Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Western Conference 2005-06 Overview

Okay, the new NHL season is set to launch tomorrow, so I'll analyze the Western Conference today.

Pre-CBA, the Western Conference was the better and housed the stronger popular franchises. You could always count on Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado grabbing the pole positions in the playoffs. What comes around goes around. Now, the elite franchises will have to manage their cap room and earn every win.

Anaheim: Picking up Neidermyer in the offseason was a stroke of luck or just nepotism. They didn't do much to disrupt their core chemistry which was smart. I don't see them making another Cinderella run to the finals, but Fedorov and company could carry them at least to the 3 seed in the playoffs.Upgrade!
Calgary: What do the Flames do for a repeat performance from their last run to the finals? For a team with all of Canada's expectations to bring the Stanley Cup back "home", they loaded up and got tougher for the long haul. The key question is weather Mikko Kiprusoff can carry the Flames again to the promised land or risk becoming known as a flash in the pan. Amonte will fit in well in the offense. Upgrade!
Chicago: They still have their awful ownership. That's not a good thing. However, they did pick up a few key role players and got a dependable goalie in "the 'Boulin wall". Mathew Barnaby is an interesting pick-up. Let's see how long he lasts when the new NHL deemphasizes his style of play. They may as well be competitive this year. Upgrade!
Colorado: Their key losses in Forsberg and Foote may cost them in the long run. Sakic isn't getting any younger. Dare I say, "rebuilding year"? They will probably be alright and make the playoffs, but be prepared for the Avs to relinquish the Conference "crown".Downgrade!
Columbus: I was right about the BJ's becoming a team of the future. They have collected all their high draft picks and even the recent ones, Brule and Balaštík are already paying dividends in the pre-season. They will make the playoffs or narrowly miss the 8th spot at the wire.Upgrade!
Dallas: It's considered a miracle that Dallas even resigned Modano. They didn't lose significantly anyone else in the free agency so they are in real great shape. They have their own minor league franchise in Iowa. Look to see if this franchise can develop talent the way they used to instead of relying on spending for free agents.Even
Detroit: They actually got younger and trimmed their roster down to a manageable size. This is Datsyuk's year to prove his holdout was worth it. Will this team fight through the distractions of Yzerman's "final tour"? I'm concerned about the goalies, Osgood and Legace, who are comfortable with their roles instead of competing for icetime. Upgrade!
Edmonton: Nice try for them to turn around things. Pronger actually gives them a blueline to work with and Peca the leadership that this team needs to get over the hump. They're still in a rebuilding mode so, they won't make the playoffs again. They'll be competitive and entertaining to watch.Upgrade!
Los Angeles: This is a team that really self destructive by putting a lot of stock in players that eventually broke down. Jeremy "Hollywood" Roenick loves it out in La-La land and Robitaille is the face of the Kings franchise. All they need now is a goalie. Garon will be thrown to the fire. They may sneak in as the 8th seed in the playoffs. Upgrade!
Minnesota: This is another franchise, like Montreal, that play in an area that losing is not an option. The Wild purged themselves of players that didn't quite get over the hump. Rolston is the homestate hero. Look for him to play well in the "land of a thousand lakes... or traps". Gaborik needs to step up if he is to be the future star that I want him to be. Upgrade!
Nashville: What does this team need to do to get over the hump and prove to the fans that they are actually a legitimate franchise? They surprised me by signing Kariya and Perreault and kept their core players. They won't make the playoffs, but they could prove me wrong.HUGE Upgrade!
Phoenix: Gretzky is coach - because he says so. Hull and Ricci will shoot while Doan and company clean up in front of the net. CuJo will hold the fort just fine until "the waterboy" is healthy again. They won't make the playoffs though. There's only room for 8 ya know.Upgrade!
San Jose: This team wasn't very active on the free agent side of things. Their motto must be "You can be replaced"! They like their homegrown talent so much that this young team can have the potential to surprise people. Ron Wilson is always a great game coach who loves using new innovations. Lucky he landed a job in Silicon Valley. Did you see that monitor on their bench he can draw up video on?Even!
St. Louis: This is the team that was an absolute disaster and fell apart at the end of the season. Still, they made their proverbial playoff appearance. Like, LA, injuries really handcuffed the Blues against their potential. We haven't seen Lalime in goal for the Blues yet in the long hall of a regular season, so it's still questionable.Upgrade
Vancouver: This team really didn't need much this offseason, only the end to "the Bert saga." They don't have much problem scoring goals, but they don't stop many either. This team should be pretty solid and a shoe-in for one of the top 3 spaces for the playoffs.even!
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