Don’t look now, but all three Western Canadian NHL teams are in playoff spots. As of press time, the Edmonton Oilers were first in the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks were the second hottest team in the league, and the Calgary Flames were staying afloat for one of the wildcard spots.
But wait, it’s only November, who cares if they are in playoff spots now, you may be asking. While it’s true that the season is still young and so many things could change, it’s hard to ignore how strange it is that these three teams are playing well and are atop the standings.
It’s almost enough to make you think it was the mid-aughts, and the Flames and Oilers were coming off of Stanley Cup finals appearances and the Vancouver Canucks were about to go on a multi-year run as one of the best teams in the league. But one look at the gas prices would tell you we’re a long ways removed from that era.
I’m not saying these teams are about to be awesome again, nor do I really believe that. Also, if the Oilers win the Cup — in a season where everyone thought they would be horrible — before the Leafs win with a team that was supposed to be good, I’m giving up on sports altogether.
Whether I’ll still be a hockey fan in six months remains to be seen, but what I do know is that the unpredictable nature of sports, and especially the NHL, are what make being a fan so great. After all, if there was no hope that a team could ever reverse its fortunes in a short time, then the Flames, Oilers and Canucks would actually have zero fans.
But teams can win unexpectedly, and it happens time after time, no matter the sport. The Washington Nationals let their most popular and famous player Bryce Harper walk in free agency, only to finally win the World Series the very next year as a wildcard team.
The NFL weekend that was saw the winless Miami Dolphins win a game and the undefeated New England Patriots lose. Sometimes sports are weird and make no sense. I want to use that as an analogy to describe the Oilers and Flames being good, but I’m trying to be positive here.
However, I will say, that Leon Draisaitl is really good. He’s not just a benefactor of playing with Connor McDavid, he’s one of the best players in the entire league.
The Vancouver Canucks are winning in strong part due to their solid defensive play and excellent goalie-duo of Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. That entire sentence feels made up, but it’s the truth. I didn’t even know Thatcher was a first name, let alone a goaltender that could lead the Canucks up the division standings.
I can’t be as positive about the Flames off the top of my head, but they’re hanging around, and Milan Lucic was suspended and won’t be able to play for two games. Actually, that’s the most positive thing of all.
In a league dominated by American teams year after year, and in a country bombarded by drama centred in Toronto, it’s nice and refreshing to see the West grab a spotlight.
Do I think this will last? Probably not, but what do I know? After all, I thought the Oilers would be battling for last place. I thought Markstrom was a terrible goalie, and that Thatcher was the name of the Atlanta hockey team. I thought the Toronto Maple Leafs would be an extremely disappointing and frustrating hockey team this season.
Well, that last part did come true, unfortunately. But for now, we have the Flames, we have the Canucks, and we have the Oilers, and I’d have to be Ebeneezer Scrooge himself if I couldn’t enjoy these teams beating up on the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks, and I’m definitely not a Scrooge. Besides, Cristmas is just around the corner. But for Western Canadian hockey fans, Christmas came early.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.