Editor’s Note…no clue why he is adding these ! to the titles of these previews, but uh, here’s the NHLs West preview.
Well here is the preview for the stronger, better conference in the NHL. The West is much like the NL in baseball. The coaches have to be smarter and there isn’t a pussy DH spot. The West plays hard, skates fast and has the history of the conference with the most suspensions. Expect another year of bruiser hockey from the West with the Stars making it out alive on top.
Anaheim Ducks: This is the favorite coming out of the west. For some reason a lot of analysts are high on the fact that they have two of the best defenseman in the league in Pronger and Niedermayer. I’m not going to argue, they are extremely talented athletes but with very different styles. Niedermayer is a smooth skating offensive defenseman meanwhile Pronger is a loose skating physical defenseman. You can’t put both on the ice together because of this contrast and really their luster is decreased when paired with their respective D partners.
Offensively they are likely the best team on paper in the West, but I’m still waiting for their goalie to repeat his regular season play from last and show that he can overcome a less than adequate playoff performance. They will most likely battle with San Jose for their divisional lead and should finish in the top 4 overall in the West.
Although they are the favorite to go to the cup, they won’t even make the conference finals because they lack a consistent playoff goaltender.
Calgary Flames: Well here is the team that I hate the most in the NHL. I personally want to see the Red Mile destroyed and the Saddledome burnt to the ground. Calgary fans are only comparable to Toronto fans … they are never wrong and always talk about the one year they went to the cup but manage to forget about getting beat like the red headed orphan children they are for over a decade. Their offense is great on paper but severely overrated. Iginla is a great player and the additions of Tanguay and Friesen will really help him snap out of the funk he had last year. There defense is also rock solid with the likes of Regehr and Phaneuf. Really they have the best defense in the league and goalie Kiprusoff mean that this team will challenge for the best goals against average in the league. So why won’t they win the Cup? Simple, Sutter is no longer coaching. See the Sutter family is a great hockey family, without a doubt the best hockey family as coaches. Baby Sutter in Red Deer motivates fools and gets results out of his players in the WHL and big brother did the same in Calgary. Without him behind the bench, the team will not have the same drive for perfection because Sutter doesn’t have complete control of the team. Will they win their division? Yes, make it to the west championship? Yes but their run will end there.
Chicago Blackhawks: At first glance Chicago can expect to see a Cub like performance out of their hockey team, but it gets worse. They don’t have the excuse that Dusty Baker is running the team and this organization is notorious for underachieving. They have a top 10 goalie in the Boulin wall and Martin Havlat is a huge offensive acquisition. On paper they appear to have the makings of a 10th or 11th teams but in all seriousness they will compete with the Blues for the worst record in the league. Yes league, not just West.
Colorado Avalanche: Y’all muthafuckas love the French goalies huh? First putting their faith in Patrick Roy who was great for the Canadiens and then falling off in his last year with Montreal and now hoping lightning strikes twice with Theodore. The situation is déjà vu for the Av’s but I think they have gone to the well until it was dry. The loss of Tanguay although not a huge impact on paper, will have substantial effects on the offense. They acquired Jordon Leopold and Tyler Arnason, both of whom would be a great addition to a line with Tanguay, essentially their second line is missing that leadership with skill position. Now I realize that they could not have got Leopold without giving up Tanguay but they gave up more than they got. Sure Leopold has tons of potential, but Sakic is at the age where he will be gone before Leopold hits his stride. The defense also lost their luster by losing Rob Blake. The Av’s run of continually making the playoffs is over and expect them to miss the top 10 in the West for the 1st time since moving from Quebec.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets are a young team that won’t play a hand in the playoffs for another 2 or 3 years. Rick Nash is an up and comer and proved that he wasn’t a one hit wonder. However, he like Ovechkin is missing the supporting cast. Federov is likely to be on the shelf for most of the year with the shoulder he injured chasing Anna Kornikova around for the past 3 years and the team has never been competitive enough to attract great talent to fill around Nash. They also gave up their goalie Marc Denis and that leaves the goaltending in question for the year. Pascal Leclaire will have to step up big if the Jackets have any hope of finishing 12th or higher in the West.
Dallas Stars: The stars will be much the same as last year; streaky, inconsistent and a thrill to watch in shootouts. However, Marty Turco is a proven playoff flop and that will not change. They acquired Lindros and got rid of Arnott. So basically they traded would have been if not for injury for another one. Their only good offseason pick up that will pay dividends is defenseman Daryl Sydor. He is a solid player and should provide both offensive and defensive help. Expect them to finish in the 4-6 range in the West but will have a short tenure in the playoffs as they will lose in round 1 regardless of who they play.
