Wednesday, October 08, 2008

2008-2009 NHL Season Preview Part I: The Western Conference

Sorry boys and girls, all we have this year is pith.

In predicted order of finish:

Central Division:

Detroit Red Wings: (54-28; 115 points; 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference, 1st Overall; Won Stanley Cup): Back in the old "not rebuilding but reloading mode" is Hossa enough to cover for an aging backline and goaltending and fewer games against Central Division cupcakes?

Nashville Predators: (41-41; 91 points: 2nd Central Division, 8th Western Conference, 17th Overall; Lost to Detroit in the First Round): As if things couldn't get anymore chaotic for Nashville with their ownership situation the good news is that it doesn't seem to be a distraction. For now...

Chicago Blackhawks: (40-42: 88 points; 3rd Central Division, 10th Western Conference, 20th Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): "New" ownership has revitalized interest and the team. However they're still a work in progress and continuing to overspend on unrestricted free agent goaltending won't help matters.

St. Louis Blues: (33-49: 79 points; 5th Central Division, 14th Western Conference, 27th Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): A young team looking for a spark from underperforming and past their prime vets is not a recipe for success in the loaded Western Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets: (34-48; 80 points; 4th Central Division, 13th Western Conference, 25th Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): A franchise in dire need of a playoff appearance heads back to the drawing board with another infusion of youth and cast off talent from other teams. Will probably make it once the power shifts back to the Eastern Conference which means, not any time soon.


Northwest Division:

Minnesota Wild: (44-38; 98 points; 1st Northwest Division, 3rd Western Conference, 7th Overall; Lost to Colorado in First Round): They seem to have the regular season figured out but can't get over the hump in the playoffs. May have problems with roster turnover this season.

Calgary Flames: (42-40; 94 points; 3rd Northwest Division, 7th Western Conference, 14th Overall; Lost to San Jose in the First Round): We don't have much respect for Mike Keenan as a coach but we do know this, in the first few years with a team he does great things with the talent he has. A ton of new players to incorporate this year, let's hope they can give Kiprusoff some help.

Edmonton Oilers: (41-41; 88 points; 4th Northwest Division, 9th Western Conference, 19th Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): Still singing the small market blues but should have a shot at sneaking back into the playoffs with the drop off of some of the teams ahead of them.

Vancouver Canucks: (39-43; 88 points; 5th Northwest Division, 11th Western Conference, 21st Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): Roberto Luongo has to be wondering why the teams he plays for refuse to provide him with the goal scoring they need to win. There's only so much one man can do.

Colorado Avalanche: (44-38; 95 points; 2nd Northwest Division, 6th Western Conference, 10th Overall; Lost to Detroit in the Second Round): They bring back an impressive lineup that includes Joe Sakic and Adam Foote. Problem is, this is 2008 not 1998 and Patrick Roy is still retired.


Pacific Division:

Dallas Stars: (45-37; 97 points; 3rd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference, 8th Overall; Lost to Detroit in Western Conference Finals): Larry Brooks' crush Sean Avery joins a team that is trying to emerge from the heavyweights in the Western Conference. Could be enough of a pest to get them over the top.

Anaheim Ducks: (47-35; 102 points; 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference, 5th Overall; Lost to Dallas in the First Round): It is now or never for Anaheim who faces a huge cap problem in the coming off season. Should have fewer distractions but the fear is gone.

San Jose Sharks: (49-33; 108 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 2nd Overall: Lost to Dallas in the Second Round): We're not the biggest fans of Ron Wilson you'll ever find, but we don't believe for one second he was the problem here. Why is Roenick still hanging around?

Phoenix Coyotes: (38-44; 83 points; 4th Pacific Division, 12th Western Conference, 23rd Overall; Did not qualify for the Playoffs): Slowly but surely getting better and very, very glad that Los Angeles is in their division.

Los Angeles Kings: (32-50; 71 points; 5th Pacific Division, 15th Western Conference, 29th Overall): So inept, they couldn't even finish dead last overall with the worst roster in the NHL and could repeat that feat again.

Eastern Conference Coming up...

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