Thursday, October 07, 2010

Western Conference Projections

Having tackled the Eastern conference, it is time to move on to the West. Again, division winners are noted by an asterisk.

  1. Vancouver Canucks* - Art Ross winner, very deep group of defencemen, one of the best goalies in the league. A nice combination, in (at least arguably) the weakest division would seem to be a recipe for a great regular season.
  2. San Jose Sharks* - I suppose it’s possible the Kings could pass them, but I need to see it before I’m confident enough to put them ahead of a regular season juggernaut like the Sharks.
  3. Detroit Red Wings* - Everyone’s rested and healthy, Hudler’s back to add some depth. I wouldn’t count on another couple of 70 point seasons from Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The question is Howard, in my mind.
  4. Chicago Blackhawks – They’ve lost some depth, but the young core should still be improving.
  5. Los Angeles Kings – I look at the Kings as a pretty good bet to make the playoffs, but they’ve got a bunch of young players so they could take a leap forward or a slight step back. So I’ll split the difference and project them as the 5th team in the West
  6. Nashville Predators – this team is consistently underrated by many, myself included. But they’ve got good goaltending, a good D core, and a solid if not spectacular forward core. Looks like a playoff team, or failing that a team that’s close.
  7. Calgary Flames - I’m not nearly as pessimistic about this team as most. I don’t think they’ll challenge Vancouver, but I’d be surprised if they fall down the standings like some, barring injuries to Iginla, Bouwmeester and/or Kiprusoff. Then again, maybe I should be given the current injury problems?
  8. Anaheim Ducks – The defence might be a bit weak, but they’ve got a good goalie and pretty decent forwards. PP of Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, and Visnovsky should be very good. Can that carry a team through the regular season?
  9. Phoenix Coyotes – I need to see it again before I believe it, as far being a slam dunk for the playoffs. Their goaltending might regress a little, and with LA coming on, we’ll see.
  10. St. Louis Blues – Halak seems like he might be an upgrade, but a look at last year’s stats suggests this team already had pretty good goaltending, so I’m not sure they’ll get quite the boost some might think, even if Halak is a 0.920 sv% goalie, unless the rest of the roster performs better.
  11. Colorado Avalanche – Like many, I expect this team to step back a little bit, but I don’t expect them to slip all the way back to the lottery.
  12. Minnesota Wild – Not too much to say, but they don’t look quite as raw as the three teams remaining, and would appear to have better goaltending provided BAckstrom stays healthy.
  13. Dallas Stars – None of the three remaining teams have very good defences, on paper. Dal probably has the best forwards.
  14. Edmonton Oilers – I had a difficult time deciding between Edmonton and Columbus. Ultimately, my tiebreaker is that I project the NW to be an easier division. They could shoot quite a bit higher if a couple of the rookies are better than I’m expecting.
  15. Columbus Blue Jackets – I don’t really like having them this low, because I think they've certainly got the potential to be better than last. But, someone has to be. I’m not sure what to expect out of Mason.

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