Gobble Gobble – US Thanksgiving and Canadian team’s playoff chances

Dean Belanger
November 26 2011 12:16PM

So the theory is that if you have a playoff spot near the end of November, you are likely going to hold onto that spot and be a playoff team. Obviously, nothing is written in stone but the percentages are very good and by we should be able to know the difference between a hot start and a talented team.

According to data from the Toronto Star in 2010: 77.5% of teams that held a playoff spot on Thanksgiving made the playoffs. 84% of teams with 17 or fewer points did not make the playoffs. 89% of teams with 28 or more points made the playoffs. With that in mind, let’s look at the Canadian Team’s chances.

MAPLE LEAFS

First in their division, 28 points 3rd overall in the East

They have slipped a bit after their torrid start the season, largely based on injuries. The big reason for their success is their top line that boasts the leagues leading goal scorer in Phil Kessel and red-hot Joffrey Lupul. Dion Phaneuf has returned to his dominant form from a couple of seasons ago and would be a Norris candidate as this point.

When healthy, Tim Connolly is a great #1 center but he is never healthy enough. Two predictions; the Leafs will indeed make the playoffs but the injuries are going to continue which will tax everyone and everything. Of course the man that invented hockey Ron Wilson will find a way to overcome the adversity. MVP so far is Phil Kessel with honourable mention to Joffrey Lupul.

OILERS

Second in their division, 26 points 6th overall in the West

Really? WTF? To be fair, Thanksgiving was yesterday and if you want to split hairs they were actually 9th in the conference before yesterdays game but with the win moved up to 7th. Can this keep up? The numbers suggest that they are a playoff team but the West is crazy right now. In fact, 5 points separate 1-11.

They are going to have to win at least 6-7 games for every ten game segment for the rest of the year. Getting great contributions from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Smyth who would be the comeback player of the year except for team MVP Nikolai Khabibulin steals that award too.

Have to find a way to dress 6 healthy NHL defensemen, which has been a challenge for this organization since 2006 ended. Prediction – 8th place finish, which is an epic improvement.

CANUCKS

Third in division, 25 points 10th overall in the West

EVERYONE predicted a slow start and a Stanley hangover for the Canucks. True to form they were brutal in October and have had a wonderful November. This is still the best team in the North East division and they will easily win the div title, probably by 8-10 points.

Cory Schneider has been very good despite an average win/loss record and once again the Sedin twins are leading the team in goals and points and at the moment we will give them the co-MVP award. They will probably finish 3rd overall in the conference and play Chicago in the first round again.

HABS

 
Fourth in the division, 23 points, 10th overall in the East
 
Sitting in a similar spot as Vancouver except with little to no chance to win the division. Montreal is just below .500 at home, and just over .500 on the road, which isn’t going to earn you a playoff spot. The team is small upfront and has paper-thin depth on defense. Secondary scoring is a big problem and they need more offense from PK Subban.
 
Tomas Plekanec is leading the team in scoring and has been the best forward by far all year. I would name him MVP with honourable mention to Carey Price who has solid numbers despite 8 regulation and 3 OT/SO losses on his record. This team will get a boost if a healthy Andrei Markov can return to his previous form, although it may be too late by the time he does. It’s going to be tough but I can see them finding a way to claw into 8th like they always manage.
 
Don’t be surprised though if they wind up on the outside looking in.

JETS

 
Fourth in the division, 22 points, 12th overall in the East
 
The Jets have been one of the top stories so far this year. Every game they play on the road has a contingent of Jets faithful cheering them on. It’s been a roller coaster season to date with a long road trip, a long winless skid, and recently a decent winning streak to get back to .500.
 
The defense has been an adventure and the forwards have been very up and down. Despite having a terrible GAA and SV% I would give the MVP to Ondrej Pavelec who has appeared in 19 of the first 22 games. I don’t see how they make the playoffs with so many teams to pass but it will be a fun ride. Hopefully the NHL can find a way for them to play the Flyers 6-8 times a year.

