2013/14 Season Predictions – Western Conference
After running through my Eastern Conference predictions yesterday; it’s time to turn our attention to the West – where multiple Cup contenders ply their trade.
From the defending champions to former champions via wannabe champions, the West is stacked with talent and takes no prisoners.
And so without further delay, here are my 2013/14 Western Conference predictions.
1. St Louis Blues
The depth and balance of the Blues is just ridiculous. From young stars like Alex Pietrangelo to crafty veterans like Brendan Morrow, Ken Hitchcock’s side has all the tools to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Like the rival Blues, Chicago has a talent laden roster. Two Stanley Cups in the past four years tell you all you need to know about the pedigree of this franchise, a slightly shorter summer (ergo a slightly shorter recovery period) may be all that separates them and St Louis.
3. Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter’s Norris worthy turn last season proved Minnesota had a stud D man to hang their hat on, whilst Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu guide a group of forwards capable of going head to head with almost anyone in the West when on form.
4. Colorado Avalanche (Wild Card)
Whether it is a true step forward or simply the short term carry on from the waves created by Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic’s appointments, Colorado has the potential to return to the post season. Stacked down the middle, question marks remain over the defence and Semyon Varlamov faces a make or break year.
5. Nashville Predators
Nashville remain rock solid in their own end courtesy of one of the leagues best netminders and an incredible stable of D men. Scoring remains a huge issue however.
6. Dallas Stars
After a somewhat confused run under former GM Joe Nieuwendyk, Dallas appears to be on course for better things. Much like the Islanders in the East, a good group of younger players should help ensure a prosperous future even if they take a slight step back this season.
7. Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg doesn’t have a poor roster per say, nor should it be phased by travelling to LA, Phoenix of Dallas after spending time in the defunct South East division. It will have to adapt to a slightly different style in the West however, and a short term step back seems likely.
1. San Jose Sharks
Migrating from ‘Joe and Patrick’s Team’ to ‘Logan and Joel’s Team’; the Sharks also have a heady mix of skill, youth and experience as well as a stellar NM in Antti Niemi – who went from overrated to underrated in an alarmingly short space of time. This might finally be their year.
2. LA Kings
Another roster stacked with talent and back stopped by an elite goaltender. The 2012 Stanley Cup winners will be firmly in the mix once again but need to eliminate the tendency to make a slow start if they are to continue to excel under the new format.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Much may depend on the effect ‘job security’ has on Perry and Getzlaf and whether their defence can perform to the same standards it did last season (particularly Francois Beauchemin). But the Ducks do have all the components to make the play-offs plus, y’know, Teemu forever!
4. Vancouver Canucks (Wild Card)
Vancouver may be in for a painful (literally) transition from Alain Vigneault to John Tortorella; but with one of the leagues most dependable regular season goalies in Roberto Luongo and a solid roster, they are more than capable of grabbing one of the wild card spots if they get up to speed quickly enough.
5. Phoenix Coyotes
Once again the Yotes will be there or there abouts. How well the Canucks adapt to ‘Torts’ will decide whether the Nucks make the cut or if Phoenix grabs the wild card spot.
6. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers bulging crop of young talent has them heading in the right direction, particularly with one of the games most exciting Coaches at the helm and the well respected Andrew Ference wearing the C now. But losing Sam Gagner highlights the clubs troubles at center whilst defence and goaltending remain questionable.
7. Calgary Flames
2013/14 is the year of opportunity in Calgary. Little is expected of the Flames, with good reason in many ways, but Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan present hope for the future whilst Karri Ramo will be out to prove he is an NHL #1.