Canucks would be the team to beat in an all-Canadian division

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks would be the team to beat in a rumored all-Canadian division, which could be implemented for 2020-21.

It’s widely believed that the Vancouver Canucks will play in an all-Canadian division for the 2020-21 season.

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley hinted that this will be the case.

The NHL and NHLPA have so many roadblocks to sort through amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There isn’t a set date for the start of next season, and nobody knows how long the regular season will be.

For now, we’ll go off the assumption that the Canucks will share a division with the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.

Obviously, that division looks a lot tougher compared to the Pacific Division. The Flames, Oilers and Golden Knights are all playoff contenders, but the Canucks had the fortunes of playing the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, too.

An all-Canadian division would feature six 2020 playoff teams plus a promising Ottawa team that should be much better following the offseason acquisitions of Matt Murray, Alex Galchenyuk and Evgenii Dadonov.

But barring any more major offseason moves, I’d argue that these Canucks would be the team to beat in an all-Canadian division.

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The Flames (hello, Jacob Markstrom), Canadiens (Carey Price) and Jets (Connor Hellebuyck) have the biggest advantages in the crease. That said, I’m confident the Canucks will get by just fine with a Thatcher DemkoBraden Holtby tandem.

In my opinion, only the Canadiens can match Vancouver’s strength in the top-four on defence. Nate Schmidt, Alexander Edler, Tyler Myers and rising superstar Quinn Hughes round out a solid group.

The Habs have Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson. But I can’t say any of them are on Hughes’ level. So I’ll give the advantage to Vancouver.

The remaining Canadian teams all have major weaknesses on their respective blue lines. Yes, the Flames signed former Canuck Chris Tanev, but they also lost Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie.

Vancouver doesn’t have the same level of star power as Edmonton (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) Toronto (John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander) or Winnipeg (Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor), but the top-six is still championship-caliber.

And as much as general manager Jim Benning has overpaid for bottom-six forwards, I still like this group more than any other in the division. Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel are strong team leaders who kill penalties and provide the much needed grit in the big games.

The Canucks, quite simply, look like the most complete team in an all-Canadian division. Calgary and Edmonton lack depth in the bottom-six, and the Oilers especially are devoid of grade-A defencemen.

The Canadiens and Senators have lots of talent all over the ice, but they both need their young stars to all step up and put it all together in 2020-21. That may be asking for too much, and I still have questions about Montreal’s scoring depth and Ottawa’s defence outside of Thomas Chabot.

Toronto and Winnipeg simply can’t outscore their problems. All-Star forwards and strong goaltending isn’t enough if your defencemen aren’t holding down their end of the bargain.

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Vancouver isn’t a flawless team by any means. But they don’t have any glaring weaknesses at forward, on defence or in the crease compared to the other six Canadian teams. Add it all up, and the Canucks look like the team to beat in an all-Canadian division.