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Hughson, Hrudey and Harrington analyze Canada’s NHL teams

Not since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993 has a Canadian team claimed hockey’s grandest prize. But now that esteemed American sports publication Sports Illustrated has picked the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup next June.

Do Calgary or Canada’s other five NHL clubs have the stuff that championship dreams are made of?

As the league drops the puck on what it hopes is a new era… both on and off the ice… the CBCUnlocked contacted three of Canada’s top hockey analysts for their insight.

  1. Jim Hughson of Hockey Night In Canada looks at the chances of the team nearest you in this special Unlocked article.
  2. AUDIO: Kelly Hrudey of Hockey Night In Canada talked to Tom Harrington about  strengths and weaknesses in the upcoming season (Download runs: 15:18 MP3 6.3MB)

KELLY HRUDEY’S ANALYSIS

TEAM

STRENGTH

WEAKNESS

Vancouver strong core playoff goaltending
Calgary ready to win it all none apparent
Edmonton committed to winning mature goaltending
Toronto youth, enthusiasm injury risks
Ottawa highly-skilled Hasek gamble in goal
Montreal underrated but dangerous offensive balance


Jim Hughson’s analysis

The Vancouver Canucks will have a successful season if Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi are in the top ten in scoring –  and that’s a likelihood more than a possibility – and if they have found suitable replacements for departed defenders Brent Sopel and Marek Malik.

The Canucks haven’t altered their core group of players and are expecting to be Cup contenders. Anything short of that will be a failure.

The Edmonton Oilers might rekindle memories of the 1980’s if Chris Pronger returns to Norris trophy status and Mike Peca is once again a candidate for the Selke as best defensive forward. Furthermore, the Oilers need Alex Hemsky to arrive as a marquis player and like many teams need a kid or two from the system to come of age.

The Calgary Flames must keep their feet on the ground and avoid getting too wrapped up in being a favourite to win the Cup. Stanley is at least 98 games away and the Flames play in the league’s most competitive division.

They have a great goalie (Mikka Kiprusoff) and a six-man defence as good as any in the league but up front, they need Daymond Langkow to help Jarome Iginla score 40-50 goals and  kids such as Chuck Kobasew and  Matthew Lombardi to make another step up the professional ladder.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have predicated a successful season on faith healing. They have to have faith that Jason Allison and Eric Lindros are healed and can resume their careers without further medical interruption and that Eddie Belfour can get his metabolic rate pleasantly stuck. If Belfour wakes up and turns into a regular 40-year-old, the Leafs will be raked. It sure wouldn’t hurt if talented youngsters Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood turned into NHL players.

The Ottawa Senators will be almost unstoppable if Dominik Hasek is still „The Dominator. The Sens have the best lineup in the Eastern conference and are built to win this season. Jason Spezza is poised for stardom and the trade of Marian Hossa for Dany Heatley better prepares Ottawa for the play-offs. But if Hasek breaks down or has forgotten how to stop pucks with his head they’ll simply lose to the 8th-place Leafs in the first round.

The Montreal Canadiens are the last Canadian franchise to win the Stanley Cup. They should make the playoffs if they catch some teams by surprise because Montreal should be better than many think. While the Habs will start the season with six rookies in the lineup, they still have a great goaltender in Jose Theordore and some powerful forwards that should score. Radek Bonk, Richard Zednik, Michael Ryder and Mike Ribeiro have grown up in NHL terms and Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev are star NHL players. If the defence holds up and Theodore is his stellar self, there could be lots of hockey in April in Montreal.

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