Monday, September 28, 2009

2009-2010 Season 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. However we see this season as being much tougher with a changin gof the guard taking place. Previous bottom feeders are now contending, and some traditional powers are falling back. Here is the list in the order of playoff seeding (divisional winners in the top 3) With our Diffference maker, or Wild card listed for each team.

1) San Jose- 115 Yes, we know no big shocker here. Despite perennial playoff disappointments this remains one of the most talented teams in the NHL, AND they added Dany Heatley to the mix. The core that won the President's trophy is back, so there's no reason to believe that they won't dominate once again. Especially when one sees the Pacific division as now weaker than in years past. Of course, despite another regular season trophy the big question is this team ready to compete for the trophy given out in June? Difference Maker: Torrey Mitchell

2) Chicago- 108. Yes, we are predicting the Hawks will finally dethrone the Wings as Kings of the Norris(Central) Division. They are not without questions. They did sign Marion Hossa after losing Martin Havlat to free agency. Unfortunately, Marion was damaged goods and will miss the start of the season. Can Cristabal Huet carry the team now that former #1 goalie Khabibulin is gone? Can Patrick Kane avoid cabs? Despite these questions the hawks remain an offensive juggernaut with oodles of depth at forward and a defense that can move the puck as well as any in the league. We see continued maturing and improvement of the younger guys and a big year in The Second City. Difference Maker: Dustin Byfuglien

3) Calgary- 105 WE see the Flames duking it out all season with the Canucks, leaving the rest of the weak NW division in the dust. On paper at least the Flames posses one of the best defenses in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Flames that didn't translate into success last season. New coach Brent Sutter no doubt will concentrate on this and along with newly acquired Bouwmeester and improved play from Phaneuf we could see them really cut down the GA. Up front they did lose Cammalleri but should still score enough on most nights. In goal Kiprusoff will have to be more consistent. He often butted heads with ex coach Keenan (what goalie hasn't?) so the change there should be to his liking. Difference Maker:Dion Phaneuf

4) Vancouver- 100 As mentioned above the Canucks and Flames will have a spirited fight for the division. Ultimately we see the Flames prevailing but the Canucks should put together a fine season nonetheless. With elite goaltending from captain-cough cough, Roberto Luongo this team will be in every game. They also possess an underrated group of blue liners that if healthy can compete with anyone. Up front they might be a bit top heavy, relying on the Sedin twins, but with addition of Mikael Samuelson to go with emerging scorers like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows the 'Nucks should score enough to win most nights. Difference Maker: Steve Bernier

5) Detroit- 98 We thought long and hard of where to place the Wings. Its difficult to see them falling more than this, but its still possible. The Central is now a very strong division so they won't have too many easy games. Their defense/goaltending last year were mediocre at best. With Osgood, now 37 set to lead the way we are not optimistic. The defense, once a strength is now getting long in the tooth with Lidstrom, 39 and Rafalski, 37 leading the way. Last season their potent attack covered for many of those weaknesses, but with the losses of Hossa, Samuelson, and Hudler the Wings will rely heavily on stars Zetterburg and Datsyk. We're not enamoured with newcomers Bertuzzi (why?), and Jason Williams. So we believe this might be one of the last seasons Detroit is considered an elite team for a while. Difference Maker: Valteri Filppula

6) St. Louis- 95 One would have to believe the team that finished with 92 points a season ago despite missing scorers Paul Kariya, and Andy McDonald along with defensemen Erik Johnson, and Eric Brewer would be even a bit better this next season with those folks back in the lineup? We believe to a small degree the Blues will be better, but o the other hand they won't be sneaking up on anyone, and in the tough Central, there are no gimmee games. The injuries did force the maturation of guys like Backes, Perron and Oshie. Mason and Conklin give the Blues a solid tandem in goal, and if they can avoid a let down, we might see the Blues once again in the post season. Difference Maker: Alex Steen

7) Anaheim-93 This team has undergone some serious alterations in the past 6 months. from big moves at the trade deadline, to the Chris Pronger deal. These are not the same Ducks that won the Cup 2 years ago. This is actually a very solid club. With a very good offense, decent (albeit weaker than in previous years) defense, and with 2 capable tenders to carry the team when the offense is lacking, and or defense porous. The addition of Lupul and Koivu along with fellow Finn Selanne make for a very interesting 2nd line to compliment one of the best lines in the game centered by Ryan Getzlaf. They may not be good enough to compete with the Sharks for the Pacific, they won't be push overs either. Difference Maker: Saku Koivu

