TRAIKOS: Several Canadian teams favorite to win the Stanley Cup

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If you believe that top talent wins championships – and Colorado and Tampa Bay have done nothing to challenge that belief – then one, two or three of Canada’s seven teams should be considered favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year.

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Highly favored, in fact.

And why not? Between Edmonton and Toronto alone, you’re looking at the winners of the last two goalscoring titles, five of the last six points titles and four of the last six MVP awards.

Last year, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid led the league with an incredible 123 points and Leon Draisaitl was second with 55 goals and 55 assists. In Toronto, Auston Matthews won the Hart and Rocket Richard Trophy after scoring the NHL’s top 60 goals, while Mitch Marner averaged 1.35 points per game.

That’s a lot of talent. The kind that more than makes up for any question marks either team might have in net or defense.

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The embarrassment of riches extended to Calgary, where the Flames lost a pair of 40-goal scorers in Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, but replaced them with Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, who finished second with 115 points and had the most assists of all time. by a left winger. Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor is tied for fifth overall with 47 goals and Ottawa has just acquired Claude Giroux and double 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat for what they hope will be a wildcard push.

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In other words, Canadian teams are bursting with talent at a time when superstars like Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon have shown you can fight your way to a championship. Perhaps that’s why, with the Avalanche repeating, we’re seeing a lot of love for the Leafs, Flames and Oilers as potential championship contenders.

BetOnline still has Colorado as a 4-to-1 favorite heading into the season. But Toronto is close behind at 17-2, followed by Florida at 11-1, with Calgary and Edmonton tied with Tampa Bay at 12-1.

Past grief be damned, they’re just too deft to pass up. And, with Canada’s championship drought approaching 30 years, far too hungry.

“The numbers at this point don’t really matter,” McDavid said. “I went there and did that and won my Art Ross and Hart trophies and stuff like that. So that’s kind of a moot point at this point.

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Forget individual milestones or add more gear to his trophy cases. It’s time for McDavid to step down.

And he is not alone.

McDavid, Matthews and Marner are all 25 years old. Draisaitl is 26 years old. Huberdeau is 29 years old.

They are no longer children. Sidney Crosby was 22 when he won his first of three Stanley Cups. Drew Doughty was 25 when he won his second championship. At the age of 26, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have each inscribed their name on the Cup three times.

Matthews and Marner are still not out of the first round.

And while Alex Ovechkin was 31 when he finally won a championship, no one wants to have to go gray – or bald – waiting for a chance to finally win. Not when Makar just lifted the Cup aged 23. And not with the countdown to what could be Matthews’ final years in Toronto.

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So the pressure to win has never been higher than it is right now, especially for the Maple Leafs or the Oilers.

After failing to get out of the first round in six straight years, this is a breakthrough year for the core, coaching staff and management of the Maple Leafs. The team must go deep. At the very least, they have to get out of the first round. Otherwise, changes are coming.

“It’s disappointing to get the same result over and over again,” Matthews said last month during the NHL Players Tour in Vegas. “But I see it as a team like Tampa or a team like Colorado, it took them a really long time to win. I think every team, every course is a little different. We are writing our own story and we are extremely motivated. We are all working towards the same goal.

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After reaching the conference finals last year, the Oilers seem closer to that end goal. But when you have one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL, anything less than a championship can be considered a failure – especially after the Oilers brought back Evander Kane and finally went out and acquired a goaltender. No. 1 goal in the off-season.

For the Flames, expectations aren’t quite as high. But there’s still a lot to prove, whether it’s Huberdeau who wants to go after the Panthers for trading him, or the rest of the players who want to show Gaudreau and Tkachuk that they’re better off without them.

“Calgary lost its two best players,” Huberdeau said, “but you can replace them. It’s going to be good. A new chapter.”

We’ll see where this story goes. And more importantly, where it ends. But for the first time in a long time, a championship is in sight for several teams north of the border.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see two of them play for it in the Stanley Cup Finals.

  1. Maple Leafs forward Denis Malgin carries the puck during the preseason.  He was part of Toronto's season opener.

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