Thursday, September 28, 2006

Into The West

A week away from opening night.

I put my western picks together for Mudcrutch two weeks ago and while I already have misgivings in a few cases, I'll stick with what I said then. Here goes nothing:

1/ Detroit - a year away from a slide, the Wings still have two great lines (not three anymore), an excellent defence and a joke division - enough to get them first in the conference and an early playoff exit one more time.

2/ San Jose - my preseason Stanley Cup rep from the west - a team that was a Roloson OT save on Cheechoo away from the conference final suddenly has doubters - Preissing is gone but add Bell, Grier and Curtis Brown to this team that has depth everywhere and the salary cap room to get help on D and these guys are the favourites in my opinion

3/ Calgary - addition of Tanguay, steps forward for Kobasew and Lombardi and bump from a new coach add up to another division title

4/ Anaheim - not enough scoring to go all the way but a solid contender

5/ Vancouver - why I don't know - part of me can see them dropping right out of the picture but injury free and this team makes the playoffs last year - Luongo will make the difference here

6/ Edmonton - Great forwards, good goaltending. newfound confidence and an infusion of youth add up to a playoff spot even with this D - look for two of Bergeron, Greene or Smid to exceed expectations and, if all else fails, Lowe will move assets to get help on the blueline - definite playoff team with possibility of higher finish

7/ Nashville - sexy preseason pick takes a step back this year - remember they had a pretty bad fade at the end of last season

8/ Dallas - If Lindros were to be healthy this team might finish higher but when is the last time that happened?

9/ Wild on Jack Lemaire - Another sexy pick this year but they lost five regular D from last season's corps - this big leap forward everyone thinks will happen doesn't make sense to me

10/ Phoenix - I could see them being truly miserable but this is how bad the rest of the conference is.

11/ Colorado - Forsberg, Foote and Roy replaced by Turgeon, Brisebois and Theodore - this year the wheels finally fall off the Avs with Blake and Tanguay out the door as well

12/ Columbus - Doug MacLean's Folly

13/ Los Angeles - starting to go young but a shocking lack of talent, especially up front

14/ St. Louis - nice top four D but this offence - maybe in '96, not in '06

15/ Chicago - How to Kill a Professional Hockey Franchise by Bill Wirtz with a foreword by Bob Pulford


Anonymous said...

Solid set of predictions, good to see you followed the 6-9 rule for the oilers. No matter how good/bad the oilers are they will always finish between 6th and 9th, and determine their playoff fate in the last few days of the regular season. As brutal as the 3 worst Central teams might look, I think one of them might become this year's equivalent of Buffalo, Carolina and NYR (eg. teams that look like they will completely suck but are actually good)

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Hmmm, I can't see it - maybe maybe Columbus sneaks into the playoff race and I know a few people are stumping for St.Louis - but all three teams you mentioned, while they were selected to be weak last year, had a lot of strengths and really only needed a few things to go well for them to make that jump.

Columbus may be slightly improved but St.Louis and Chicago, especially Chicago, just strike me as being truly terrible.

Anonymous said...

mudcrutch's writeup on the Blues makes a lot of sense. They are armed with solid rentals for the trade deadline, looking to retool after this season. They are in pre-rebuilding. Anything that they accomplish on the ice along the way is a bonus.

uni said...

I agree on almost everything here, but I'd have to think Nashville is better than you're giving them credit for. They did fade last year, but Vokoun was out towards the end and for the playoffs. This year they added Arnott and Vasicek. Arnie is good for minimum 60 points or so, and Vasi I can see putting up 30-45 points pretty easily. They both are two way centres. Their D is solid and their young'n's are damn good. Their forward depth isn't bad either ;) and the hinge is Vokoun, if he proves he's consistent and last year is the norm...they could take the division; although Detroit I agree has enough gas to win one more division.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

anon - agreed on mudcrutch's points on the Blues - they will have a lot of guys with trade value come 2007 - but I don't really see anything happening with them on the ice

uni - with the Preds its no more then a gut feeling, really - Vokuon is terrific and Arnott and Vasicek will help (although Vic Ferrari had a post recently which pointed out how Arnott always saw the easiest of opposion in Dallas playing behind Modano - interesting to see how he does facing the toughest minutes now) - my issue with the Preds is that they seem to have lost a lot of guys who aren't sexy but did a lot of the heavy lifting and now they expect a lot of kids to do that work - just a hunch is all but they surely could do better