8) Los Angeles- 92 Our 'surprise' team from the West. We misshot on that last season, but believe that they should be considerably better than last season when they underachieved. Their defense led by Doughty, Scuderi, Johnson and Greene is skilled and underrated. Up front they possess one of the best young group of forwards East of the Mississippi, with Frolov, Kopitar and Brown. Additionally they added veteran leadership in Ryan Smyth, and a healthy Justin Williams should bolster the offense. In goal things Jonathan Quick emerged as a legit #1. he'll have to build on last year's performance if the Kings have a shot at getting back to the playoffs for the first time in 7 years. Difference Maker: Justin Williams

9) Columbus- 91 No, we're not down on the Jackets, and in fact they could again sneak back into the playoffs, but someone has to miss the post season by a hair at #9, and we predict this time around it will be Columbus. Like the Blues they won't be sneaking up on anyone this time around. That said they still possess one of the best goal scorers in the game in Nash(who signed a long term deal this summer) and one of the best young goalies in the NHL in Steve Mason. So they will be a force to be dealt with in the competitive Central Division. Coach Hitchcock will have them competing nightly. However in the end we believe the Jackets will miss the playoffs by a hair as a result of other teams improving faster as much as anything else. Difference Maker: Nikita Filatov

10) Edmonton- 89. Many are figuring that new coach Pat Quinn will be able to prod the Oilers back into the post season. While we admit he is a good coach, even the best coach can only do so much. Yes, we see the Oil as being improved from last year's version, but not quite enough to sneak back into the playoffs. By and large this is the same team that missed the playoffs with 85 points. Will 36 yr old Khabibulin be an upgrade over 39 yr old Roloson in net? They lost Kotalik to free agency so that won't help an already suspect attack. Can Hemsky take his game to the next level? can Souray stay healthy all year again? We suspect the Oilers could as easily finish in the bottom 5 of the league as they could the 8th spot. Difference Maker: Patrick O'Sullivan

11) Minnesota- 88. Out with the gum chewer (Lemaire) and Gimpy Gaborik, in with Todd Richards behind the bench and Martin Havlot to try to ignite a relatively anemic offense. Never has there been so much uncertainty heading into a Wild season. While they are saying they will play a more 'uptempo' style, do they have the horses to pull it off? Will their previously stifling defense suffer as a result. Can the other Nic Backstrom continue to put up great numbers in this new environment. We say at this stage, no. The Wild will fall somewhat short once again of making the post season. Difference Maker: Kim Johnsson

12) Nashville-87 Another team that will miss the post season as a result of other teams improving more than they are falling backward. We see the Preds as being competitive for that last spot but not quite having enough to get there once again. The same team that missed by a hair last year is back with few if any changes. Therefore to get back to spring hockey the Preds will have to improve from within, and get improved performances from key players like David Legwand, JP Dumont, and Marty Erat. All 3 need to improve their 08-09 stats. On defense the Preds boast one of the best and brightest in the league to compliment break out goalie Pekke Rinne. Still, we believe when all is said and done the lights will go dark in early April in Music City. Difference Maker: Steve Sullivan

13) Phoenix- 85 Our point total may sound optimistic, but in our opinion it might be underrating the desert Dogs. With Gretzky gone the Yotes finally have a real NHL coach who is there for the team and not for his own ego/for the money. Yes, the continued off ice distraction will continue to take atoll but the team has under achieved to some degree the past couple of seasons. We believe Gretzky did a piss-poor job mooding this into a cohesive unit. New coach Tippett will be a significant upgrade. Difference Maker: Peter Mueller

14) Dallas- 80 Sadly Mike Modano's final season will likely be a dismal one. We don't see this team as being anything but in serious decline. Marty Turco is still the #1, but his level of play has fallen in the past couple of seasons. Sure a healthy Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow will be nice, but in our opinion not enough to compete with the rest of the west. Owner Tom Hicks ordered new GM Joe Nieuendyk to slash salary and we wil see results there. Additionally we're not enamoured with the new coach selection of Marc Crawford. Difference Maker: Fabian Brunnstrom

15) Colorado- 65. Looks like it will be yet another long season in Denver. New coach Joe Sacco takes over a team that few expect to compete for the playoffs. They lost future hall of Famer Joe Sacik to retirement and to add insult to injury they will start 10 of their first 15 games away from the pepsi Center. It could get ugly fast. Yes, they do have some very talented players led by Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, but will they stay healthy this year? Will 3rd over all 2009 pick Matt Duchene make the team? Should he? In goal can Craig Anderson do what Peter Budaj couldn't last year, become a legit #1 goalie? Difference Maker: Marek Svatos

1 comment:

Antzmarching said...

8 Playoff teams (in order):

San Jose
St. Louis

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