Canada's next great hope for a Cup

Edmonton Oilers’ Ales Hemsky (L) is stopped by Calgary Flames’ goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. REUTERS/Dan...

Edmonton Oilers’ Ales Hemsky (L) is stopped by Calgary Flames’ goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber

Matt Shott, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

Toronto, Canada - Canada is facing its biggest Stanley Cup drought since the end of the Original Six era, going nearly 20 years without having one of its six teams win hockey's Holy Grail.

The longest the Cup had been away from Canada previously was from 1936-1941, a measly five years. It's now been almost four times that long and the future isn't getting any brighter for the Great White North.

Who is Canada's next best hope for a Cup? We break down the six teams to find out:

CALGARY FLAMES

The Flames showed promise of being Canada's next Cup winner two summers ago, when they signed free agent Jay Bouwmeester to add to an already strong defense that included Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regher and Mark Giordano.

Add that to a full season of Jarome Iginla playing with a true number one center in Olli Jokinen, who put up 15 points in 19 games after being traded from Phoenix the previous season, and this Flames team seemed ready to ignite.

However, much to Calgary's dismay, both Jokinen and Bouwmeester failed to live up to expectations, putting up their lowest statistical seasons in years.

During the disappointing season, GM Darryl Sutter traded away Phaneuf to Toronto in exchange for Matt Stajan, Ian White, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers. He followed that up by trading Jokinen to the Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins.

Needless to say, the trades did not help them get into the playoffs and now the Flames have nowhere to go but up, or so they hope.

Not only did the Flames not make the playoffs, but they coughed up their first- round pick for this year's draft in the deal for Jokinen, weakening their already feeble crop of prospects.

In order to try and get the Flames back into the playoffs, Sutter went out and re-signed Jokinen after trading him away a mere four months earlier, and then continued the reunion by signing Alex Tanguay after trading him to Montreal two seasons ago.

Unless pre-2008 Tanguay, Jokinen, and Bouwmeester decide to re-appear, it's going to be a long season for the Flames.

With their only consistency coming from Iginla, who hasn't scored fewer than 30 goals since the turn of the millennium, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, it's hard to imagine the Flames turning back into contenders anytime soon.

EDMONTON OILERS

So far this season, the Oilers have been an exciting team to watch with a roster full of youth and speed.

With highly-touted rookies such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi, the team looks set to one day become the next coming of last year's Chicago Blackhawks.

Unfortunately, it took the Blackhawks over three years once they got their main core of players in the NHL before they could hoist the cup, and that's what the Oilers will have to wait for.

It doesn't hurt to be optimistic, but just remember that these rookies aren't used to the rigorous NHL schedule. In due time, they will inevitably hit the wall, but gaining experience is what's most important.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a similar boat as the Oilers. The only difference is they traded away their draft picks for players and left their prospect cupboard bare.

That paved the way for Leafs brass to bring in Brian Burke, who has since given Toronto a significant makeover.

Burke has assembled a team that may not win a Stanley Cup this year, but it will be a competitive bunch that will at the very least contend for a playoff spot.

With solid goaltending for the first time since Ed Belfour, and a deep defensive corps, the team is headed in the right direction for future success.

Burke has also done well in finding talent in other places, going to the college ranks to sign young players to fill the prospect pool and trading for key players.

Leaf Land will not have to wait much longer for a playoff berth, and for the first time since the early 90s, the team shows promise to contend for a Cup in the near future.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

The same cannot be said for the last team to win a Stanley Cup from Canada, the Canadiens.

Three seasons ago the team placed first in the Eastern Conference, before getting knocked out in the second round. The following two years they placed eighth, going as far as the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

The reason for their magical run last year went by the name of Jaroslav Halak, who came out of his shell to stand on his head against two of the top teams in the East.

Halak was traded this past summer in hopes that Carey Price can return to rookie season form, but the team failed to address other areas of concern, such as secondary scoring.

The Habs rely heavily on three-to-four players to provide the majority of the scoring, with only three players scoring over 50 points last season in Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, and Scott Gomez. New captain Brian Gionta led the team in goals with 28, but recorded only 46 points.

Unless Price can shake off the demons known as Montreal Canadiens fans, and become that all-star goaltender he once was, then the Habs can forget about being Canada's Next Best Chance for a Cup.

OTTAWA SENATORS

The Ottawa Senators are in the same boat as the Canadiens in the sense that they have inconsistent goaltending, their defense is anchored by an aging Russian and they're only getting scoring from four players.

After Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and Mike Fisher, who else is going to score?

Nick Foligno looked good in preseason, but is he ready to become a relied upon secondary scorer? And Alex Kovalev's age appears to finally be catching up to him.

This year isn't looking to be the 'Year of the Sens' when it comes to contending for the Cup after playing for one four seasons ago.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

That leaves just one true hope for a Cup to be won in Canada, the Canucks, who have finished atop the Northwest division in three of the last four seasons.

The team has one of the best goaltenders in the world and they also have the reigning scoring champ and MVP, Henrik Sedin, and his twin Daniel, who could play blindfolded and still hit tape-to-tape passes to each other.

With six players scoring over 20 goals and two scoring over 30, depth is obviously not a concern with this team either, especially on defense where the team decided to put its focus on during the summer.

The additions of Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis not only solidify the blue line, but they add a nice little offensive punch to the mix as both players have been part of their previous teams' power-play units.

The one problem the Canucks have faced in the last two seasons is their inability to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. It has happened two years in a row, and the Canucks hope they have found the solution.

Now that Luongo no longer has the pressure of being the team captain, he can focus on the one thing he is paid to do - keeping the puck out of the net.

With a refreshed and revitalized Luongo in goal, and a stronger defensive unit, this Canucks team can now feel confident about getting over that hump and returning to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Canada needs to at least hope that this team has found the recipe for success, because they are the last hope in the near future for the Cup to return to the land that made this


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