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This Season Couldn't Possibly Go Any Worse for Canada's NHL Teams, Right?

We examine each of the seven Canadian-based NHL teams heading into the 2016-17 season following a horrific year in which none of them made the playoffs.

by Dave Lozo
Oct 12 2016, 4:15pm

Photo by Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This is part of VICE Sports' 2016 NHL preview coverage. You can read all our stories here.

It's been 23 years since a Canadian franchise won the Stanley Cup. So much time has passed since it last happened that Patrick Roy has quit on not one but two NHL franchises. Four Cup winners—Colorado, Carolina, Dallas and Anaheim—didn't exist when Montreal beat Los Angeles in 1993, and the league has since expanded from 24 to 31 teams.

Is all of that information really necessary in a piece that looks at the current state of the NHL's Canadian franchises entering the 2016-17 season? No, but as an American, it sure is fun to point it out.

The recent years haven't been kind to Canada, as zero teams qualified for the postseason in 2016. Montreal is the only Canadian team to reach a conference final since 2012 and Vancouver is the only Canadian team since 2008 to play in a Stanley Cup Final.

READ MORE: The Most Exciting 21-And-Under Players in the NHL

Sorry, that was more mean than pertinent.

Will things change this season? Is the outlook any better? Could a Canadian team play for the Stanley Cup in 2017?

Let's look at the positives and negatives for each club with the season about to start this week.

When the Canadiens won the Cup in 1993, the president was Bill Clinton, the average gas price was $1.16 per gallon and the top-rated television show was...

...sorry, sorry. Here we go:

Calgary Flames

2015-16 record: 35-40-7
Missed the playoffs by: 10 points

Reasons to be positive: At long last, the Flames have a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in the post-Kiprusoff era. Brian Elliott probably won't post the same numbers he did on a really good Blues team, but he is without question an upgrade. Chad Johnson also bolsters the backup goaltender spot. Bob Hartley, maybe the worst coach in the NHL after Roy, is gone. Is Glen Gulutzan a quality coach? He wasn't in Dallas but at least there's a chance he'll improve the team's possession game. Troy Brouwer will help, even if it's at $4.5 million per season.

The new-look Flames with Brian Elliott in net could be an interesting bunch. Photo by Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons to be negative: Now that Johnny Gaudreau is signed, there really aren't a lot of reasons to be negative. It's a relatively young team that only had success in 2014-15 based on a lot of luck, so there should be concern about the team's possession game. And once you get beyond the Flames' top-three on defense of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton, it's like a Mad Max wasteland.

Outlook: There's no reason to think the Kings and Sharks won't be at the top of the Pacific but the Ducks look vulnerable in what is easily the NHL's worst division. Of all the also-rans in the Pacific last season, the Flames are set up the best to grab that third playoff spot. Between Elliott, Brouwer and the potential for Sam Bennett to have a big season, the Flames' future looks bright. Now that Gaudreau will be there for opening night, the Flames could grab that vulnerable No. 3 spot in the division.

Edmonton Oilers

2015-16 record: 31-43-8
Missed the playoffs by: 17 points

Reasons to be positive: Connor McDavid playing a full season should give Oilers fans feelings of giddiness. Adam Larsson gives the team a boost on defense. And... and... hmmm. I thought there'd be more here. Isn't the new arena nice? It will be really hard to be worse than last season, right?

Reasons to be negative: To get Larsson, the Oilers traded one of the NHL's best left wingers in Taylor Hall. They gave a massive contract to Milan Lucic, who hasn't cracked 25 goals or 60 points the past three seasons, to replace Hall. As if they lost some sort of bet, they signed Kris Russell last week.

He'd better produce with the money they threw at him. Photo by Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook: Just like the Flames, the Oilers are situated in a division that gives them hope, as does having McDavid, who may already be a top-five player in the league. If the Oilers' reinforced top-four defense group proves to be steady and Cam Talbot improves slightly, hey, crazier things have happened. But if Lucic spends more time fighting guys that check Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead of scoring goals, it's going to be another sad season in Edmonton.

Montreal Canadiens

2015-16 record: 38-38-6
Missed the playoffs by: 14 points

Reasons to be positive: Carey Price. Carey Price Carey Price Carey Price, however, Carey Price Carey Price Carey Price. On another note, Carey Price Carey Price with Carey Price Carey Price Carey Price. Carey Price.

Reasons to be negative: While, sure, Carey Price, we can't lose sight of the fact that Michel Therrien is still the coach. Or that GM Marc Bergevin inexplicably made a personality trade by swapping the superior PK Subban for the very-good-but-not-as-good Shea Weber. And boy, Andrew Shaw? And what if Price gets hurt again? What if Alex Radulov having a child, a thing that inexplicably was A Thing days after the signing, doesn't make him a useful NHL player anymore?

