Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wester Conference Preview and Picks

Central Division
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Nashville Predators
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. St. Louis Blues
5. Columbus Blue Jackets

Again, this will be the most top-heavy division in hockey. Detroit for all my wondering about whether they can win or not, will go out and win the division. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Chelios, Rafalski, Hasek and a host of players that aren't well known but get the job done are going to be the class of the division. Nashville still has a pretty good team up front and on the backend. Mason was always good in Vokoun's absence and should continue that. Where they used to be able to get by with their offensive depth, this year will be more about focusing on defensive responsibility, but you could do worse that looking to Arnott, Dumont, Sullivan, Webber and Hamhuis. Chicago are putting all their eggs in some young baskets. That said, the kids are pretty good. It should be interesting to see how Toewes, Kane and Skille adjust to playing against men. They have an interesting lineup and in a few years I can see the Blackhawks taking over 2nd place in the division from a Nashville team that won't have any money to pay players. St. Louis, to me, is still a mess. Kariya is older and not as good, Tkachuck is older and not as good, Weight is older and not as good. I'm unsold on their kids and their goalies. They are better in many ways than Columbus though, who in my mind are the same place as when they came in to the league however many years ago but with Rick Nash. Other than that, they haven't ever developed a player and they've had their chances, they finish last in the division time and time again.

Northwest Division
1. Colorado Avalanche
2. Calgary Flames
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. Minnesota Wild
5. Edmonton Oilers

This is the first division where I've had to write from bottom to top. Colorado will make their triumphant return to the top of the pack. They have an abundance of offense that the other teams in this division can't come close to matching. Their defence should be alright, no big names on the backend for them. Scott Hannan was brought in to be a bruiser, Jordan Leopold has to be healthy for once in his career. The only problem for them might be the goalies where Budaj is an enigma to me, who knows if he will be able to be a #1 and Theodore playing in a contract year. The Flames I have in second because their offense is miles ahead of the Canucks. Tanguay wasn't bad last year and should get better, Iginla is a stud, the defence is crazy stacked and tough. The Canucks are the Roberto Luongo show. It's a very fun and good show to watch, and hell, how do you win a playoff series where you are shut out in 3 games?! More importantly, how do you TRADE a guy like Roberto Luongo? I don't understand the Islanders...or Panthers. Damn, he's been traded twice?! Unbelievable. (In case you are wondering, the total bounty he has brought is Mark Parrish, Oleg Kvasha, Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld...I wouldn't have traded him for all those guys, never mind the parts of each trade). ANYWAY. Minnesota I don't like. That's all I can say. Edmonton is at the bottom of the group because the rest of the teams are so good. In the Central, Southeast or Northeast I would say they could make the playoffs, they are just in it against 4 other very good teams and don't have the horses to keep up. They'll play a fun to watch brand of hockey again though.

Pacific Division
1. San Jose Sharks
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Los Angeles Kings
4. Dallas Stars
5. Phoenix Coyotes

For the 2nd year in a row I'm taking San Jose over Anaheim. There's too much to like about the Sharks. Thornton and Marleau, Nabokov, Michalek, Steve Bernier, Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski, Matt Carle. They are young, they are fast, they are big, they are good. Sounds very similar to team #2 in the division, Anaheim. They lost their best defenceman and their top forward which will hurt. Their kids will step up (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan) but there's a lot to fill in those four skates. I like the Kings to step up and jump over the punchless Stars. Turco finally put together a post-season with the stats that supported my thinking that he's a good goalie that just lost series because of the guys in front of him (like Lalime in Ottawa all those years)...but Turco is literally all they have. Mike Ribeiro led this team in scoring last year. Phoenix was my breakout team last year and they flamed out fantastically (watch out Florida) and now they will be bottom dwellers for years.

Conference Standings
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Colorado Avalanche
4. Anaheim Ducks
5. Nashville Predators
6. Calgary Flames
7. Los Angeles Kings
8. Vancouver Canucks
9. Chicago Blackhawks
10. Dallas Stars
11. Minnesota Wild
12. St. Louis Blues
13. Edmonton Oilers
14. Columbus Blue Jackets
15. Phoenix Coyotes

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