Sunday, July 6, 2008

Early look at next year: Western Conference

The previews for next year have already started among hockey fans as these lonely days of summer slowly drag on. But before I get to that.
I didn't think of this before someone brought it to my attention that some readers didn't know how to make a comment. I probably should have explained that. At the bottom of each post, it says how many comments are have been made about that post. If you click that, it will bring you to a new page where, on the right, you can comment to your heart's content. Also, you can comment on my guest book which is in the list of links to the right side. If you have questions feel free to ask me via email or IM.
Getting back to what I was saying. It is early to be making predictions but I figured it would be something good to talk about. Lets start in the West.
1. Detroit
2. San Jose
3. Calgary
4. Dallas
5. Anaheim
6. Phoenix
7. Chicago
8. Edmonton

Number 1 is undisputed. Detroit is the reigning Stanley Cup champs and have the same exact lineup minus Hasek and plus Hossa. The number 1 spot is theirs. 
Number 2 goes to San Jose who has definitely improved for the short term, acquiring Dan Boyle and Rob Blake in the past few days to make their defense very formidable, not to mention Nabokov is a world class goaltender and they can score. 
The 3rd place goes to Calgary but only because it has to. The Northwest is considerably weaker with Vancouver losing players and Minnesota is weaker after losing Brian Rolston and the potential losses of PM Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux will cripple their offense. Vancouver is an absolute disaster right now offensively. Even if they do manage to sign Mats Sundin, they will still have huge problems scoring with the Sedin twins as their only noticeable offensive producers. Calgary is still a big player with Kiprusoff, Phaneuf, Iginla, and Langkow. And with the addition of Mike Cammalleri, the division in the Northwest is Calgary's to lose at this point. 
At number 4, Dallas will keep following their system and stay in the race as one of the top teams in the West. Of course that is unless Sean Avery rips the team apart. 
Number 5 has the Ducks of Anaheim. With Niedermayer coming back, the defense is solid once again, even if they are forced to trade Mathieu Schneider because of cap constraints. Their offense will rely on Getzlaf and Perry more, especially if Teemu Selanne decides to leave the Ducks for retirement or another NHL team. But with their superb defense, the Ducks will still be big players in the western conference...for now. 
At number 6, the surprise of the West, will find its home. The Phoenix Coyotes will make a jump and put themselves in the 6th spot. With the addition of a true number one center and rookies like Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker, the offense will really take off as those two will be the "Kane and Toews" of next season. Yes that means Turris will win the Calder Trophy as top rookie. Daniel Carcillo's PIMs will go down and his offense will increase as his responsibility of protecting everyone will fall more to newly acquired Brian McGrattan and Todd Fedoruk. Along with Ilya Bryzgalov having a full year, the Coyotes will soar to new heights. 
At number 7, the Blackhawks finally make it back into the playoffs. With the additions of Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, they will certainly make some noise. Patrick Kane and a healthy Jonathan Toews will lead the team's offense along with Patrick Sharp and Robert Lang. They will also be looking to Martin Havlat to stay healthy and provide a full season of steady offensive production. It would seem it would take a miracle for Havlat to not get hurt for an extended period of time but if it happens, the Blackhawks will be in business. 
Rounding out the top 8 will be the Edmonton Oilers. Acquiring Erik Cole and Gilbert Brule should help them get their offense going along with a healthy Sheldon Souray and Shawn Horcoff. Lubomir Visnovsky gives them a 2nd great powerplay QB along with Souray. Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will also have big sophomore seasons to help the offense.
Those are my top 8 for the Western Conference. Let me know what you think. I can already tell I will take heat for putting the Coyotes in the 6th spot but that is what I think will happen. Please comment on this as you would like and use the guestbook as a place to discuss this or anything else you would like. My Eastern Conference preview will be up later. 

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