As the NHL calendar flips over the middle frame of the 2021 season, one fact has become more and more clear; the North Division is a mess. A colossal, ridiculous, beautiful mess.
When experts and fans were making their playoff predictions back in January, there was always a clear sense that three major divides separated the seven Canadian clubs. The Leafs were a bonafide lock for a top two finish, the Senators were guaranteed to finish a distant last place and the remaining five clubs would need scramble to grab the remaining three playoff spots.
So far Toronto has proven everybody correct and currently sits with the division lead, thanks to a well rounded offense led by Auston Matthews and a much improved defensive core from years past. But that’s where the expectations stop. Yes, the rest of the division is engaged in a heated battle for placing, but it’s one where absolutely no team seems to want the playoff berths.
As of Sunday morning, ten points are all that separate the second place Oilers from the sixth place Canucks, and nearly every single one of those teams have sounded the alarm at some point in the last month and a half.
The Canadiens currently sit in the last playoff spot in the North, and they elected to fire head coach Claude Julien on Wednesday. The Flames sit just a point back of the Habs, and rumours of management preparing the pull the plug on the Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan core have been hovering over the team for weeks. And I definitely don’t need to tell you what’s going on in Vancouver.
Despite all the insanity, it still seems safe to assume that eventually underperforming teams will rise above the rest of the pack and take control of their own playoff aspirations. But until that day comes, the hockey world is going to sit down with a big bucket of popcorn and watch the chaos that barnburner hockey has created up north.
1) Toronto Maple Leafs ⬆️ 7
Wow, we… honestly expected a tougher fight than this. See you all in May?
2) Edmonton Oilers ⬆️ 5
Mike Smith has six wins and two shutouts in eight games, just as we all predicted.
3) Winnipeg Jets ⬆️ 6
Sneaking into the top three undetected because everyone forgets about you? That’s the Winnipeg way!
4) Ottawa Senators
Can we play Montreal in all our remaining games this season? Please?
5) Calgary Flames ⬆️ 1
6) Montreal Canadiens ⬇️ 2
We lost two games to Ottawa, imploded against the Jets and fired our coach this week, and yet we’re STILL not the biggest mess in the country.
7) Vancouver Canucks ⬇️ 3
We were really banking on Danton Heinen saving our season. Oh well, back to the dungeon.
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