The NHL North Division’s Biggest Surprises So Far

Image Credit: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The NHL’s new Scotiabank North Division has been one of the most exciting aspects of the 2020-2021 NHL season. The anticipation has been worth it and every game seems to be more entertaining than the last. There have been plenty of surprises over the course of the season but hey, that’s what makes hockey so much fun.

Vancouver's Fall

The Canucks were deemed to be one of the favourites to finish atop the North Division alongside the Toronto Maple Leafs but as we near the half-way point of the season, things are not going as planned. Vancouver made some notable additions this offseason and also lost some key players such as Jacob Markstrom. The lacklustre play of Jake Virtanen and newly acquired Brayden Holtby’s subpar performances have not been enough to live up to expectations early on. 

Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Coaching changes

Nobody expected that after their hot start to the season the Habs would be the firsts team to make a coaching change, but here we are. After a tough stretch of games, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergiven, shocked the hockey community by sacking head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk muller. It was announced that Dominique Ducharme would be taking over the coaching duties at least for the remainder of the year. A few days later the Habs made another shocking coaching change by firing goaltending coach Stephan Waite in the middle of a game against the Ottawa Senators. Waite, who has been with the organization since before Carey Price joined the team, was released as Bergiven deemed it necessary for a change with the way Carey Price has been playing. 


Late on Thursday night, the Calgary Flames became the second team in the NHL to make a coaching change with the announcement that Geoff Ward had been sacked and has been replaced by former L.A. Kings Stanley Cup Winning head coach, Darryl Suter. The Flames made the coaching change as they sit in 5th place in the North division with an 11-11-2 record.

The Goals

No division has been more entertaining to watch then the North Division and this can mostly be attributed to the sheer amount of goals they have. The NHL’s top 3 goal scorers, Auston Matthews (Toronto), Tyler Toffoli (Montreal), and Connor McDavid (Edmonton) are all from the North division. With so many pucks finding the back of the net, the divisions goaltenders are not having the same amount of luck. No starting goaltender from the North Division sits in the top 5 in goals against average or save percentage.

Joe Thornton And Jason Spezza

If this were ten years ago, having Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza on the same roster would have been a huge deal in the NHL. As both players are in the last stretches of their careers, fans didn’t expect the two veterans to be key players for the Leafs but once again, here we are. Through 16 games Thornton had recorded 11 points and Spezza had recorded 15 in 24. The two leafs veterans have become key contributors and have exceeded expectations early on. Spezza who has been with the team for a couple of years now and Thornton have clearly had an impact off the ice as well as the Leafs are looking like a more confident team than they have in previous years and the addition of experienced veterans surely helps with that.


Nobody can deny that the NHL’s new North Division has been one of the leagues most entertaining this season which begs the question, do fans want it to become a regular thing?

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