READ MORE: With Carey Price Back, There's Reason for Hope Again in Montreal

Outlook: The prevailing thought is if the Canadiens get 60 games out of Price, all the changes to the roster won't matter and the team will be back in the playoffs. And it makes sense. It's sound logic. But what if Price is solid but everything else around him is worse? This is the team Canada should feel the best about, but there's at least a chance it could all blows up in Bergevin's face.

Ottawa Senators

2015-16 record: 38-35-9
Missed the playoffs by: 11 points

Reasons to be positive: New coach Guy Boucher was quite successful in Tampa Bay before it went off the rails, so there's a good chance he's better than Dave Cameron. And really, Boucher will be the biggest reason the Senators rise or fall this year; the roster is essentially the same except for a Mika Zibanejad-Derick Brassard trade. Boucher wants to play with speed and a sound defensive system, which makes him just like 29 other NHL coaches.

Free Karlsson! Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons to be negative: It certainly sounds like Boucher wants to mess with Erik Karlsson, the best defenseman in the NHL by a mile (or 1.60934 kilometers), and that can't be a thing that happens. A new coach showing up and scapegoating the best player never happens (except if you're John Tortorella looking at Ryan Johansen), but there's enough smoke in his quotes about balance and defense to worry. It's one thing for Mike Milbury to blame the best player on a bad team for the team's woes—if a coach is doing it, trouble is coming.

Outlook: If Boucher lets Karlsson be himself and installs a system that improves a team that allowed 33 shots per game last season, they have enough talent to crack the postseason. But if the Boucher-Karlsson relationship fractures the locker room, trouble is in the cards.

Toronto Maple Leafs

2015-16 record: 29-42-11
Missed the playoffs by: 27 points

Reasons to be positive: Auston Matthews is riding into Toronto on a cloud of glory while Drake sings sweet verses as worshippers look on. There's a slew of young talent to play with Matthews—Morgan Rielly and both William Nylander and Mitch Marner will be there when the season starts—and Frederik Andersen in net is a step up from a broken Jonathan Bernier. Sure, 69 points last season isn't a nice total, but it's sort of impressive considering it was done with a roster designed to lose as many games as possible. Anything can happen now that the Leafs clearly aren't tanking.

Reasons to be negative: Was signing Roman Polak a sign of Tanking In Toronto Part 2: Tank Harder? No, but there's still a lot of inexperience and seriously, Polak may play around 20 minutes a lot of nights. There's still a ways to go.

Outlook: This is really a foundation year, a season that will allow Matthews and Co. to get their feet wet over a full NHL season. If they crack 80 points, it will be a great leaping-off spot for a playoff push in 2017-18.

Vancouver Canucks

2015-16 record: 31-38-13
Missed the playoffs by: 12 points

Reasons to be positive: Loui Eriksson on a line with the Sedins should provide hockey pornography on a lot of nights. Brandon Sutter is healthy to start the season, although it's maybe a slight step below the return of Carey Price in terms of "reasons to believe a playoff trip is coming." The Canucks are another team that can hang their hats on the idea of "the NHL requires three teams to come out of the Pacific for the playoffs."

There probably won't be much for the brothers to celebrate this season. Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons to be negative: After finishing a league-worst minus-52 in goal-differential, it's pretty clear they are a long way from contending for anything meaningful. Henrik Sedin enters the season at 36 years old and Daniel Sedin enters the season at... oh right, 36 years old. There's a distinct possibility that even with Eriksson, the Sedins may hit a wall this year. Time ruins everything, even the Sedins. Besides, everything behind the Sedins and Eriksson is questionable.

Outlook: It looks rough. Willie Desjardins is probably coaching for his job in October. This feels a lot like the end of the Jarome Iginla era in Calgary; a team desperately clinging to relevance when an implosion followed by a rebuild would have been the humane thing to do this summer.

Winnipeg Jets

2015-16 record: 35-39-8
Missed the playoffs by: 9 points

Reasons to be positive: Patrik Laine looked like a Finnish version of Ilya Kovalchuk during the World Cup and he essentially fell into the Jets' laps at the draft. Mark Scheifele could build on a breakout 29-goal, 61-point season. Ondrej Pavelec was placed on waivers and shouldn't play in a game for the Jets this year. A full season of Marko Dano could be fun to watch.

Reasons to be negative: What if the Jets have no one better than Pavelec? This is a team that can be a playoff threat if it gets .920 goaltending but what if they are doomed to never get that? There's also the Jacob Trouba problem that needs to be resolved ASAP. If they don't convince him to rescind his trade request or get equal value in a trade, it will hamper what could be a promising season.

Outlook: If the Jets were in the Pacific, they'd be the favorite for that third playoff spot. Alas, they are in the stacked Central and have to compete with four Stanley Cup contenders (Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas) and find a way to jump Minnesota in the standings. It's not impossible for the sixth-best team in the Central to be worse than the third-best team in the Pacific. That could very easily be the Jets.

So what's the overall outlook for Canadian teams?

Maximum teams in postseason: 3
Minimum teams in postseason: 0
Likely teams in postseason: 2
Likely teams in the Stanley Cup Final: 0

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