Thirty Teams, Thirty Thoughts: Part 2 - The West
Last week, I took at each of the teams in the East, and shared my thoughts on each team as they head into the final games of their season. From bold predictions on teams that would miss the playoffs (next year) and the team that would win the cup, or make a Cinderella run to the Eastern finals, that post had it all.
Well, except for my thoughts on the West. Western conference fans often complain that we Easterners don't pay enough attention to their teams. And to a degree, it's true. But it's not our fault, you're the weird ones with a zany three hour time difference. 10PM start times? Some of us have to work the next morning!
But seriously, the West is great and we should all watch more games from our Pacific counterparts. So without further adieu, here is part two of our feature, Thirty Teams, Thirty Thoughts: The Western Conference!
- Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks clinched the Western Conference title with many games remaining. With three more points accumulated (or lost by the Flyers), they will clinch the President's Trophy, and assure themselves home ice advantage for their entire playoff run. Unfortunately, they won't make it that far. Roberto Luongo and the Canucks will finally break the curse of the Blackhawks in the first round, but they won't be able to get passed a red-hot Anaheim Ducks team in the second round.
- Detroit Red Wings: The Wings were recently crushed by a non-playoff team in the St. Louis Blues 10-3. They've suffered inconsistencies, injuries, and a lot of adversity this season. And all while remaining uncertain of their captain and top defenseman future. For the first time in his career, Nicklas Lidstrom could finish a minus player, currently sitting at -3. Lidstrom will keep the streak alive by making up the differential in the coming games, and he WILL return for another season next year.
- San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have had a successful but relatively quiet season in California. Their superstars haven't really been performing up to task, with only Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau with 30 goals or more, and no one with more than 65 points. That being said, with five players likely to finish over 60 points, seven players likely to finish with more than 20 goals, and a likely Calder candidate in Couture, and another playoff berth likely wrapped up, it's been a good year for the Sharks as a team. But I can't see the Sharks making a long playoff run, so you have to wonder what this all means for a team that has seemingly been stuck in playoff mediocrity for as long as I can remember.
- Phoenix Coyotes: Having performed beyond expectations despite the legal and financial troubles of their owners, I predict that the Phoenix Coyotes will still be the Phoenix Coyotes next season. And that they will make the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Los Angeles Kings: Any victory for the Kings from hereon in is a moral victory, with so many injuries and so much uncertainty. That being said, they're still one major player away from being a true contender. But just like the missed out on Ilya Kovalchuk last year, they will miss out on that forward yet again this summer.
- Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks run in the last few games to ensure a playoff spot has been incredible. Corey Perry has earned himself a likely Hart nomination, Ray Emery has seemingly made a triumphant return, and the team is playing great. But despite all this momentum, their team, which still lacks a lot on defense and has question marks between the pipes, will slow down to a near stop once they make the playoffs, especially against what's likely to be a deeper playoff opponent, depending on who they face. Expect the Ducks to try and make a major move to add a defenseman this summer.
- Nashville Predators: The Preds just won't go away. They have no 20 goal scorers as of this writing, no true first line players, and their team is being carried by an amazing coach, an amazing goaltender and an even more amazing defenseman, who hasn't missed a beat despite all his personal accomplishments in the last couple of years. The Preds will do everything in their power to keep Shea Weber from hitting free agency this summer, and they will succeed. Sorry if that was a little anti-climatic.
- Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks are another one of those teams that have faced a lot of adversity this season. But led by an incredible group of players at their core, especially captain Jonathan Toews, they'll manage to make the playoffs, but the curse of the Stanley Cup Winner will follow them into the post season and force them out at the hands of the team they've owned in recent years, the Vancouver Canucks. But luckily for them, it certainly won't be another 50 years before they win another cup.
- Dallas Stars: The Stars won't be able to keep their star forward, Brad Richards. They won't be able to sign anyone with major name value in the summer. They won't be able to stabilize their ownership situation over the next year. Their play as well as their attendance will suffer, and by this time next year, or maybe the next, we'll be adding them to the growing list of teams in financial trouble and rumored for relocation in the league.
- Calgary Flames: So long as the Flames continue to build losing teams around Jarome Iginla, we will continue to see the same inconsistent and disappointing play from Calgary for years to come. Iginla is likely a flame for life, and he's definitely a great player, so no disrespect to him or his accomplishments, but he's simply not meant to have a team built around him. And until the Flames figure this out, or he retires, Flames fans will continue to be disappointed.
- Minnesota Wild: Last Friday, the team in the same spot as the Wild was the Atlanta Thrashers. And all I had to say about them was, "meh". I hate to say the same thing twice, but I really can't think of anything interesting to say about this team either. Meh?
- St. Louis Blues: "Halak is the better goalie bro. We made a mistake by trading him bro, you'll see. Blues are going to be so good. Price sucks man, you'll see." I've waited nearly a year to say it, and while the Canadiens have nothing to really gloat about at the moment, the timing still feels right. HA!
- Columbus Blue Jackets: At what point does Rick Nash decide he's tired of missing the playoffs, and that he's tired of being in a town where he doesn't really get any national attention? The forward - like many this year - is having what's probably a sub-par season with 32 goals and only 66 points, and his team will miss the playoffs in 9 of the 10 years they've been in existence. Frankly, does anyone see that statistic getting any better in the next few years? I don't know if I do. Nash is pretty much signed for life, with no movement clauses and no trade clauses up the wazoo. No one's talking about him potentially getting traded, but how long until we do?
- Colorado Avalanche: The Avs have had one of the zaniest seasons I've ever seen in the NHL. Devastated by injuries, the Avs finally gave up on the season around the deadline, by trading a troubled goaltender for an even more uncertain goaltender in Brian Elliott. Then they trade one of their best players and arguably one of the best players in the league at the start of the season, before he broke his hand, in Chris Stewart, not to mention a star rookie defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk for Erik Johnson, a move that baffled many. Johnson has been good since moving to Denver, and will likely be good for the Avs for many years to come. They have a good core, and they're well on their way to a lottery pick at the draft. But what will this unique mini-rebuild do for their team in the coming years, and will they manage to save their floundering attendance before we begin to group them with the Atlantas and Floridas and Phoenixes of the league?
- Edmonton Oilers: It's going to be really exciting to see Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and all the rest for many years to come! ........ in Nordiques Jerseys :)
I hope you enjoyed these last two posts. I might do another batch in the summer, after the free agency dust has settled, so post your comments, and disagree with me all the way to Hell in the comments below!