SENS

 
Fifth in the division, 22 points, 13th overall in the East
 
Clearly better than what most people predicted and secretly I would bet that they are thrilled with being at .500 at the quarter pole. Consider that they got off to a horrible start and people were already whispering about Paul MacLean. To his credit, he was patient and helped to lead this team out of the depths of NHL hell. This organization will be greatly served by his calming influence.
 
Similar to Pavelec in Winnipeg, Craig Anderson does not have flattering numbers but he has been very good on many nights and gives Ottawa a chance to win. Jason Spezza has moved on from hotshot young prospect to a solid leader and is the highest scorer on the team. MVP has to be Erik Karlsson who has a stunning 18 assists already. Ottawa will continue to play around .500 but will be on the outside looking in.
 
Still a great improvement over last year and working in yet another stud D man David Rundblad. They will also trade Sergei Gonchar and receive a nice pick later in the season. 

FLAMES 

 Fifth in the division, 17 points, 13th overall in the West

Sorry Calgary fans but this not good. Almost every key player is past his prime with very few young players having an impact. Your goalie is 35 and your Captain, heart & soul; top offensive player Jerome Iginla has a lot of miles on the track behind him.

Sure, they are only 9 points out of a playoff spot BUT they are only 3 points out of 30th overall in the league and currently sit in a lottery position. It’s time for the upper management in Calgary to show some stones and be leaders; this needs to be blown up. Jay Feaster was quite adamant in the summer that a re-build was out of the question and took some shots at the Oilers so he needs to recant as quickly as possible.

Alex Tanguay is your leading scorer and Olli Jokinen is second to him with 15 and 13 points. Miikka Kiprusoff is still battling and has very respectable numbers so I guess he is the MVP. Historically Calgary always has a nice run and rips of 6 or 7 wins in a row. Flames fans had better hope they trade away enough assets before they do that and jeopardize a lottery position…that being said, I see them doing enough (again) to finish 10th.

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Dean has partied at Portage and Main (Bombers 1984,88,90) and cried (Jets rally 1995). He fondly remembers seeing Selanne's first goal, when Ellett scored in overtime, and not so fondly when they drafted Sergei Bautin. Is also a fan of the NFL Vikings and Raiders, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Oilers, and loves MMA. Participates in the best hockey pool ever and is addicted to Fantasy Football. He also has a weird fascination with the Bearcats. You can follow him on Twitter @bearcats_dean
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#1 HORDY hears who
November 26 2011, 12:22PM
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random guy at the gas station came up to me...

guy: calgary is south of edmonton, right?

me: from here or the standings?LOL

#yougotpranked #owned #oodlenoodle #solidfist

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#2 justDOit
November 26 2011, 12:25PM
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While it looks promising to be playoff bound by the 1/4 mark, a lot of things will have to go right for the Oilers to play past mid April.

Whatever the result of this season, it's already been more entertaining and exciting than any recent year since the spring of '06!

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#3 sizedoesmatter
November 26 2011, 12:35PM
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Sorry toronto fans but luck and one strong line will only carry you so far they will fight for 8th and lose in the first round

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#4 Pilgor09
November 26 2011, 12:35PM
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Oilers will finish 10th by years end. Id be fine with that.

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#5 RexLibris
November 26 2011, 12:43PM
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The Oilers have to either be in the playoffs or down in the bottom 7 this year. In between will only serve to delay the progress of this team.

The Flames really don't have the excuses that a lot of teams have when they find themselves in this position. There are no significant injuries, there haven't been any major roster changes (I don't believe Regehr had such a large role as to impact the offense of players), and the core, while aging, isn't decrepit yet. One significant injury to either Tanguay or Kirpusoff and this team looks like it would frop faster than Phil Kessel in an All-Star draft.

