Last season, Canada’s final two NHL teams bowed out in the Second Round. The only saving grace was that the teams that beat them went on to battle in the Stanley Cup Finals.
With the new season getting underway on October 10, it’s time to stoke the embers of hope among Canadian hockey fans once more by looking at the teams that could finally end the 30-year wait for a Stanley Cup.
As we have seen regularly – most notably with the Florida Panthers last season and the Montréal Canadiens in 2021 – even long-shots who sneak into the playoffs can power their way to the Finals.
However, from a preseason point of view, we have to back the teams that are best built to place highly in the regular season and then push on deep into the playoffs. That leaves two Canadian NHL teams.
Will the Edmonton Oilers Win the 2024 Stanley Cup?
The Edmonton Oilers will be returning with much of the same roster that missed out on the Pacific Division title by two points and outscored every team in the NHL by at least 20 goals by the final buzzer of the 82nd game.
Nick Bjugstad, Tyler Benson, and Devin Shore were allowed to walk, Klim Kostin and Kailer Yamamoto were traded for cap wiggle room, and in came Connor Brown, Drake Caggiula, and Lane Pederson.
Connor Brown is the headline addition, but not for how he’s performed in the NHL so far. Instead, as McDavid’s old teammate at the Erie Otters, the hope is that their old chemistry will somehow add even more goals.
Of course, the big selling point of the Oilers being Stanley Cup contenders is their star centers: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The duo led the league in points, with the Canadian hitting 153 and the German scoring 128.
To argue against the Cup credentials of Edmonton, you only need to look at the goaltending. Given the importance of goaltending in the playoffs – hopes often live and die by the hot hand – it’s easy to see why the Oilers aren’t the outright favourites to claim the crown.
This will be the second season of the Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner tandem. Skinner got the majority of the starts with 48 last season, and did fairly well in his first season as a regular starter, putting up a 2.75 GAA and .913 save percentage.
However, in the playoffs, that flipped to a 3.68 GAA and .883 save percentage in 12 starts. He lacks the experience to be overly trusted for this kind of future-gazing piece, and Jack Campbell certainly didn’t provide much competition.
Looking at the roster, which will almost certainly be able to outscore any team and does have a fairly strong blueline corps, it’s clear that the goaltending uncertainty is what’s weighing the Oilers down to +900 in the NHL betting to win the Stanley Cup.
They’re on the friendlier side of the bracket and in what looks to be the weakest division in the NHL, so passage to the playoffs seems certain for Edmonton. After that, we’ll have to see how the starter in net holds up.
Will the Toronto Maple Leafs Win the 2024 Stanley Cup?
There has been a lot of change in the Toronto Maple Leafs ranks, but the main thing is that Auston Matthews was tied down on a big-money contract.
With that sorted, the Buds watched Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, Alexander Kerfoot, Michael Bunting, Noel Acciari, and several others depart. In return, they signed John Kilngberg, Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Ryan Reaves, and a few others.
Last season, the Maple Leafs boasted the second-best defensive record in the Atlantic Division – having only conceded 222 goals – so signing the strictly offensive defenseman John Klingberg to fill the right side wasn’t necessarily a poor move.
Having scored fewer goals than the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning, you can see the angle of wanting to get more scoring opportunities, and Klingberg’s sublime puck-moving skill will help with this.
In goal, Ilya Samsonov won the battle with Matt Murray and outlasted Erik Kallgren and the rather impressive Joseph Woll – who won six of seven with a .932 save percentage and 2.16 GAA.
The Russian netminder, however, was strong in his first stint in Toronto. Samsonov’s .919 save percentage and 2.33 GAA, buoyed by four shutouts, were solid for his 40 starts, and when he missed time, his absence was certainly felt.
Martin Jones seems to have arrived as the backup, but as San Jose Sharks fans will attest, he’ll pose little challenge to the Russian in the regular season, and Woll – if he performs as he did – will likely become the backup.
If Samsonov stays fit, can play a good 55 games, and gets hot as the playoffs commence, the Buds have a great chance of both winning the Atlantic Division and charging for the Stanley Cup.
In sport betting markets, the Maple Leafs are currently riding high as the Stanley Cup favourites. At +800, the Buds are rated above the +850 Colorado Avalanche, +900 Oilers, and the +1000 Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils.
Will a Canadian Team Win the Stanley Cup this Season?
Both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs have the star power, smart coaching, and depth to break into the playoffs and at least make it back to the Second Round. Plus, they’ll almost certainly make some trade deadline moves.
Both should be strong enough – even considering the goaltending room in Edmonton – to win their respective divisions. In turn, they’ll be able to avoid the biggest threats to a potential Stanley Cup win.
While the reigning champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, are in the Pacific Division, the Oilers should have enough to pip them this season. From there, it’d likely be a faceoff with the Colorado Avalanche in the Conference Finals.
For the Maple Leafs, the Bruins have lost a lot this offseason and are without a true top-line center, but the Tampa Bay Lightning will, admittedly, return with a very well-rounded team without the burden of a long postseason on them.
Within the division, the Bolts do look to pose the biggest threat to the Buds, but in the Metropolitan Division, what looks to be a sleeping giant awaits.
For each of the last few seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes have been among the elite, and the coil will only remain this tightly wound for so long.
Soon, the Canes will spring into action and, based on their roster, wouldn’t surprise anyone with a Stanley Cup win. Luckily, they’ll need to make it through the Stanley Cup Playoffs first, which is one of the most unpredictable in major league sports.
This gives the Oilers and Maple Leafs – who may be a little under-equipped compared to their main opponents – an additional puncher’s chance on top of being among the frontrunners to win the Stanley Cup in 2024.
*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*