Western Conference Predictions

Before the season begins, i thought I'd take a stab at predicting where each team will fall in the 2011-12 season. So, without further ado:

 

  1. Vancouver Canucks – They might have a slow start coming out of the gate, as two of their top six players in Kesler and Raymond are out to start the season, but this is still a darn good hockey team. The Canucks will be icing basically the same roster as they did last season, minus Christian Ehrhoff, and I do not see any reason why they won't once again be the best in the west.

     

  2. San Jose Sharks – The Sharks will once again be the best team in the Pacific Division, despite off-season strides made by LA. They will also be the second best team in the conference for the second year in a row. Captain Joe Thornton will be looking for a “bounce-back” season and the three defensemen added in the off-season, headed by Brent Burns, will make this team hard to play against offensively and defensively. If Niemi can return to health and be a solid net presence once again, the Sharks will continue their winning ways.

     

  3. Chicago Blackhawks – After a Stanley Cup hangover last season left the Hawks disappointed, they should be back to form this year. Led by Captain Serious, along with Kane, Hossa, and Sharp, the Chicago offense is going to be scary once again. They also have a rock solid defense with Keith and Seabrook manning the blueline, but goaltender Corey Crawford will have to prove he can play a whole season of NHL hockey if they want to remain an elite team.

     

  4. L.A. Kings – Off-season additions Mike Richards and Simon Gagne will help make this team better than they have been in years. Plus, if Doughty can return to Norris-nominee form, the defensive corps will be able to shut you down and score on you all at once. It also does not hurt to have two of the top young goalies in the league manning the crease, in Quick and Bernier.

     

  5. Detroit Red Wings – They can never be written off can they? With a team that can ice Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom every night, it wouldn't be smart to bet against them. They also run the best system in the NHL under coach Mike Babcock, and its hard to win a game against the Wings when your team never has the puck.

     

  6. Nashville Predators – Always lacking offensive power, yet never icing a bad team, the Preds will once again outplay their roster. With one of the best goalies in the league, named Pekka Rinne, and the best top defensive line in the league with Weber and Suter, scoring on this team will be a huge problem for opponents.

     

  7. St. Louis Blues – While injuries de-railed their 2010-11 season, a healthy season could see the Blues once again reach the playoffs. Halak is a top-flight goalie, and their team is just loaded with top end talent from top to bottom, whether it be Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk on defense or Stewart, Oshie, Berglund, and Backes on the front end.

     

  8. Anaheim Ducks – I really didn't want to put them in the playoffs, but there just aren't any teams that I think will be any better. If Hiller can stay healthy, goaltending will not be a problem. But if one of their top-liners (Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry) were to get injured, they are very short on depth. I am also not convinced that Selanne will be able to remain healthy and score 80-or-so points for another season.

     

  9. Minnesota Wild – Ooooh, so close. But the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi do not make this a playoff team. They also are without a top notch defenseman with the departure of Burns and Backstrom can only play so many games in net for the Wild; he isn't getting any younger.

     

  10. Columbus Blue Jackets – Call me crazy, but I think Steve Mason will have a bounce-back season and play pretty well in net. However, they play in the toughest division in the conference; even with an improved top line center what I think will be better goaltending, the Jackets are still not a playoff team.

     

  11. Calgary Flames – The Flames will be in this spot for a few years until they tank it and get a top five pick, because their prospect cupboards are bare and it isn't like the current roster is elite. Iginla is still one of the best players and leaders in the NHL, but he only has so many years left, and past him they just aren't that good.

     

  12. Edmonton Oilers – They still aren't going to be very good, but the three teams below them are going to be worse. The Oil's offensive potency, if healthy, can't be denied, but their defense is shotty at best (especially if Whitney misses considerate time) and if they plan on riding Khabibulin at all, they could be in serious trouble.

     

  13. Dallas Stars – So they lost Brad Richards and replaced him with who? Oh, that's right, nobody. They signed the cancer known as Sheldon Souray during the summer and Lehtonen has always been an injury risk during his career. I just don't think this team will be very competitive.

     

  14. Colorado Avalanche – Uh-oh, it looks like the Capitals will be getting a top five pick in the 2012 NHL draft. Varlamov has never played more than 27 games in a season and battled injuries last year, but sure, he was worth a 1st and a 2nd. Despite where they finish, I do think Erik Johnson will take a step forward and come close to reaching is insane potential.

     

  15. Phoenix Coyotes – Their starting goaltender is Mike Smith, not Ilya Bryzgalov. Enough said.

 

 

2011-12 Season - The Sharks play their first game this Saturday at 10:30 PM E.T. against the Phoenix Coyotes. Be there or be square. Havlat (shoulder) is slated to miss the opener, but could be ready for game two, per Pierre LeBrun.

2 Comments

George Prax's picture

I might have switched Detroit and LA (btw, how great of a playoff series would that be?), and Anaheim a little higher (why do people keep trying to write them off? lol). Maybe Dallas a little higher too. I think Ribeiro's going to really shine in the spotlight and adding Ryder to his wing will only make him more comfortable. They still have a lot of question marks, but I think they might turn into a mini-Nashville under the right circumstances. Richards is obviously an amazing player but I think his individual contributions to a TEAM are overrated. The only problem is that they lost him for nothing, not that they lost him. Also, not sure about Colorado. I think they might be even more Nashville-y. Love Varlamov and I don't see why he can't be a good number one guy, and they have plenty of youngsters.

Frankly I'd put them in the playoffs over St. Louis.

Tanner Kovach's picture

Im not totally sold on anaheim at all. Sure, if hiller is healthy it'll be a huge boost, but im not so certain he will be all season. And after theyre awesome top line and selanne, who do they have. What are the chances lubo gets 70 points again? Id say slim to none. As for colorado, i dont buy varly yet. He will be good, but this year he probably wont. Going from playing 30 games to being a starter for 60+ games is hard for a young goalie.