What you had to say about Canada’s NHL teams
We took an unscientific survey, which asked some general questions about each Canadian NHL team and you responded. What did you have to say about the state of Canada’s teams?
Since they’re all still in the playoff hunt despite battling injuries to key players, it’s not surprising that you haven’t written anyone off just yet.
The Canucks, Habs, Senators and Flames earned ‘B’ grades from the majority of respondents.
The Oilers, last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, earned a solid ‘C.’ The Leafs, meanwhile, well let’s just say the bulk of respondents were undecided as to whether they rated a ‘C’ or a ‘D.’ Call it the pressure of expectation, too (realistic or not).
No team earned a solid ‘A’ overall as we release this mid-term report card so there’s plenty of room for improvement for all six of our NHL entries.
Who will have made the grade come season’s end? There’s plenty of hockey left to be played before that’s determined.
If Canucks watchers had any early questions about goalie Roberto Luongo after the team struggled out of the gate, they seem to have been settled by the all-star break. Respondents to our poll gave Luongo, who was 27-16-2 with three shutouts, 2.39 goals-against average and .918 save percentage an ‘A’ for his first-half efforts.
Alain Vigneault has done a ‘good’ job according to the majority, earning a ‘B’ from 50% of respondents. Another 22% gave Vigneault an ‘A’ for what he’s managed to do with the Canucks in leading them to a 27-19-3 record and first place in the Northwest Division.
As for captain Markus Naslund, the report wasn’t so favourable with 30% giving him a ‘C’ and another 26% a ‘D.’ There’s plenty of room for improvement and getting going in the scoring department will likely take care of that. Despite a 20-game goal-less streak, Naslund still ranked third in team scoring behind the Sedins with 36 points in 49 games.
In terms of what’s most needed, the consensus was clear: offence. So if anything can be acquired at the trade deadline, it would be someone that can pop in a few goals.
The Canucks enjoyed a hot streak before the break, which likely helped earned the team an overall ‘B’ grade from 50% of voters and an ‘A’ from 22%. Had the poll been taken at the quarter-pole would you have been as generous?
You seem to have expected more from a Stanley Cup finalist than what the Oilers have delivered. The Oilers snuck into the playoffs last year and went on a dream run before losing to the Hurricanes.
With players struggling to score and even goalie Dwayne Roloson proving to be human in the first part of the schedule, the Oilers found themselves in last place in the Northwest Division.
Roloson earned a ‘C’ from 30% of respondents and another 24.71% thought him worthy of a ‘B.’ With a 2.74 GAA and .906 save percentage, his numbers aren’t much different than last year’s totals. But for the Oilers to reach the playoffs, they’ll need to see his ‘A’ game.
Fans graded coach Craig MacTavish’s work as fair to good, with 26% saying he’d earned a ‘B’ and 25% giving him just a ‘C.’
No one could find fault with the ever-steady Jason Smith as he earned a ‘B’ in our survey but when a team needs goals, he’s not exactly your go-to guy.
So what’s most needed, according to our survey results? Someone to fill the void left by the departure of Chris Pronger, perhaps? Nearly half of all respondents identified defencemen – both stay-at-home and offensive-minded types – as what’s on the trade deadline wishlist.
By and large, poll respondents said the biggest surprise of the first part of the season was that the Oilers were still in the playoff hunt but overall, the squad earned just a ‘C’ for its first-half performance. To be fair, the Oilers ranked last in the Northwest Division once the schedule resumed – just five points back of the frontrunning Canucks in the standings.
The Flames boast two of the league’s best at both ends of the ice in offensive star Jarome Iginla and goaltending stalwart Miikka Kiprusoff. And those two stars will be keys to any team success.
Iginla, who leads the team in scoring with 53 points in 39 games but suffered a knee injury before the break, earned an ‘A’ from the majority of respondents. Kiprusoff, with an impressive 2.25 GAA and stellar .923 save percentage, also made the grade with an ‘A.’
There was much worry as to whether or not the Flames could survive without their captain. But survive they did -- posting a 6-2 mark in eight games leading up to the break -- to rate as the best surprise of the first half.
But the worry is still there. Despite the strong showing and the emergence of players like Kristian Huselius on the scoring front, consensus is the Flames need to bolster themselves offensively before the trade deadline.
Jim Playfair seems to have the approval of respondents, the majority of respondents giving him a ‘B.’
Overall, the team also rated a ‘B.’ To earn an ‘A’, they’ll not doubt have to improve their road record. Heading into the break, the club was 19-5-0 at home but only 7-11-5 away from the Saddledome.