One has to think that if the Leafs were to meet Philadelphia, Boston or Pittsburgh in the playoffs their hopes would be extinguished rather quickly. Kessel is hot and he is certainly helping to revive Lupul's career, but wihout his performance this year the team isn't having anywhere near the same success. Like Iginla, Kessel appears to be turning into the proverbial straw that stirs the Leafs offensive drink. I'd still rather have Seguin, Jared Knight and Doug Hamilton in my system than Kessel. Those players in addition to Gardiner, Aulie, Franson, and Colborne would make a very nice foundation upon which to build.

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#6 schevvy
November 26 2011, 12:48PM
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So you're saying there's a chance! (Flames)

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#7 BlacqueJacque
November 26 2011, 01:00PM
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That's quite the look Iginla's sporting.

So sad, in a way. Especially the original play by play commentary on it. Iginla vs Benn, old bull vs young bull.

The old bull's days are numbered. Even broadcasters now speak of the importance of Iginla getting back to his physical ways.

He's always been prone to cold streaks, but they seem to come more often and last longer these days.

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#8 TheSmalough
November 26 2011, 01:07PM
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Smyth Omen!! The NHL turned 94 today!!!!

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#9 Jason Gregor
November 26 2011, 02:46PM
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When healthy Tim Connolly is a good first line centre, he's never been a great 1st liner.

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#10 Druid
November 26 2011, 02:57PM
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Just for fun, here is the projected finish (assuming that the teams continue on at their current pace).

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AmvVTwEa89PcdFpidS1OVWQ3ZG1zSWJ5ZW82SkI0Rnc

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#11 RexLibris
November 26 2011, 03:21PM
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@Druid

Edmonton and San Jose in the first round? I'd take those odds. And a Toronto and Boston series would be so much fun to watch. Kessel vs Seguin!

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#12 RexLibris
November 26 2011, 03:22PM
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@Druid

Double Post, sorry.

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#13 Jodes
November 26 2011, 03:49PM
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One of the funniest bits in television history bar none..

I swear to God I thought Turkeys could fly!

LMAO!

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#14 Rob...
November 26 2011, 03:58PM
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@Jodes

WKRP-IC, MASH and Barney Miller. Between those three 'comedies' it was truly a golden age for half hour sitcoms.

Now let's hope the Oilers are about to head into their own 2nd golden age.

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#15 ChinookArch
November 26 2011, 05:45PM
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I don't see Toronto making the playoffs and expect a massive step back going forward. Kessle's shooting percentage is over 15%, which is unsustainable. Good on the Leafs for a great start, but it's down hill from here on in. The Flames are playing without desire and their nightly effort has been sporadic at best. IMO Feaster will pawn off all assets on or near the trade deadline. If you think they're bad now, wait till then. The Oilers are playing with youthful exuberance, but there are simply too many teams, in the west that are far better than the Oilers. I see a stretch for 9th but like more like 12th. Hemsky is due for his normal loss of games to injury soon (that guy is crazy fragile). Hemsky's absxence will hurt, especially since Habbibulin has come to earth from his 96% save percentage.

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#16 MC Hockey
November 26 2011, 08:57PM
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Hey Dean, Thanks for the article and the nice WKRP click...remember it was brought to you by Velveeta (LOL). Anyways, I agree with most of your assessments but feel a danger of Leafs falling hard and missing playoffs and Canadiens surprising and sneaking in again. As a Jets/Flames fan I hope both teams see some solid improvement and hope the Flames trade Iggy...it's time to get some assets back before his value goes to nothing.

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#17 Willi P
November 27 2011, 01:20AM
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If the Flames can Sutter, look for a turn around like the Blues have had. Similar to the last half of the season last year, this would be fun to watch but not in the best interest of the club.

With regards to the others, I would like to see the Oil make the playoffs. Fun team to watch.

The Leafs wont make the playoffs with one line and Phil is a flash in the pan. In a few months, their fans will be wanting to hang "Phil the Streak" from the rafters.

Who cares about the Nux, no heart or passion, boring team.

The Habs are borderline but fun to watch.

The Sens have overachieved but nice to see.

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#18 Krafty
November 27 2011, 08:48PM
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The Canucks are the eat in the north east?? Did I miss a realignment somewhere?

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