Detroit Red Wings: Onto the greatest hockey organization in the world. (Perhaps being from the same place as Gordie Howe plays a hand in Detroit always being my team). However, the organization has made big mistakes as of late. I’m glad that Steve Y finally retired, not because he wasn’t good enough to play but just because the risk of serious injury increases with each game he played. He had nothing else to prove in the league and is the definition of heart on a hockey team. The sappy shit aside, what the fuck were they thinking not making an offer to Manny? They gave him 2 years to show he could win, that was it. Osgood was there for 4 years with the “starter” role and didn’t do shit but managed to play for Detroit from 93-01. Detroit goes through goalies like hookers go through condoms ….. and clients. Manny deserved an offer because the playoff loss was the Defense’s fault. If a team does not block out in front of the net, a fast team like Edmonton will eat you alive. So instead of making an offer to Manny they go out and get Hasek for the 3rd round. The man was great his first time, sucked ass the 2nd time and I don’t see things getting better the 3rd time. I also don’t like the renewal of Chelios’ contract but love that they let Shanahan go. However Hockeytown, don’t expect the division this year or a 2nd round victory in the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers: Mutiny will kill a hockey team. Chris Pronger is a sellout, Peca the same. I see no reason why players would instantly leave a team after narrowly losing the Stanley cup last year. I like the additions of Lupul and Sykora in the Pronger deal but this team will only go as far as Roloson can stay healthy. They might squeak into the playoffs but don’t expect them to repeat their performance from last year. My only hope is that they can somehow win the Battle of Alberta. Oh, and Jared Stoll is going to have a repeat year. It makes me feel good watching him burn NHL defenseman like he used to burn me growing up.
L.A. Kings: Can L.A. get anything right? I’m amazed the LA Kings haven’t become the LA Kings of Anaheim. They got Rob Blake back, expect a retirement and got Roenick out, expect a quieter dressing room. However the Kings just lack talent, enough said. They have Marc Crawford behind the bench and Cloutier in the goal. How’d that work out for Vancouver? Not a chance will they make the playoffs so look for Blake to retire and them to get some good draft picks in a stronger than last year Entry Draft.
10th or 11th in the West.
Minnesota Wild: Who dey? Aren’t these muthafuckas in Dallas as the Stars? Nope, somehow they managed to get another hockey team who is pretty decent. They have been dubbed big offseason spenders by acquiring people such as Keith Carney, Pavol Demitra, Kim Johnsson, and Mark Parrish. These are great pickup for a team needing some age/experience/leadership to go with the young punks rolling in Minnesota. With Gaborik they will have goal scorers but like the Devils and Calgary, the team is extremely defensive minded. This will mean that there will be a lot of barnburners in Minnesota but they lack the defense and offense to match their divisional rivals Calgary. Given this, expect a 7th or 8th position and playoffs for the Wild. They might be able to use the trap to surprise their first round opponent but at this point anything short of a 1st round win will mean disappointment after the money they spent.
Nashville Predators: Well my team’s divisional rival hit the gym and got tough. Yep, Detroit’s position as the best team in their division is over, the Predators are no joke. Dumont and Vasicek add to the offense with Paul Kariya coming back. They have slowly formed the team into a young, fast team that can skate with any team in the conference. They have solid defense, some potential 80 point forwards and hardworking checking lines. As a side note, I had the privilege of watching Jordin Tootoo when my Estevan Bruins played his Osean Blizzard. Well needless to say the kid hates the world and plays like it. Bruins fans threw derogatory after derogatory comment at him but he just kept on trucking, “like the little engine that could”. In all seriousness, this team is sound everywhere in front of the goaltender. Vokoun is the suspect area for this team. He seems like he has great potential and shows some signs of greatness between the pipes but can’t seem to get past his demons in big games against big rivals. Expect them to take 3rd in the conference and to make it to the 2nd round pretty easily. From their Vokoun will have to become a playoff performer for them to carry on, and I don’t see them beating any of the potential opponents in the 2nd round.
Phoenix Coyotes: So Gretzky, how much is your wife up on Tocchett? The team improved with the acquisitions of Nick Boynton, Ed Jovanovski, Georges Laraque, and Jeremy Roenick but the team is still lacking a key goalie. Cujo is not half the goalie he was and they are playing in one of the toughest divisions in the league. I hope Gretz’ wife is smart enough to bet against them making the playoffs or else the Canadian Princess won’t be so rich with her dirty money.
San Jose Sharks: I’d like to introduce you to your Western Conference Champs. No doubt they are the team to beat in the West. With Thornton having another big year will get 130 points pretty handily and expect Cheechoo to have 40 goals this season. The team is built around the offense clicking and the increased time the number #1 line has had together will show immediate results. I see them as being divisional winners wire to wire and winning the season series against Anaheim. Toskala is a better goalie than Nabokov and in the event that Toskala somehow has the sophomore slump, Nabokov is there to pick up the pieces. The only team I see hanging with them for work effort and overall team ability is Anaheim but Anaheim doesn’t have the goaltending of San Jose. Get a program or read up on the roster because they have the best shot at winning the cup for the West and reversing this late trend of the East winning the Cup.
St. Louis Blues: I’m not going to waste much time on the Blues. They are the worst franchise in the league. They used to be a powerhouse but have fallen off the wagon. They brought back Doug Weight and picked up Manny and Bill Guerin but the offense is too old and the defense is too weak to prevent a cellar dwelling for most if not all of the season. I hope that Manny becomes the starter because he is the only chance this team has to getting 60 points.
Vancouver Canucks: Times have changed since Marc Crawford was sending Bertuzzi out there to kill fools but the rest of the team has not changed much with the exception of losing Carter, Jovo and Cloutier. But getting rid of Cloutier worked well for them as they now have Roberto Luongo, the most overrated goalie in the league. This team lost a lot of the offensive and big name players it had and Marcus Nasland is not getting any younger. The Sedin twins showed hope last year with the improvement from prior to the strike but I wouldn’t bet my wristwatch on them even making the playoffs. The team was pro Crawford and there may be some revolt early to the new coach. I expect them to narrowly miss a playoff spot finishing somewhere in the 9th-11th positions.