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Op-Ed: Canadian NHL playoff-bound teams in 2013 may again be just 2

By Marcus Hondro     Jan 20, 2013 in Sports
Right from the get-go this 2013 NHL season will be a sprint. The absence of 34 games will naturally make the 48 games each team plays, all in some 99 days, all the more meaningful and that could lead to surprises, in standings and in individual races.
But one thing it won't change is the number of Canadian teams in the playoffs. Last season only the President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks and the overachieving Ottawa Senators made the post-season from Canada, with the Montreal Canadiens finishing 14 points out, the Toronto Maple Leafs 12 out, the Winnipeg Jets 8 and the Calgary Flames but 5, though they faded convincingly. The Edmonton Oilers were 21 points out of the postseason, ahead of only the woeful Columbus Blue Jackets.
Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames
For three of those clubs, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, there's virtually no hope of getting to the postseason in 2013. They have not made the kinds of changes that will find them the extra points to get there,nor have they young players poised for break-out seasons. Indeed, it's arguable each of those teams have regressed. Edmonton, however, may come close as they do have young players maturing, ditto for the Jets, but they both have an uphill climb.
Montreal didn't score enough goals last season and there's nothing in what they've done in the off-season to suggest they'll score more. No P.K. Subban won't help, though a healthy Andrei Markov should. The Leafs? If they don't pull off the Luongo trade they look to be stuck with a goaltending tandem that was 29th in the league last season. Improvements elsewhere? Jay McClement and James van Riemsdyk will help, but not enough.
The Calgary Flames have a new coach and Bob Hartley may be a strong one, but so was Brent Sutter and in 3 seasons he never coached a postseason game. Jiri Hudler, 29, and Roman Cervenka, 27, over from a Czech league he lead in scoring last season, are the big additions offensively. Mikka Kiprusoff is going to have to face a lot of pucks but with the team he has in front of him won't be able to stop enough to get them into their first playoffs since 2008-09. A big question for the Flames is whether they'll deal captain Jarome Iginla at the trading deadline in April if they're out of it; he's an unrestricted free-agent come July 1, his 36th birthday.
Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets
The Oilers seem to be the club many are predicting will go somewhere this season. The addition of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz has ignited a chorus of support for Edmonton, that and another year in the maturation process of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi. Those players will make sure the Oilers score more this year, but allowing 239 goals last year was the work of a shoddy defence and inconsistent goaltending. Making up that 21 point deficit to get to the playoffs is a possibility, but only if new coach Ralph Krueger finds a way to allow fewer goals.
The Winnipeg Jets, too, have to shore up their defence if they want to make the postseason, they allowed 246 goals last season, 26th in the NHL, with only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning allowing more. That's hardly great defensive company to keep and Evander Kane will really have to hit it off with newly signed Olli Jokinen to make up for that. He won't.
Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks
So for Canadian franchise representation in the 2013 postseason it will likely come down to just the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators - again. But neither looks to go far. Ottawa doesn't have the defence for a playoff run; after finishing 24th last season in goals allowed, they've added on defence...Columbus cast-off Mark Methot? Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson will score, but the playoffs are about defence.
For the Vancouver Canucks, offense will be a challenge in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was for the final third or so of the 2011-12 regular season and the playoffs. One of the best defenses in the league, but beyond the Sedins, the scoring by committee thing won't work enough for Vancouver to win a postseason round. And then there's the goaltending thing, Roberto Luongo looking over Cory Schneider's shoulders all season is a recipe for hockey disaster.
The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993; the Flames, Senators, Oilers and Canucks (twice) have all been to the finals since (with the exception of Ottawa losing in 5, each series went to 7 games). But there won't be a Canadian team in the final this season and Canada's Stanley Cup drought will hit 20 years.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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