NHL North Division: Playoff Contenders, Pretenders, and Offenders at the midway point

Mar 3, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares (91) and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) look for a loose puck during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

A majority of NHL teams have hit or are just about to reach the midway point in the season. There’s some clear cut contenders to make the playoffs and even win the Stanley Cup.

Let’s go through each division and identify just who the contenders, pretenders, and offenders are. We begin with the North Division.

North Division Contenders

Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames

The cream of the crop are the Toronto Maple Leafs with 40 points to lead the division. From top to bottom they are the best team here, and as long as Auston Matthews is healthy, I will bank on them to come out of this in the end. If they get solid goaltending from Fredrik Andersen they could break their Stanley Cup curse.

When I look at the rest of the division, for me it is easy to put the Jets (38 pts) and Oilers (38 pts) as playoff teams. When it comes to the last spot, I will take a leap of faith (or more appropriately faith in Darryl Sutter) that the Flames (31 pts) will claim the last spot.

While the Flames are my pick to make the postseason, they will be bounced by the Leafs with ease. As much as I think the Jets are solid, the Oilers would be my dark horse to come out of the division.

Sorry, but any team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl could win a couple of series. Playoff failures aside, don’t you think this team is eventually due to go on a run?

North Division Pretenders

nhl north division
Feb 13, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) scores against Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) as Calgary defenseman Connor Mackey (3) looks on in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks

The Habs (34 pts) spent a lot of money this offseason, but for all the offense they can put up Carey Price is now a question mark. They may hold 4th place for now, but I don’t expect them to keep it. Not after Claude Julien was fired which I think was a bad move long term.

To finish off the pretenders section, the Canucks (32 pts) are just too inconsistent to capture that last spot. I will say this though, if there’s one team I could be wrong about in the division, it’s Vancouver.

North Division Offenders

Ottawa Senators

Listen, I really don’t find the Senators (23 pts) “offensive” but I couldn’t find a better word that rhymed with contender and pretender. They are currently the 4th worse team in the league, and that was expected. Tim Stutzle however is really going to be some player.

I think Senators fans are going to be real proud of this team in the next few seasons.

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