With the NHL’s divisional realignment this season, the seven Canadian teams will battle each other for the North Division crown. The North is likely the most wide competitive of all division races this year in the NHL.
Of the seven teams, an argument could be made for six – sorry, Ottawa – to win the division. Is there a clear-cut favorite? Better yet, is there obvious betting value in the NHL North?
Buds Are Back
It has been more than two decades since the Toronto Maple Leafs won a division title. This may be their year. Without having to contend with Boston and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division, the Maples Leafs are the favorite at +150 to win the all-Canadian North Division.
Toronto is loaded with talent. Auston Matthews (47 goals), William Nylander (31), an John Tavares (26) can score on anyone. The problem for the Maple Leafs is defense where G Frederik Andersen went 29- 13-7 last year with a 2.85 goals against average. It’s hard to win games giving up three goals per.
Edmonton is in the same boat as Toronto. The Edmonton Oilers have the reigning league MVP in Leon Draisatl (110 points last year) and Connor McDavid (97). They were the top two scorers in the NHL last year. Edmonton’s problem, like Toronto, is on defense.
The Oilers are given +400 odds to win the North Division, but that will not happen without some improvement on defense. That will be difficult as Edmonton did not address its goaltending issues in the offseason. Also, defenseman Oscar Klefbom is out for the season.
A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993 when the Montreal Canadiens were crowned champions. At least one will play in a conference final this year and have the opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
It could very well be the Canadiens who are listed at +425 to win the division. Montreal added some serious depth in the offseason gaining forwards Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli and defensemen Alexander Romanov and Joel Edmundson. They also added a backup goalie in Jake Allen who can spell All-Star Carey Price.
At +450, the Winnipeg Jets have some real value as they have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Winnipeg had five 20-plus goal scorers last season led by Kyle Connor’s 38. They have just enough offense to be dangerous.
Hellebuyck and the Jets defense finished 10th in the league last year in goals against (2.83). That ranked the best of all Canadian teams last season.
While there are six teams that could win the North Division, the real value pick is Calgary (+425). Two seasons ago, the Calgary Flames won the Pacific Division. Through the second half of last season, the Flames were one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Calgary won 16 of its final 28 games before the season was suspended and then won three of four against Winnipeg in its Stanley Cup qualifier. The Flames have quality goaltending with Jacob Markstrom in net and enough scoring from the likes of Matthew Tkachuk (61 points) and Elias Lindholm (29 goals).
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.