The Great Canadian Hockey Challenge!

Updated: November 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm by Ryan Campbell

As hockey fans, we love to argue that our city or province boasts the best hockey players.  We here at Daily Faceoff have taken it upon ourselves to assemble a team of current players from each region of Canada, and decide which team is best.  Let it be clear that we did not try to create evenly matched teams.  We separated the country into what we felt were regions that fans would lay claim to.  Edmontonians are proud of players from their city and the rest of Northern Alberta, but not guys from Calgary.  It is therefore not accurate to call Alberta one region.  Southwest Ontario is distinctly different from Ottawa and Northern Ontario, and is thus divided.  You get the picture.

The way that we ranked our team was through a vote.  All six of our writers were asked to rank the teams from first through last in three categories: Forwards, Defence, and Goaltending.  A first place vote was worth eight points, a second place vote seven points etc… The points were than tabulated and a winner declared.  First, let us lay out the general areas of influence for each team, starting out West.

1)      The Vancouver Canucks lay claim to the entire province of British Columbia.

2)      The Edmonton Oilers own everything north of Red Deer other than Rocky Mountain House.

3)      The Calgary Flames have control of Red Deer and everything south of it, plus Rocky Mountain House, which they needed to fill out their roster.

4)      The second coming of the Winnipeg Jets consists of players from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Western Ontario.

5)      The Toronto Maple Leafs have domain of the Greater Toronto Area, as well as the remainder of Southwestern Ontario.

6)      The Ottawa Senators have a large territory that stretches from Gatineau, Quebec to the eastern edge of the GTA to Thunder Bay.

7)      The Montreal Canadians have domain over the entire province of Quebec other than Gatineau and the Eastern portion of the Gaspe Peninsula.

8)      The newly minted Maritime Keith’s control the Maritime provinces as well as Chandler, Quebec on the Gaspe Peninsula because they needed a second goalie.

The regions are presented visually for ease of use in the following map.

TeamRegions copy

Without further ado, here are the teams in reverse order.

8. The Maritimes (34 points: 17 forwards, 6 defence, 11 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Ryan Clowe Sidney Crosby Michael Ryder
Jon Sim Brad Richards Dan Cleary
Brad Marchand Steve Ott Ted Purcell
Eric Boulton James Sheppard Craig MacDonald
Defensive Pairings
Randy Jones Colin White
Adam Pardy Nathan McIver
Aaron Johnson Derrick Wassler
Mathieu Garon
Joey MacDonald

Taking a look at that roster, it is not surprising that the Maritimes lagged well behind the other teams.  They cannot even field a full roster of NHL players, although they did garner some votes on offence thanks to Sidney Crosby.  They were voted 5th best on offence  and 7th best in goaltending, but a last place finish on defence is what sunk this team.

7. Calgary (46 points: 12 forwards, 18 defence, 16 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Dany Heatley Robert Nilsson Devin Setoguchi
Ryan Smyth Kris Versteeg Mason Raymond
Darcy Tucker Ryan Stone Trent Hunter
Nick Tarnasky Patrick Eaves Rick Rypien
Defensive Pairings
Braydon Coburn Mike Green
Brent Sopel Chris Phillips
Jim Vandermeer Brad Stuart
Chris Mason
Matt Keetley

The low quality of this roster was easily the biggest shock to me when putting together this article.  Calgary had to be given every player born south of Edmonton except one just to field a full team.  Considering that Calgary is generally considered a hockey town, I was quite disappointed with this showing.  There are obviously some talented young players up front that have time to improve, and Heatley is a bonafide sniper, but this team has a long way to go until it can compete with the big dogs.  They were voted the worst on offence, 7th on defence, and had the 6th best goaltenders.   


6. Vancouver (64 points: 14 forwards, 26 defence, 24 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Milan Lucic Shawn Horcoff Andrew Ladd
Paul Kariya Kyle Turris Mark Recchi
Aaron Voros Rob Niedermayer Chuck Kobasew
Eric Godard Brendan Morrison Colin Fraser
Defensive Pairings
Shea Weber Bren Seabrook
Dan Hamhuis Willie Mitchell
Eric Brewer Karl Alzner
Carey Price
Wade Dubielwicz

Like their Western friends in Calgary, Vancouver did not fair very well.  A solid defensive core and goaltending tandem was brought down by a lacklustre group of forwards.  There are definitely some bangers in this group, but not a lot of goal scoring on the front end.  Our writers were not kind, ranking Vancouver 7th in offence, 4th on defence and 5th in net.

