NHL preview

Western Conference

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / October 8, 2008
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

1. Detroit
Mike Babcock (sixth season, fourth with Red Wings).
Record: 54-21-2-5, 115 points, first in West.
Playoffs: Beat Penguins in Stanley Cup finals.
Notable: By far the best team in the league, even if the Winged Wheels hadn't added gun-for-hire Marian Hossa in the biggest surprise of the offseason (one year/$7.4 million/some $80 million left on the table). Total cinch to win it all again - first in NHL since they repeated in '97 and '98. Caveat: Maybe they get so bored by midseason, they can't wake up in the spring.

2. Anaheim
Randy Carlyle (fourth season, fourth with Ducks).
Record: 47-27-1-7, 102 points, fourth in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Stars in Round 1.
Notable: GM Brian Burke's farewell tour in the O.C. Top defenseman Scott Niedermayer is aboard from the start this time, and aging gunner Teemu Selanne (38) has a new two-year deal. Feisty and talented, and still hurtin' from the first-round heave-ho by the Stars. Looks like a Ducks-Wings battle royale in the conference finals.

3. Dallas
Dave Tippett (sixth season, sixth with Stars).
Record: 45-30-4-3, 97 points, fifth in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Red Wings in conference finals.
Notable: Co-GMs Les Jackson and Brett Hull took the biggest offseason risk with the signing of bad boy Sean Avery (free agent via Rangers). It's a club that wins on work ethic and determination (see: Brenden Morrow), and should keep doing that unless Avery is more sideshow than key component. Mike Modano a third-line center? Like the QE2 for Duck Tour duty.

4. Calgary
Mike Keenan (20th season, second with Flames).
Record: 42-30-7-3, 94 points, seventh in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Sharks in Round 1.
Notable: Typical of a Keenan-coached squad - loads of turnover, with an emphasis on left wing (newcomers Rene Bourque, Mike Cammalleri, and Curtis Glencross). Too much of the offensive load remains on captain Jarome Iginla, but Flames are a postseason gimme because of goalie (Miikka Kiprusoff) and blue line (led by Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr).

5. San Jose
Todd McLellan (first season, first with Sharks).
Record: 49-23-4-6, 108 points, second in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Stars in Round 2.
Notable: Ron Wilson's reward for a franchise-best regular season? A pink slip, and a new job behind Toronto's bench. Now it's McLellan's charge to figure out how to wring a Cup out of such talented wingers, including the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jonathan Cheechoo. Maybe new blue liner Dan Boyle is the answer, but probably not.

6. Minnesota
Jacques Lemaire (15th season, eighth with Wild).
Record: 44-28-2-8, 98 points, third in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Avalanche in Round 1.
Notable: Franchise forward Marian Gaborik, he of a million groin pulls, still doesn't know if he'll stick around after this year. Not the best way for a team to start a season. Wild have all but shed their Trappist Wonk ways, but lost a key, speedy soldier in Brian Rolston (now with Devils for a second tour). Look for winger Benoit Pouliot to be a Rookie of the Year contender.

7. Edmonton
Craig MacTavish (eighth season, eighth with Oilers).
Record: 41-35-2-4, 88 points, ninth in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: Wide-shouldered Erik Cole brings some much-needed elements to a small, speedy pack of young forwards. The Oil can wheel, and score, but have to do a better job closing down their own end (greetings, Lubomir Visnovsky). Three DNQ's around a trip to the finals ('06). They should be a lot more fun this year, provided young forwards keep pace.

8. Chicago
Denis Savard (third year, third with Blackhawks).
Record: 40-34-4-4, 88 points, 10th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: They've got the kids, and they've got a bit of sizzle in their stride, but can they follow through now that fossilized fan base has been unearthed? One of the big missing pieces was offense from the back line, but they paid Brian Campbell $56.8 million to fix that. Of course, they thought they did the same with Nikolai Khabibulin for a net fix in '05. How did that work out?

9. Nashville
Barry Trotz (10th season, 10th with Predators).
Record: 41-32-4-5, 91 points, eighth in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Red Wings in Round 1.
Notable: Four straight trips to the playoffs, four straight first-round KOs. They work, they grind, but it is all so much sufferin' Sisyphus season, and this version looks about the same. Nice bunch of back liners, especially Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber. BU's Colin Wilson is a stud in waiting. By the time he's ready to move on from Commonwealth Ave., the franchise may have moved forward.

10. Colorado
Tony Granato (third season, third with Avalanche).
Record: 44-31-4-3, 95 points, sixth in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Red Wings in Round 2.
Notable: Risky business, trusting net to Peter Budaj and ex-Bruin Andrew Raycroft, even with a solid bunch of defensemen (including an Adam Foote redux). It's now budding star Paul Stastny's team on a nightly basis, but that's a tough lead with what looks like an inconsistent scoring cast - unless dastardly Darcy Tucker (bought out in Toronto) plays like he has something to prove.

11. Columbus
Ken Hitchcock (13th season, third with Blue Jackets).
Record: 34-36-4-8, 80 points, 13th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: Seven years gone by, the Blue Jackets are still looking for that breakthrough season. With Nikolai Zherdev ditched to the Rangers, Hitchcock will try to win with more grit, beginning with a No. 1 line that looks to trio up Rick Nash with newcomers R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius. Better, but 10-12 points better? Not quite yet.

12. Phoenix
Wayne Gretzky (fourth season, fourth with Coyotes).
Record: 38-37-1-6, 83 points, 12th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: What to do with five straight DNQs and near-total fan apathy? Go the muscletown approach, fight night in the desert. GM Don Maloney added scrappers Todd Fedoruk and Brian McGrattan for the wings, protection for the likes of newcomer Olli Jokinen and emerging newbie Peter Mueller. They won't be good, but the sideshow could get a few fans in the building.

13. Vancouver
Alain Vigneault (seventh season, third with Canucks).
Record: 39-33-1-9, 88 points, 11th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: New GM Mike Gillis keeps a light on for Mats Sundin. Meanwhile, Canucks have to hope that newcomer Steve Bernier (Buffalo via San Jose) can help the brothers Sedin build on a season in which they averaged 75 points. Overall, still a popgun offense. Needed to land Mathieu Schneider, but watched as he went from Anaheim to Atlanta.

14. St. Louis
Andy Murray (ninth season, third with Blues).
Record: 33-36-8-5, 79 points, 14th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: Lost prized blue liner Erik Johnson (knee) in a golfing mishap even before the preseason began. Talk about taking a mulligan! Some interesting parts here, including ex-Bruin Brad Boyes (43 goals last season), but they didn't add up last year, and with Johnson gone, they won't add up this year either. Horrible power play for two seasons, and no rescue plan in sight.

15. Los Angeles
Terry Murray (12th season, first with Kings).
Record: 32-43-4-3, 71 points, 15th in West.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Notable: No point in sugarcoating it, the Kings will make this a spacer season, going cheap, going young, and remaining bottom-feeders until some of the talented kids (No. 1 is Anze Kopitar) emerge as leaders. For a city that thrived on the short-lived Wayne Gretzky era, this is as basic and stripped down as it gets - a new sheet of ice with lots of potholes.

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Save this article
  • powered by
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.