2) Unlike in the East where there is a gradual drop off in talent from team 1 to team 15, in the West there seems to be more of a cliff from the top 9-10 to the bottom 4-5 teams. We can envision this being the case again this year. Here is the list in the order of playoff seeding(divisional winners in the top 3)
- Detroit 115 Are they the best team? No, but they play in the VERY weak Central(Norris) which got weaker with the Nashville exodus. Eight games each against inferior competition will help them pad their point totals. They lost Schneider, Lang, Bertuzzi, and Kyle Calder, but Holland responded by signing Brian Rafalski and veteran Dallas Drake. Combine this with the emergence of younger players such as Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Kopecky and the clutch scoring of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, expect another 100-plus point season. Of course that can come crashing down with their Cup chances IF Hasek gets injured.
- San Jose 110 We believe that although the team did little to change their roster this summer, they really didn't have to. Hannan is the only real loss that might be felt. Toskala's departure simply settles what was becoming an annoying goaltending situation. Evgeni Nabokov is now the man. Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau lead an offence that's as good as any. The defense is good, especially with the re-signing of Craig Rivet, but is not their strongest point. GM Doug Wilson has enough cap space remaining that he can add another body there before the trade deadline. Hopefully the Roenick signing won't be a distraction. The Sharks will challenge for the Western Conference title and a Stanley Cup.
- Colorado 105 GM Francois Giguere was the big winner in the off-season, adding star winger Ryan Smyth and top defenceman Scott Hannan while losing nothing from his already solid core group which include Joe Sakic, Andrew Brunette, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos. There remains a question mark in net where Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore reside. With the ladder in a contract year. Will it bring out a big year? Couldn't be worse than the last 2! Look for Giguere to make a trade if neither Budaj or Theodore produce. Otherwise, this can be a dangerous team that should return to the playoffs and possibly win their tough division.
- Anaheim 107 Many questions and changes for the Champs. They lost Penner to that silly Lowe offer sheet. They (maybe) lost both Teemu Salenne and captain Scott Niedermayer. All leave holes hard to fill. That said, Schneider was a nice pickup by GM Brian Burke, but does not come close to replacing the skill level, minutes played and leadership Niedermayer gave. The addition of Todd Bertuzzi should help but not replace the loss of Teemu Selanne, who also hasn't yet decided on whether or not he'll be back. Losing promising power forward Dustin Penner to Edmonton was tough, but with Ryan Getzlaf just scratching the surface of what should be a superb career, and the Ducks, led by Chris Pronger and J.S. Giguere, still have a championship core to contend. They'll be top four in the West and threaten to repeat as champs.
- Calgary 103 Iron Mike is back! If his past is any indicator the team will respond this season by over achieving then he'll lose their respect by next year. They lost steady defender Hamrlik, but the defense led by stars Robyn Regehr and Dion Phanef remains steady. With a Vezina caliber goalie, Miikka Kiprusoff playing in his contract year behind them, the Flames should be OK on their side of the ice. We can see a rebound/big season from Iginnla, and a return to the playoffs, as well as challenge for their division.
- Minnesota 102 This is a tough team to predict. A HUGE unknown will be the goaltending of Backstrom. No longer do the Wild have 2 reliable goalies. If Backstrom has a sophomore slump, the team will struggle. Else they have enough fire power (Brian Rolston, Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra) to go along with the gum chewer's (Jacques Lemaire) defensive schemes to win more than their share of games to be propelled back into the post season
- Vancouver 100 They made few changes to the team that surprised many last season with a division title. Backstopped by the Vezina/Hart callibre tending of Roberto Luongo, the Canucks won their share of ugly, boring games (NJ of the West). Don't expect much change this time around as the team will rely heavily on Luongo and the Sedins to win games. A slight let down from last season, but not a huge drop in the overall standings is possible.
