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One Big Thing: Canada Cup
What’s Happening: In today’s edition of Pregame Skate, we’ll discuss the Canada Cup — no, not the drill you’ll find at most professional pregame skates, but the all-Canadian division that could become a reality during the NHL’s upcoming season.
Tell Me More: A recent poll by The Athletic asked NHL executives, coaches and scouts who they thought would come out on top of an all-Canadian division. Each of the 15 people polled had different takes on the seven teams, but two garnered the most first place votes: Toronto and Calgary.
The 6ix: The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t gone past the first round of the playoffs since 2004, so it’s safe to say Leafs fans are getting a little anxious. They still have a long list of highly skilled (and paid) forwards that includes Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. But, one piece of the puzzle could still be missing.
Goaltending: According to NBC Sports James O’Brien, this is an area of improvement that isn’t being widely discussed. “In 2019-20, Andersen’s save percentage sank to a more pedestrian .909, while his Goals Saved Against Average was -.40, by Hockey Reference’s metric. Andersen’s previous three seasons with the Maple Leafs had been fantastic. Really, it’s fair to wonder if they leaned so heavily on Andersen that he finally started to break down a bit last season. By no means was Andersen flat-out terrible, mind you. Yet the Maple Leafs carry heavy expectations, and another bumpy year could be painful.”
The Leaf’s weak point is Calgary’s strength after they signed Jacob Markstrom to a six year deal worth $36 million. Markstrom was fourth in the Vezina Trophy (NHL’s best goaltender) voting last year and has been voted the Vancouver Canucks MVP the past two seasons.
The Bigger Picture: We’re not sure who will come out on top if an all-Canadian division comes to fruition, but the Montreal Canadiens could also make a push after the off season additions of goaltender Jake Allen, forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, and defenseman Joel Edmundson.
Insider Updates & Analysis
Breaking: Gary Bettman said the league is still targeting a January 1 start date, but it will be "influenced largely by medical experts."
Rumor: The Seattle Kraken are interested in Jets forward Patrik Laine.
Update: Two years removed from the NHL, former Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks signs with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
Update: Check out this model of the old Boston Garden built by Boston Bruins fan Trent Buhler.
Update: “Pandemic uncertainty drives minor-league hockey pros to find new careers” via Sportsnet.
A Question for the Peanut Gallery
Who would come out on top in an all-Canadian division?