Western Conference - a summary thus far
Detroit – Lost a couple of key players through Free Agency in Bertuzzi and Calder who were both rental players for the run last season. Losing Schneider is a loss but the addition of Rafalski gives the Wings a great one-two punch on defense with Lidstrom. Detroit will once again battle for tops in the West but needs to sign Hasek and pray for an injury free season.
Anaheim – Stanley Cup Hangover isn’t happening anytime soon with this great franchise. Burke has created a team built to win next year and compete for many more to come. Will Niedermayer retire? Does Selanne walk away a champion? The Ducks took a proactive approach and grabbed Schneider and Bertuzzi to help fill offset the potential loss. Look for Bobby Ryan to crack the Mighty lineup this season.
Vancouver – This team is on the cusp of something special. Teams that win in the playoffs all have one thing in common – great goaltending and Luongo’s the best there is. Unfortunately the new NHL economic landscape has capped Vancouver’s opportunity to win the big one for all of Canada. The twins cannot do it themselves as shown in last years playoffs. Without the budget to add suitable support, this team is in a holding pattern. Sanford is a nice pickup for a backup goalie and Ritchie and Isbister are decent 3’rd liners. Krajicek another decent pickup doesn’t get this team over the hump. Where have you gone Mr. Naslund? Pick up the phone and call your buddy Forsberg.
Nashville – Wow have things turned ugly in a hurry. The only music coming from the Predators is the smooth sound of Kansas City. They lost the majority of their stars and Greg De Vries won’t become Timmonen anytime soon. Radek Bonk and Ortmeyer won’t make the fans forget Kariya, Forsberg or Hartnell. Mason has big shoes to fill in becoming a starter for the first time in his NHL career. I feel bad for Arnott who signed a long contract last season.
San Jose – All this money to play with and they were unsuccessful in landing tier 1 free agents. This team is real close to bringing home Lord Stanley and Rivet on Defense helps bolster a young great lineup. Look for San Jose to dangle Marleau to bring in some strong supporting help of Thorton. I like the look of this team and consider them my favorite team (on paper) going into next season. They will be active on the trade deadline 2008. Rumor has Sourray signing with San Jose or New Jersey.
Dallas – This team is getting old and quickly. The young players must step up this season and make an impact. Having
their captain Morrow for a full season will help. Turco having exercised his playoff demons will once again show why he’s one of the best in the business. Playoffs – Yes. Stanley Cup threat – No.
Minnesota – This team is a gr
eat blend of veteran leadership and young stars. If Gaborik can stay healthy they will once again be a strong playoff team. Re-signing Welz is a good move. Backstrom will have huge pressure as Fernandez has found a new home in Boston. Belanger only adds more offensive depth to a good team.
Calgary – Welcome back Iron Mike. Good Bye Tanguay. Ooops that hasn’t happened yet. The Flames lost a couple of key defenseman but brought in Sarich and Aucoin. They made their biggest splash re-signing Iginla and Regehr. Along with Toronto and Ottawa, remain Canada’s greatest hope in bringing Stanley home.
Colorado – Things are looking great here. How long before Forsberg returns home to the Avalanche. This team has great forwards and a solid defense. An injury free season for Leopold will only help turn this playoff team (YES) into a cup threat. Colorado has one of the best recruiters in the game in Sakic whose call to Smyth and Hannan closed the deal at hello.
St Louis – The future is bright in St Louis although a trip to the post season is still a couple years away. Bringing back Tkachuk was a smart move although I suspect there was a secret handshake deal last fall. Kariya is a winner who helps this team on both ends of the ice. The Blues had an underrated defense corps that will surprise many this season and are well coached.
Columbus – Who knows…Worse off who really cares? Rick Nash, Brule and Vyborny (a star who people aren’t aware of) are being wasted highlighting their skills in a poor market. Columbus must trade Zherdev who has been a big distraction on this franchise. Look for Federov to been traded at the deadline this year to help push a team over the hump as a third line center. Federov (greatest NHL career by any Russian)
Edmonton – Wake up Lowe and drop the lawsuit. Tarnstrom, Grebeshkov and Greene won’t bring back the winning tradition. Trading Lupol for Pitkanen is solid for both organizations looking to develop these young stars. Garon adds depth between the pipes, as Rolly needs help with all the rubber he’ll see this season. Glad to see they re-signed Torres.
Chicago – I love what this team is doing. Can you hear the bandwagon start playing.. LOL!!! The addition of Toews, Samsanov and Lang help bolster the BlackHawk’s firepower. Havlat is a superstar in the making and their defense is deep. Can Ruutu finally play a full season? Congratulations on landing Kane.
Los Angeles – Welcome back to the NHL Kings. A great off-season will see this franchise back in the cup hunt. The Kings have one of the best defense corps in the NHL. The additions of Stuart and Pressing help bolster a great lineup. Calder, Handzus and Nagy round out some great young forwards in Cammalleri, Brown, Frolov and Kopitar. How may 20 goals scores will this team have at seasons end? How about Visnovsky who can score with the best of them on the power play.
Phoenix – Gretzky get out! This team is in real trouble. This is a team that should be moved to Hamilton. Loaded with strong defense Morris, Ballard, Boynton and Jovanovski. The rumor has Jovo rejecting the idea of being traded with his no trade clause contract. Prediction – Last in the NHL.