- LA 96 Had one of the better off- seasons. They added Tom Preissing and Brad Stuart to a blue-line that already had Rob Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Jaroslav Modry and rookie Jack Johnson. They already had a pretty good group of young forwards led by Anze Kopitar, Mike Cammalleri and Alexander Frolov. They added Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy and Kyle Calder. So far so good. BUT there are huge issues in net. Jason Labarbera and J.S. Aubin all are backups or AHL caliber in our opinion. They did the right thing jettisoning Cloutier, but can a 19 year old(Johnathan Bernier) be the answer? The goaltending will have to improve, but we feel the rest of the team is now good enough to make up for this deficiency and make the playoffs. If they had a top 5 goalie, this team might even be a Cup contender.
- Dallas 91 We were way off in predicting their demise last year. They didn't do do terribly much this off season to improve. In fact losing one of their regular defensemen, Darryl Sydor. They were one of the lower scoring teams last season, and we don't see that changing. Turco had an outstanding season last year to propel the Stars to an improbable 50 win season, but we don't see that feat being repeated. They will struggle at times, and probably miss the playoffs.
Nashville 90 We've made no bones of the fact that we don't like Barry Trotz as a coach. http://newfaux.blogspot.com/2007/05/hot-to-trotz.html We feel his squads severely underachieved the last few years. With the gutting of his roster we may finally see if he is in fact a good coach. For if this team makes the playoffs, we will have our minds changed. They won't be pushovers, but we no longer see this team as a playoff caliber squad
Edmonton 85 With Kevin Lowe's off season overhaul of the roster, that started with the trade of Captain Canada Ryan Smyth, the Oilers remain a team in flux. Question marks abound. Firstly will Mr. Penner respond to the inevitable pressure that being so highly paid brings? Can Roloson stay healthy and at 37 be ready to play 60+ games? Can Sheldon Souray replicate last years offensive explosion while reducing his minus stat? We don't see the Oil as being anything more than spoilers in the tough NW division.
St. Louis 82 While many analysts like to use the Blues as their 'sleeper team' out west, we at Fauxromors are not sold on the Blues as playoff contenders. Sure Andy Murray helped turn them aroud when he got there, and they have a pretty nice young defense led by Brewer and rookie Eric Johnson. Also the addition of Paul Kariya will help, BUT they also added perenniel salary anchor/underachiever Keith Tkachuk. Add to that Manny Legace will be asked to carry the load in goal, we don't see the Blues as ready to play in the post season
- Chicago 76- One thing that seems certain, the Blackhawks may lose their share of games, but they should be a more exciting team to watch than in recent memory. They will likely have 3 significant youngsters; Jonathan Toews, Jack Skille and 2007 first overall pick Patrick Kane all be playing opening night. That excitement aside, their defense is not good and Khabibulin has yet to play well enough to earn the 6.75 mil/year pay cheque. It'll be another non-playoff year in 'The Second City'.
- Phoenix 70 A long shot at best to be anything but cellar dwellars, again. How much longer can Wayne put up with the losing will be the question that will be asked here. The blue-line remains solid with Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris, Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, and Zbynek Michalek,(all trade deadline fodder??) but they have an offence that doesn't have a single household name after the over rated Shane Doan. Their goaltending isn't likely to be in the top 10 either with a collage of backups/AHLers competing for the starting role. We can't see TGO sticking this out an entire season!
- Columbus 68 - Biggest off season move was in the front office, where Scott Howson took over as GM from perrenial incompetant McClean. They also have one of the leagues better coaches in Ken Hitchcock. The problem is neither man plays. Rick Nash, David Vyborny, Fredrik Modin, Sergei Fedorov and Nikolai Zherdev give the team a decent set of forwards but their defense on paper at least is one of the leaue's worst. Goaltedning isn't going to be a strong spot either with Fredrik Norrena battling Pascal Leclaire for the starting role. It could be yet another LONG sesason in Ohio's largest city!
3) Like in our Eastern predictions, these numbers are assuming no major injuries to key players which is always inevitable and the unknown going in. We again welcome our readers who don't have their own blogs to offer up their own predictions. get 'on the record' so we can all laugh at how badly we all did next April! LOL
Look for our preseason playoff/Cup champ predictions by the weekend. As always, keep it here for the latest!! !