and Laine only, was the problem. That a perceived lackadaisical approach towards his career quickly wore thin.
“All of the issues in the room could be solved by trading one guy (Laine),” he said.
It’s difficult to say who is at fault in a situation like this, but the fact that the Jets have had Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and now Laine request to move on in a little over a year is somewhat damning.
5. Edmonton Oilers
5-6-0 (10 points)
Goals For: 38 (2nd of 31), Goals Against: 41 (30th of 31)
Just like the Canucks last week, the Oilers are now facing an opportunity to make up some ground in the standings with four of their next five games coming against the Senators. They won their first meeting with Ottawa by a score of 8-5 and Stuart Skinner became the first Oilers goaltender to win his NHL debut since Jeff Deslauriers did so back in 2008.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are also now running away with the NHL scoring lead and I imagine they could be miles ahead after these four games against Ottawa are finished…
We’ll also have our first Battle of Alberta of the season coming up on Saturday. Buckle up!
6. Calgary Flames
3-3-1 (7 points)
Goals For: 20 (24th of 31), Goals Against: 17 (5th of 31)
I already touched on what happened to the Flames last week (they got swept in their two-game set against Toronto, split with Montreal, and Tkachuk made new enemies) so we’ll get to the other interesting piece of news out of Calgary.
According to Elliotte Friedman, Sam Bennett would like a change of scenery…
There was a rumour going around this morning that Bennett might want a change of scenery. And I did call his agent Darren Ferris who said yes, that’s true, he would like it to be considered. The Flames are in radio silence about this. No comment from them. One thing I gleaned from just calling around is that they’re not in any hurry to do it. They like their depth down the middle, they’re not racing to make a move, but according to the agent for Sam Bennett he would like a change of scenery.
The No. 4 overall pick from the 2014 draft (just one pick behind Leon Draisaitl) has never managed to hit his stride in the NHL. Bennett broke into the league with a 36-point rookie season in 2015-16 but that stands as his career-high. He has just one point in seven games with the Flames and is being used in a depth, checking role.
7. Ottawa Senators
1-7-1 (3 points)
Goals For: 22 (20th of 31), Goals Against: 44 (31st of 31)
What else can you even say here? The Sens haven’t won a game since they beat the Leafs on opening night more than two weeks ago. It’s going to be a loooooong season in Ottawa.