2011-12 NHL Western Conference Predictions
(Predictions for the Eastern Conference can be found here.)
1. San Jose Sharks - Brent Burns and Martin Havlat will add some grit and scoring power. Although losing Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi was a blow to Sharks fans, the trade will prove beneficial when it comes to playoff time. San Jose is contending in one of the toughest divisions in the league but Logan Couture (right) will only get better this season and Burns and Havlat add integral pieces to the puzzle. The Sharks are primed to hoist the cup this season.
2. Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks may still have a bad taste in their mouths from their somewhat surprising defeat in last year's Stanley Cup finals, but the talent on the squad is too strong to let it deter their chances this season. Ryan Kesler may be out, but the team can focus on channeling their strengths around Maxim Lapierre and goalie Roberto Luongo—who I'm sure will be working hard to make up for his recent postseason collapse.
3. Detroit Red Wings - Many Red Wings' players may be hitting up the early bird special soon, but until then, Nicklas Lindstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg make up for a pretty powerful Detroit team that will have no problems reaching the post season. Jimmy Howard may not be the most reliable man in front of the net, but he will do for this season.
5. Anaheim Ducks - The Ducks saw their stellar season slowly slip away from them when spectacular goalie Jonas Hiller came down with a debilitating case of vertigo. Hiller is back and hoping to finish what would have been his best season yet. MVP Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne will need to keep up the point production if they plan to have a chance in the competitive Pacific Division.
6. Chicago Blackhawks - Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are leading the way for the Hawks who came eerily close the missing the postseason after their Stanley Cup season in 2009-10. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, the Blackhawks have too many holes in their defense and too much instability in front of the net, which may lead to another less-than-desirable record.
8. St. Louis Blues - With 31 goals and 31 assists last season, David Backes led the Blues in goals and points and will end up doing the same this year. The Blues are facing high expectations if they can avoid injuries.
9. Minnesota Wild - The addition of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi will add power to the Wild and hopefully some goals. This may not be a playoff season, but should be an improvement from last season's 12th-place finish.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets - Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski are high-price, much-needed additions to the Blue Jackets. The city of Columbus has approved a plan to keep the Jackets in their home arena till 2039, which provides stability for the team. Columbus will have to find scoring power and hope that Wisniewski can step up and play $33 million worth of hockey.
11. Calgary Flames - The Flames' biggest assets are Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla. Other than that, they are the same team that will probably end up somewhere at the latter end of the Western Conference standings.
13. Colorado Avalanche - The goaltender position has been shored up by the additions of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. Forwards Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny are consistent goal producers but don't exactly have much support. This could very well be another mediocre season for Colorado.
14. Dallas Stars - Losing Brad Richards will be devastating for the Stars. He drove the momentum they Stars needed for a last-minute (albeit unsuccessful) playoff push and his departure could spell disaster.
15. Edmonton Oilers - The Oilers have a lot of young talent but not enough to make a difference this season. Weak goaltending only adds insult to injury. The Oilers may have success in their future. Their very far future.
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