Friday, October 3, 2008

2008-2009 Preseason Predictions: West

1) Like the East. As we mentioned last time we understand its no more than a blind folded dart throw, but its the preseason and almost everyone else does it, so why not? As has been in evidence the last few seasons, the West is the stronger of the two conferences. It was also easier for us to predict last year.
Here is the list in the order of playoff seeding(divisional winners in the top 3)

2) The West:

  • Detroit- 110 No shocker here! The best team in 2008 is at least as strong going into the new season and it could be argued with the addition of Hossa, they are in fact stronger. It also should be noted the Central (Norris) is still the weaker division of the West, despite Chicago's improvement. The Wings should rack up points against those teams as well as increased inter conference opponents. Possible weaknesses are the age of some of their vets, and most ominous, the dreaded "Stanley Cup Hangover" Also were the career years of both Zetterberg and Datsyuk a fluke or are they destined to maintain or even improve upon that production? Their goaltending remains fine with Osgood playing the best hockey of his career and Ty Conklin joins him to form the most economical goalie tandem in the league. There is no reason to believe the Wings won't easily win their division and hold off the other powers out West to win the conference title....again

  • Anaheim- 103 Many are forgetting the Ducks are only 15 months removed from a Cup. Their Euro trip and the aforementioned Cup hangover, along with the idiotic Niedermayer faux-retirement hurt them early and when they finally seemed to come together they weren't nearly the tight, coherent, tough as nails team to play as they were the year before. That said, this year there are no such distractions. Selanne is in camp and ready to contribute. They will need he and newcomer Brendan Morrison to help stars, Getzlaf, Kunitz and Perry to improve their anemic scoring. Their strength was to be their defense led by the Norris twins and goaltending with J-S Giguere coming off a stellar season. Those are the core to any championship team. However with the cost cutting trades of both Schneider and O‘Donnell the defense is suddenly only above average. However, if they can even marginally improve their 28th rated attack, they will win the tough Pacific division and maybe even challenge the Wings for conference superiority

  • Edmonton- 98 The Oilers won't be the 3rd best team out West, but given the way teams are seeded, they will be third nonetheless as our projected winner of the now weaker NW division. New ownership by drug dealer Darryl Katz has solidified the team from the top, and it appears its trickling down to the team as we see Edmonton as one of the more exciting teams to watch out west. Their forwards are young and fast. Adding Cole also improves their grit. Something that usually wins games in the new NHL. Their defense if it stays healthy should be good enough to win more than they lose. We aren't big fans of their goaltending but if Garon can show last year was no fluke, the Oilers will win their division going away. If he and Roloson struggle it will make for a long season in northern Alberta. We see the Oil as a solid playoff caliber team, and see them as best of a weaker NW division.

  • San Jose- 102 They are no longer a young up and coming team. They are now a youngish, veteran filled team that so far has underachieved in the post season. That tendency led to the dismissal of coach Wilson. New coach Todd McClellan, a former asst in Detroit, will inject new life into the team, though we see a small reduction in their regular season point total, they will continue to be a solidly strong team to beat. Thornton/Marleau are the best 1-2 centers this side of Crosby/Malkin. Cheechoo seemed to regain his scoring touch in the 2nd half, and Ryan Clowe was one of the better Sharks in last seasons playoffs. That said, the real team MVP is goalie Evengi Nabokov, who had a fabulous season. They added Dan Boyle and Robert (don't call me Baretta) Blake to bolster the back line. We see this as make or break year in SJ. Thornton needs to show he's a leader and deliver in the post season else the deserved soft tag will stick for good. In the regular season at least the Sharks will thrive and be competitive for the Pacific division and at least a 4th seed.

  • Dallas- 98 The Stars showed that they are back with a solid regular season followed by an impressive playoff run. Many saw them as the 2nd best team in the West last year. Unlike previous years their forward core is made up of players in their prime. Led by captain Brendan Morrow, Ribiero, and new comer Brad Richards, this is a good group of forwards. Back on D injuries last spring forced the Stars to see what their younger back liners could do and the likes of Grossman and Fistric were more than up to the task, making it more likely one or both wil have key roles in their top 6 along with the ageless Zubov and Robidas. In goal Turco showed he was not a regular season only goalie, with stellar performances to help propel the Stars into the conference Finals. Therefore we can only see a similar type season again this year with a solid 3rd place finish in the tough Pacific and a 5th seed in the West.

  • Calgary- 95 The Flames have one of the game's best at forward, on defense and in net. Assuming Cammalleri can be an upgrade over Tanguay’s 54 points, the Flames are still short on offense. Sure they can make up for it a lot of nights with the defense and goaltending, but they also need to find a few more nights off for Kiprusoff. Does Bertuzzi have anything left? Can youngsters like Nystrom and Boyd contribute? This looks like a team that will need to have things break right just to be stuck in neutral, but could also slip back considering the young, improving teams behind them in the West. Still, they have too much talent to not qualify for the post season, else look for the Keenan rumours to heat up in earnest!

