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Western Conference Predictions

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s that time of the year for speculation and intrigue so let’s check out who I think will end up where in the Western Conference:

1.  San Jose Sharks  I really do think they’ll end up here, the question is will it matter?  The Sharks love to tear it up in the regular season, but like captain Joe Thornton they wilt come playoff time.  To be honest not much has changed, but the acquisition of Dany Heatley will ensure the Sharks will light the lamp even more so than usual this year.  They also have the defense and goaltending to keep a level playing field.

2.  Chicago Blackhawks  They’re not as flashy as they’re hyped to be, but with Marian Hossa on board (albeit after he recovers from surgery) the Hawks have talent young and old and that should secure them the #2 playoff spot.  I’m not a huge fan of Christobal Huet in net, but with Hossa and a long list of piquing young players (Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Barker), Chicago should have plenty of strengths elsewhere to overcome any shaky goaltending.

3.  Calgary Flames  Many are picking Vancouver for this spot, and it’s certainly a more stable pick.  I’m going to spice it up a bit and pick Calgary, but not just for the sake of controversy.  The acquisition of Jay Bouwmeester automatically elevates their defense corps to borderline elite status.  He plays in all situations and plays well in all of them.  Everyone dismisses the deal for Olli Jokinen, but with a full year to get comfortable and with his nemesis Mike Keenan out of the picture, he and Iginla could be explosive.  Kiprusoff’s constant regression is my only worry.

4.  Detroit Red Wings  With Hossa departing to a division rival on the rise combined with the aging of some key Red Wings, I can’t put Detroit any higher than this.  They have a way of being one of those “I told you so” teams but I’ll chance it.  Nik Lidstrom looked good, not great probably for the first time in his career in last year’s playoffs.  Brian Rafalski looked the same.  All of a sudden the Wings have an above average team, nothing more.  Not that that spells doom or anything.  They’ll still be competitive, but I think they’re past being able to work miracles.

5.  Vancouver Canucks  Without a division crown the ‘Nucks are relegated here.  There’s a lot of things I like about their team though.  Their goaltending and defense are impeccable, however the catch is that with Mats Sundin gone all of a sudden there is a huge hole in their forward roster.  The first line is special, especially with Burroes who I love, skating with the Sedin twins.  After that there isn’t much though.

6.  Anaheim Ducks  The Ducks are slotted nicely here, but it’s probably by default.  There are some decent teams below them, but not of the same caliber.  Some top end talent (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan) vaults the Ducks over some other respectable opponents, but they’ll again have to rely on their horses if they expect to get anywhere.  For now the Pronger deal drastically downgraded their talent level, and I’m not one who shares the opinion that Scott Niedermayer hasn’t lost anything.  They’re very much like the Canucks, but their defense is a little ho-hum for them to make a lot of noise.

7.  Dallas Stars  I almost forgot about them.  The Stars, like the Ducks, will end up here pretty much by default.  They have good talent with Turco, Richards, the improving young D corps and young talent at wing in Neal and Eriksson.  They were decimated by injuries this year but they’re certainly good enough to land here.

8.  Columbus Blue Jackets  It’s been a slow, arduous process, but the Blue Jackets seem to be moving in the right direction.  There wasn’t much to write home about until last year, but Columbus has finally sprinkled in some other talent to make it all work cohesively.  They have a tough, underrated defense and the forwards are a solid group (again, finally) which all together should mark another spectacular season for Steve Mason, and another playoff birth.

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9.  St. Louis Blues  I think Nashville makes the most sense here, but something about the high-flying youth of the Blues tells me otherwise.  There was something refreshing about so many young players pinning their ears back and going for broke.  Chris Mason had a very good season as well, and as long as he can have a similar campaign I think the Blues will narrowly miss the playoffs led by Oshie, Backes, Boyes, Berglund, and Erik Johnson (remember   him?).

10.  Nashville Predators  On paper this team looks fairly good to me every year but they never deliver much, just flashes.  Now they’re just average.  Their defense is good enough, if not a little lacking at the bottom.  Forwards are just okay as well, and giving Steve Sullivan too much money doesn’t help.  Pekka Rinne looks like a starting-caliber goaltender, but it’s just never been the same since Tomas Vokoun left.

11.  Edmonton Oilers  I don’t really think any team at this point deserves to be even this high, but the Oilers just might.  They have enough legitimate players, they’re just not all that great.  Horcoff, Penner, Sam Gagne, Robert Nilsson, Grebeschkov, the list goes on.  All these players would be fine in supporting roles on other teams, but Nikolai Khabibulin won’t be enough for them to contend for anything this year.

12.  Minnesota Wild  Overhauling the front office and coaching staff was a good move, because they tried things Jacques Lemaire’s way and were too slow to change after, costing them a few years.  Unfortunately they don’t have the personnel to play a Penguins-influenced style.  Havlat takes Gaborik’s place as best player most likely to get injured, I like Sheppard and Burns as good, young players, and the goaltending is very good, but that’s all.  Cliff Fletcher has some work to do before anyone can take them seriously.

13. Los Angeles Kings  I’ve been a huge fan of what the Kings have done in the last few years.  Think of them like the Penguins or Caps with slower developing talent, but more of it all around.  This summer they added Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi who will really help teach these young players.  In total the Kings have 9-10 players you need to familiarize yourself with.  Don’t take your eye off them; in 3-4 years they’ll be contending.

14.  Colorado Avalanche  Joe Sakic’s gone, handing over the reigns of the team to Paul Stastny.  That’s not a bad thing but the rest of the roster is.  Hejduk is done, Wolski looks like he won’t pan out, and the defense is filled with has-beens.  3rd overall pick Matt Duchene could be playing second line center if he impresses early.

15.  Phoenix Coyotes  At first I thought their financial woes were the reason everyone had them in the basement, then I saw their roster.  Aside from Shane Doan, your go to guys include Matthew Lombardi, Scottie Upshall, and Petr Prucha.  They have some young talent on defense (Z. Michalek, Yandle) and goaltending is okay, but look at their prospect pool and wonder, as I am, what the hell they’ve been doing for the past 5-7 years.   

 

 

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  1. Dan
    September 26, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Pretty solid rankings and I agree that the top 6 should be these team no matter what but I have Vancouver over Calgary. J-Bo is key but they are also low on overall forward talent so losing Cammarelli will be key. Also I think they way they finished the season leaves a bad taste in my month. I think the Canucks have an improved D (that was already good) a better goalie, and at least as much offense so I am going with them.

    Minnesota is my kind of a suprise team. (although they barely missed the playoffs last year so it’s not too much of a suprise) I guess it could go either way with a new coach and system. A couple guys like Koivu and Bouchard should be able to step up now that they won’t be playing the trap. Combine that with Backstrom and a solid D and they have as good as shot as anyone else for the 6-7 spots.

    Opps went off a bit there, maybe I should start my own blog????

  2. September 26, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Blogging is what all the cool kids do.

    I guess your Van/Cgy argument makes sense, Calgary basically lost Cammalleri and got Bouwmeester so they’ll be about the same as last year. We’ll see what happens. I actually hate Minnesota lol, but if that’s your darkhorse go for it.

  3. Slacker
    September 27, 2009 at 2:12 am

    It does not matter where you rank the Blackhawks we all know they have no chance to win this year. The Curse of Hossa will strike again. I am glad Jim Mora will not read this blog because yes I am talking about playoffs. With the rankings you have we can expect the champs to come from the east again!!!

    • September 27, 2009 at 6:24 am

      Well said.

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