Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NHL 2008-2009 Season: Western Conference Preview

Okydoke... it's time. Let's start our pronosticating (with Cup winning odds) at the top...

Playoff Teams

1. Detroit Red Wings (4-1) - Start with a base recipe of the Stanley Cup Champion. Add one of the game's better forwards in Marion Hossa. Throw in a dash of depth in the form of defenseman Brad Stuart and goalie Ty Conklin. There ya' go...

Someone's got to step up to beat the champ (or knock them out of the favorites spot).

2A. San Jose Sharks (8-1) - A good team, probably a very good one. The Sharks have had the talent to compete for the Cup for a couple years now, but have actually done a few different things to try to get different playoff results. The addition of veteran blueliners Dan Boyle and Rob Blake along with former Red Wing assistant coach Todd McLellan behind the bench may not win the Sharks the Cup, but it may (and it's worth a shot).

2B. Dallas Stars (8-1) - Sorta like the Sharks, but a little different. They were a good team last year and should be improved offensively with an entire season of Brad Richards. Additionally, a solid group of young defensemen will be a year older and wiser. The Sharks likely have more talent than the Stars, but I view each team's potential as being on the same plane... high.

4. Anaheim Ducks (10-1) - Always tough, always... well, tough. The Ducks will benefit from the absence of questions about Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer because... they're not absent, but losing Matthieu Schneider to salary cap considerations should hurt. Scoring will come from both the aforementioned Sellane as well as the improving Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and... the much ballyhooed Bobby Ryan.

5. Chicago Black Hawks (20-1) - The bandwagon is already getting pretty full, but I tend to agree with the opinion out there that something interesting is brewing in the Windy City. The addition of solid goaltending in the form of Cristobal Huet and flashy (maybe even really really good) defense from Brian Campbell should combine nicely with the excellent youth provided by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook. I'd be surprised if the Hawks don't make the playoffs... especially in a weak Central Division.

6A. Calgary Flames (30-1) - Well, someone's got to win the Northwest Division, right?

6B. Edmonton Oilers (30-1) - See above.

8. Phoenix Coyotes (30-1) - It's not an easy call to predict the 'Yotes will make the playoffs, but I think they're moving in a good direction. Ilya Bryzgalov will see lots and lots of shots, though, given the loss of young defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton in the Olli Jokinen trade.

Teams That Might Slide In

Minnesota Wild (40-1) - Could make the playoffs out of the very peculiar Northwest Division.

Vancouver Canucks (40-1) - See above.

Colorado Avalanche (30-1) - See above.

Teams Looking to Next Season (The One Some 380 Days Away)

LA Kings (uhh...)

Columbus Blue Jackets - See above.

Nashville Predators - See above.

St Louis Blues - See above.

No comments: