Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fan Post-mortem: Western Conference

Previously looked at was the perspective that fans of Eastern Conference teams "should" take when looking back on the 2007-2008 season played by their valiant (or sometimes not so valiant) warriors. Now... on to the Western Conference:

Detroit Red Wings - first place in the regular season, won the Stanley Cup. Yep... me thinks Red Wings fans should feel pretty good. Additionally, next year should bring good tidings as well. I don't see any way the Wings will suffer a steep post-Cup drop-off the likes of which befell Carolina and Tampa Bay. Messers Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom and Rafalski are simply too talented.

San Jose Sharks - second place in the regular season, eliminated in the 2nd round by Dallas. This is an easy one... fans (myself being one) should feel very disappointed, but also have hope for the future with the recent change in leadership (yes, Ron Wilson... the coach is supposed to lead the team). How the Sharks will perform come clutch time next playoffs is to be determined, but a talented roster (which the Sharks have) is always going to provide a good base.

Minnesota Wild - third place in the regular season, eliminated in the 1st round by Colorado. Not really sure what Wild fans should think. They certainly have a serviceable team, but it's not certain the talent level is on par with the better Western Conference teams. That said, probably shouldn't be too happy with a 1st round elimination after winning the division.

Anaheim Ducks - fourth place in the regular season, eliminated in the 1st round by Dallas. True, they weren't as good of a team as the one that won the Stanley Cup a year ago, but a 1st round defeat (at the hands of a division rival no less) should leave a sour taste in the mouth for Ducks fans. Additionally, next season's Ducks have a large amount of uncertainly in the names of Selanne, Teemu and Niedermayer, Scott.

Dallas Stars - fifth place in the regular season, eliminated in the 3rd round by Detroit. Stars fans should be beside themselves with joy (well, maybe that's a bit overstated, but they should be happy) at the play of their team. A run all the way to the conference finals provided the excitement and now the idea of a full season with Brad Richards on the same team as budding superstar Brenden Morrow should provide the anticipation.

Colorado Avalanche - sixth place in the regular season, eliminated in the 2nd round by Detroit. A peculiar season for the Avs. They struggled mightily at times in the regular season and then loaded for bear with the trade deadline additions of Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg. Injury troubles then followed them through the playoffs where they did manage to win a series before running into the Red Wings juggernaut. Finally, the Avs fired their coach after all this and replaced him with a previously fired coach. This was a strange team which had a strange season.

Calgary Flames - seventh place in the regular season, eliminated in the 1st round by San Jose. Flames faithful should view this as a "decent" season. They got superstar-level play from Captain Jarome Iginla, pretty good play from sometimes superstar Mikka Kiprusoff and not a lot else. All in all, the Flames probably got as far as they could with the roster, but fans probably shouldn't expect much else unless personnel changes are made.

Nashville Predators - either place in the regular season, eliminated in the 1st round by Detroit. Fans in hockey-hotbed (not really) Nashville should be delirious over the play of their team. After having the prior year's roster gutted, the remaining players stepped up and led the team not only to the playoffs, but to their eventual status as "team that gave the Red Wings the most trouble."

So... of the 8 playoff teams in the East, fans of 6 should feel good about the season gone by. Comparatively, only 3 of the Western Conference teams should feel that good. It could be that the Western Conference has better teams, and resulting higher expectations, but regardless of the cause, the result is interesting.

Remaining out of the playoffs Western Conference standings:

9. Edmonton
10. Chicago
11. Vancouver
12. Phoenix
13. Columbus
14. St Louis
15. Los Angeles

Of these teams, one story does jump out... Blackhawks fans should be thrilled with their 10th place conference finish and knowledge that they are very much on the right track to becoming a contending team again.

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