  • Chicago- 94 They seem to be everyone's favourite "sleeper" pick this year. This years Capitals. Some of that optimism is warranted, but don't forget along with that talent are a lot of green players, starting with their captain. Towes is going to be a solid, if not stellar player, but is he ready, NOW, to captain an NHL team? However, the Hawks didn't miss the post season by a lot last year, so even a mild improvement should push them over that threshold top 8 in the West. Their potential downfall is their lack of a physical presence. Can they be pushed around? Still with the addition of Campbell on the backline along with their forwards they should score their share of goals. They also should be one of the more exciting teams to watch this year.

  • Phoenix- 92. In many ways it can be argued that the Coyotes have as much claim to be a 'sleeper as the Blackhawks. They possess lots of quality youngsters, and for the first time in many a year, a reliable starting goalie to start the season. Add to that the addition of a true #1 center in Jokinen and they might actually have a potent offense this year (21st last year) Their defenese should OK with Jovanovski and Morris, but the key will be a full season of Bryzgalov. Its no coincidence that when the Ducks gave him away for nothing last fall the Yotes turned it around. Ilya played like a true #1 most of the way. If he can reproduce that kind of performance coupled with an improved attack, the Desert Dogs may finally get back into the post season


  • Minnesota- 90. Any Jacques Lemaire coached team can not be counted out of playoff contention. As he always has a hard working defensive approach type team that has a chance to win each night. However, we feel they have lost enough fire power from last season(Demitra/Rolston) that they will lose more of those 2-1 games than they win this season, and they will be unseated as NW division champs, and may find themselves on the outside looking in come mid April.

  • Colorado- 88. Sorry Av's fans we don't see a return to the post season for your team. No, not a complete collapse, they will be competitive for the 8th spot (too much talent for that), but too many question marks to pencil them in there right now. The biggest is starting in goal where Budaj has yet to show he can carry the team for long periods, (Despite the i-believe-in-peter-budaj campaign) and Raycroft has been anything but stellar since his Calder days. Tony Granato RE-takes the reigns as the new(old) coach. Their defense if they stay healthy is one of the better in the West Their forwards were quite brittle last season. can they stay healthy? If all the pieces fall into place its still not impossible they could slip into 8th, but we wouldn't place big bucks on it.

  • Vancouver- 85. We don't see the twins/Luongo show carrying the Canucks to the post season. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to hear significant trade talk involving the Swedish duo. How difficult a trade will that be; trading not one but 2 star forwards at once? They added Demitra after it appeared that Sundin spurred their rumoured 20 mil offer (perhaps he felt the Canucks might make the playoffs?) Even with his addition we aren't impressed with their scoring ability. Their defense is solid, but not scarily physical. So the key will be how far Luongo can carry the 'Nucks. Unless he has a Hart callibre season we don't see the Canucks back in the playoffs, and it could be a long season in one of the most beautiful city's FAUXRUMORS has visited

  • Nashville- 83. We have new found respect for Barry Trotz, but we can't see them pulling another playoff berth out of their hats this year. The ownership turmoil has not been settled. In fact it can be argued that things are even more bleak with the DelBaggio fiasco. Also, in addition to having a more competitive division, they lost one of their top 3 forwards with the oft discussed Radulov defection. We do like the future for their young mobile defense, but we're not impressed with the Ellis/Rinnes goaltending tandem to pull them up/back into a top 8 position. Is this the last season for hockey in Nashville. We believe it may be.

  • St. Louis- 81. We just are not YET impressed with what the Blues will put on the ice this season. We are already on record about how we feel about Keith Tkachuk. Their strong point, defense wasn't 'all that' last year, and their goaltending although not a weak spot, isn't gong to carry the Blues into the playoffs either. The tough loss of Johnson also won't help. They have some good solid young players who in a couple of seasons may get them back to respectability, but its not going to be this season in our opinion

  • Columbus- 80. They made some significant deals in the off season, but overall we'd have to say most were lateral moves. Howson had a mess to clean up after 6 seasons of Doug McClean, so no one should expect immediate results. Hitch will have them in shape and ready to compete every night, but we don't see them having enough to displace one of the top 8 for their first playoff spot. They do have some young players who like in St. Louis may propel the team forward, we don't see it this year Unfortunately this will be 8 seasons without a sniff at the post season for Blue Jacket fans.

  • LA- 75: The Kings have collected an abundance of young talent, and could pull a Tampa Bay Rays-like turnaround (went with them instead of the aforementioned NHL teams because it was more surprising) just probably not until 2009-10. This year the goaltending is still young and the defense could be even younger, so there will be some serious 'growing pains' (Big losses). It will therefore probably be another losing year in L.A., but next off season might be the time for the Kings to finally to start to turn things around (Another lottery pick-Taveres-?) wouldn't hurt that either


Jibblescribbits said...

Sneaking your anti-Budaj bias in on a friday... very clever. But you're still on notice.


1) Jibble: WE will, as always, NEVER duck a past mistake and eat crow if we've earned it! LOL

Antzmarching said...

From Antz:


NY Rangers
New Jersey
Tampa Bay
x-NY Islanders


San Jose
x-St. Louis
x-Los Angeles

Antzmarching said...

While better, the Oilers aren't THAT good, Faux...

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