5. Winnipeg (84 points: 36 forwards, 39 defence, 9 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Brendan Morrow Ryan Getzlaf Patrick Sharp
Patrick Marleau Mike Richards Scott Hartnell
Chris Kunitz Jonathan Toews Dustin Penner
Darren Helm Travis Zajac Colby Armstrong
Defensive Pairings
Duncan Keith Chris Pronger
Wade Redden Luke Schenn
Cam Barker Ryan Parent
Josh Harding
Brent Krahn

What at first looks like a promising group falls apart once you reach the crease and discover Harding and Krahn in net.  There is a nice combination of skill and strength up front, and the defence is rock solid.  However, our writers could not overlook the fact that the goalies have combined for 19 wins at the NHL level, all by Harding.  Winnipeg ranked 3rd on offence and 2nd on defence, but last in net.


4. Ottawa (87 points: 28 forwards, 23 defence, 36 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Jonathan Cheechoo Marc Savard Corey Perry
Jordan Staal Eric Staal Daniel Briere
James Neal Derek Roy Cory Stillman
Todd Bertuzzi Steve Sullivan Derick Brassard
Defensive Pairings
Dan Boyle Adrian Aucoin
Craig Rivet Bryan Allen
Marc Staal Jay McKee
Marty Turco
Mike Smith

Ottawa edged out Winnipeg for fourth spot thanks to a well-rounded team.  There are no glaring weaknesses on the team, although the defensive unit leaves a little to be desired.  Turco and Smith re-unite between the pipes to give Ottawa a good goaltending tandem, and there is plenty of firepower up front.  Grabbing the Staal brothers from Thunder Bay certainly didn’t hurt. They ranked 4th on offence, 5th on defence, and 3rd in net.


3. Edmonton (109 points: 21 forwards, 48 defence, 40 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Ray Whitney Bryan Little Jarome Iginla
Renee Bourque Daymond Langkow Shane Doan
Scottie Upshall Mike Comrie Joffrey Lupul
Jason Chimera Steve Reinprecht Fernando Pisani
Defensive Pairings
Dion Phaneuf Jay Bouwmeester
Scott Niedermayer Sheldon Souray
Mike Commodore Dererk Morris
Cam Ward
Chris Osgood

 The top three teams were pretty clear cut, with Edmonton falling just short of a top two finish.  This team will need a lot of production from their defence as their forwards do not provide a ton of goal scoring.  However, their defensive core scored first place votes from all of our writers and is the real strength of the team.  Four Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe trophy in net don’t hurt either though. You also may recognize that the Calgary Flames three best players are from Edmonton. Even crazier, 14 of these 20 players have played for either the Oilers or the Flames at some point in their careers. The Alberta teams love the hometown boys. Edmonton ranked 5th on offence but 1st on defence and 2nd in goal.


2. Toronto (111 points: 44 forwards, 35 defence, 32 goalies)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Rick Nash Joe Thornton Jeff Carter
Mike Cammalleri Jason Spezza Brad Boyes
John Tavares Steven Stamkos Mike Knuble
Brendan Shanahan Andy McDonald Nathan Horton
Defensive Pairings
Brian Campbell Kevin Bieksa
Brent Burns Drew Doughty
Bryan McCabe Rob Blake
Steve Mason
Dwayne Roloson

This is probably the most well-rounded squad, and if Mason continues to blossom into an elite NHL goaltender they could take over top spot.  This team may have a little trouble keeping the puck out of their own net as most of these players are very offensive-minded, even the defenceman.  This is not surprising considering the majority of these players came from the high-scoring OHL and not the rough and tumble WHL.  Toronto was tied for 1st on offence, 3rd on defence, and 4th in net.  They were the only team to rank in the top four in every category, showing just how consistent they are.


  1. Montreal (113 points: 44 forwards, 21 defence, 48 goalies)
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Simon Gagne Vincent Lecavalier Martin St.Louis
Alex Tanguay Paul Stastny Patrice Bergeron
JP Dumont Mike Ribeiro Jason Pominville
Alex Burrows Antoine Vermette Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Defensive Pairings
Francois Beauchemin Stephane Robidas
Marc-Edourd Vlasic Kris Letang
Marc-Andre Bergeron Mathieu Dandenault
Martin Brodeur
Roberto Luongo

It is no surprise that Montreal ended up on top considering it is home to the two best goaltenders in the world.  We did not even have room for the Marc-Andre Fleury, the goaltender of the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  Obviously, Montreal’s goaltenders were voted first across the board by our writers.  While the defence is not exactly a collection of All-Stars, the goaltending and offensive firepower of this team was just too much to be denied.  They tied for 1st on offence, were 6th on defence and 1st between the pipes.


Considering the hockey tradition the French-Canadians have it is not shocking to see them at the top of this list. However, on a per capita basis, Edmonton has probably produced the best hockey players considering Northern Alberta only has a fraction of the population of Quebec. Or, if you combined all of Alberta in to one team, they might even be able to topple the mighty French.

I hope you have enjoyed our little study and feel free to defend your team’s honour in the comments section!

Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Great Canadian Hockey Challenge, Halifax Keith's, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets