Well I did my Eastern Conference prediction a few days ago just to get everything out in the open and it seems good to put out the Western Conference stuff today. The advantage to waiting for a couple of weeks of regular season play to finish is that people who are going through prediction withdrawal can use this post as a fresh text with which to cope. I just love helping people.
1. Chicago - I really didn't know whether to pick Chicago or Detroit. Certainly Chicago is a good team and adding Hossa only makes them stronger. I have a lot more faith in Huet than Osgood and just generally think they're a fun team to watch. It ended up that I picked Chicago on the strength of their elimination of the Canucks from the playoffs last year. As someone who lives in Vancouver, I couldn't have been more pleased. I walked around humming that catchy goal song of theirs and watched pain etch itself onto the face of complete strangers. Did I mention I love helping people.
2. Anaheim - Yeah, they lost Pronger but this team is deep up front and in goal. I have tremendous faith in Randy Carlyle to get the most out of his forwards and expect Teemu and Saku to have big years. Both goalies have a reasonable shot at terrific and although the defense is weaker this season, Niedermayer is still a fantastic player.
3. Minnesota - This prediction is looking a bit on the dumb side at the moment. I thought they were the most complete team in the West with no obvious weaknesses. Solid forwards, strong defenders and excellent goaltending. Apparently, you also need to score goals. I'm not going to shed a tear if these guys crash and burn but if it's not going to result in an Oiler playoff appearance I think I'd much rather just be right.
4. Detroit - I think Chicago and Detroit are the two best teams in the Conference this year. They're still very good. Lidstrom is great, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are two of the best forwards in the game and the supporting cast is still pretty good. I like them a bunch.
5. San Jose - A first round playoff exit for the Sharks. I'm not doing this because I'm an Oiler fan angry with Dany Heatley. In fact, I agree with Tom Benjamin's take from way back when that Heatley's was set up as the fall-guy in that whole scenario by Bryan Murray. Nonetheless, the Sharks have no depth on defence and I think it's going to hurt them. I don't have a lot of faith in either Blake or Boyle to be great defensively and once you get past the top four things begin to look grim. I also think Nabokov is a below average goalie.
6. Vancouver - I would be delighted to see them fall even farther. On the radio throughout the summer Mike Gillis was being extolled as the OMG greatest GM in Canucks history. If I were Dave Nonis I'd be pissed. All of the UFA moves Gillis has made have been pretty neutral-to-bad: Demitra for 4M, Sundin at 8M, Schneider 2.75M, Samuelsson 2.5M. Then, he re-signed the Sedins to market value after having seen them play for below-market for several years on a contract signed by Nonis. Then, of course, he signed Luongo to a bargain extension, a really great deal. Of course, that deal was made possible by the Nonis acquisition of Luongo in the first place. Why did Nonis ever get fired? More importantly, why did the Oilers take Tambellini instead of Nonis? Anyway, Canucks at 6.
7. Los Angeles - Smytty. I do really think they've got tremendous depth at forward, nice D, some potential problems in goal, but we'll see. But they have the Mullet and his teams usually finish around 7th or bust. Oilers, Avs, Islanders, it doesn't matter. Since last year was a total bust we'll give Smytty his high water mark this time: 7th.
8. Calgary - Tempting to put them ninth for kicks but they've got too many good pieces. It's too bad they have such terrible netminding. If I'm saying those two sentences about the Oilers in a couple of years... why did we not get Nonis!
9. Columbus - I really hope these guys push the Flames out. They have real room to improve on the PP so they could vault even higher if that improves this year. Maybe as high as 6th. I'm all for it but they just aren't spending as much as the teams ahead of them, so they'll probably need to get a bit lucky to squeak in.
10. St. Louis - I know they're getting a bunch of guys back from injury but I refuse to believe that the huge run last year was a "sign of things to come." I remember the Oilers of 2007-08 and while that run was a lot of fun it still didn't make the Oilers an actually good hockey team.
11. Edmonton - They finished 11th last year and changed the coach as well as the goalie. Last year's coach was bad, but the goalie was good. It's probably a wash (at best). Goilers! (= Bad.)
12. Dallas - Teams projected to spend less than 48M are usually bad teams. Teams that do such things while paying Brad Richards 7.8M, Marty Turco 5.7M, Mike Ribeiro 5.0M and Sean Avery 1.9M (to play for another team) are most probably bad teams. Bad.
13. Nashville - These guys have about six or seven established NHL forwards and two goalies who have played a combined 7 AHL seasons. In six of those seven the goalie posted a save percentage under .915. They also don't spend any money. Bad.
14. Colorado - A rebuilding year for the Avalanche who don't have (m)any guys currently in their prime. Bad.
15. Phoenix - Bad. I can't imagine the situation doesn't affect the players. Even if it didn't this team still isn't good enough to push for the playoffs. Maybe they surprise and skip ahead of Colorado and Nashville. I can't imagine them finishing any higher... you know, unless Kipper is really bad.