warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

2013-14 NHL Western Conference Preview

Luke Holthouse |
September 30, 2013 | 10:37 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

With two Stanley Cups in the past three years, the Blackhawks are approaching dynasty status. (tanveer.i.ali/Flickr)
With two Stanley Cups in the past three years, the Blackhawks are approaching dynasty status. (tanveer.i.ali/Flickr)
Before the start of the 2010 season, the Chicago Blackhawks had gone 49 straight seasons without a Stanley Cup. An Original Six team with tremendous heritage and a tremendously talented roster came into that year without a championship since the 1961 season.

The near-century wait has been worthwhile.

With another loaded roster, high expectations and summer with Lord Stanley's Cup, the Blackhawks come into the 2014 season with a chance to become a modern day dynasty.

The team lost in the first round of playoffs in both the 2011 and 2012 season, but were the last team standing after 2013 to win its fifth ever Stanley Cup, proving that it was indeed a team that would compete well into the future.

Led by forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Hawks should lead the new Central Division and finish as the top seed in the Western Conference.

Though an equally threatening duo of a healthy Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from Pittsburgh may challenge for the President's Trophy, Chicago will be focused on the slightly more significant trophy they've had all summer, which also may come down to the Penguins and Hawks.

But plenty of challengers await the Hawks across the conference.

Jonathan Quick is arguably the best goalie in the NHL. (Burns!/Creative Commons)
Jonathan Quick is arguably the best goalie in the NHL. (Burns!/Creative Commons)
SEE MORE: 2013-14 NHL Eastern Conference Preview

Led by All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings came close to getting past the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals and should be the best competitor in the West against the Hawks. Kings fans hope the Stanley Cup championship from two years ago was not a fluke and that they, not the Blackhawks, have the making of a dynasty with forwards like Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. 

Down the I-5, the Anaheim Ducks were thrilled to hear the announcement from Teemu Selanne that he would be returning for another season. Along with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks should put enough points on the board to crack the third spot in the conference. 

At number four, the St. Louis Blues bring arguably the best combination of goalies in the conference with Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Expect Halak to take up most of the starts and either Elliott or Allen to be dealt for a forward later on in the year to help the Blues playoff push.  

San Jose comes in at number five in the West. After Antti Niemi surrendered 2.16 goals a game last year, expect him and the Sharks defense to have another solid year. 

At number six, the Minnesota Wild should still reap the benefits of last summer's spending splurge when the team brought in Zach Parise and Ryan Sutter. With at least three teams from the Central Division receiving playoff bids, the Wild should have a much easier time than if they had to compete with a more crowded Pacific Conference. 

John Tortorella leads the charge at number seven as the Vancouver Canucks come into the new season. The former New York Rangers head coach should find a way to get last year's three-seed into the playoffs, and maybe make up for last year's upset to the Sharks in the first round with one of their own in the playoffs, though the team will miss last year's performance of goalie Cory Schneider who was traded to New Jersey.

Rounding out the top eight, the youth in the Edmonton Oilers' system finally comes to fruition as they make the playoffs. After making the first overall picks in the NHL draft the last three years that landed the team Nail Yakupov last year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins two years ago and Taylor Hall in the 2010 season, the team should have enough talent in that first line of forwards alone to compete for a spot in the playoffs. While maybe a stretch putting them in the top eight, it would not be a team I wanted to face the the first round of the playoffs.

Chicago is the new sheriff in town, but maybe not for long.


Reach Staff Writer Luke Holthouse here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.