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2330 Posts

Posted - 09/26/2003 :  16:24:56  Show Profile
Contributed by: Mark Lee

Once again the NHL season is upon us and with armageddon looming at the end of the season, watch for the big spenders to let it all hang out in an attempt to win the big prize before the NHLPA and the Owners dig in their heals for a long standoff. (See Forward Fred's latest article "Irreconcilable Differences?")

Weíll start with a look at the West where there could be 12 potential playoff teams and 5 legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.


Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
Without the Theo Fleury sideshow as a distraction this year the Blackhawks will be an improved team, however, in the west just being improved wonít cut it. This young talented lineup will give the Windy City something to look forward to, but this wonít be the year.

Prediction 13th in West

Columbus Blue Jackets
If there is a team in the west that could surprise some teams this year it could be the Blue Jackets. The additions of Daryl Sydor and Todd Marchant will make a big difference in the lineup but the Blue Jackets will struggle with putting the puck in the net unless Rick Nash avoids the sophomore slump and Geoff Sanderson can remain healthy for an entire season. Watch for the Blue Jackets to have their nose in the mix come playoff time.

Prediction 11th in West

Detroit Red Wings
With arguably the two best goaltenders in the world, an all star defensive core and a veteran forward lineup that is four lines deep, life should be good, right? Although the holes left by Sergei Federov and Luc Robitaille are large, they should be covered up somewhat by the defensive addition of Derian Hatcher. The big story of the season however, will continue to be the one between the pipes. Donít be surprised after the first third of the schedule if the Dominator isnít being dominant. You can be sure that Curtis Joseph will still be in Detroit, which is when the real goaltending controversy will begin. Once the Wings figure it out, watch for them to roll towards the playoffs.

Prediction 3rd in West

Nashville Predators
Even though head coach Barry Trots will be fired by December itís tough to put the blame on him for this teams inability to make the playoffs. There is some good talent on this team in David Legwand, Dennis Arkhipov and Scott Hartnell, but they are simply too small to compete in the NHL. Itíll be another long year in Nashville as the Predís finish near the bottom once again.

Prediction 14th in West

St. Louis Blues
With possibly the best lineup in hockey it has to be frustrating for the St. Louis Blues knowing that their inability to bring in a legitimate no. 1 goaltender is the single biggest factor for them not winning it all over the past few seasons. Once Colorado makes their deal for a big time backstop watch for Larry Plough to do the same. If not, heíll probably be looking for work come July.

Prediction 5th in West

Pacific Division

Anaheim Mighty Ducks
If Sergei Federov didnít like Scotty Bowmanís defense first philosophy just imagine the fun he and coach Mike Babcock are going to have. Although the Ducks on paper are probably a better team with Federov over Kariya, remember that Kariya bought into the system. Donít expect Federov to do the same. The Ducks rode on J.S. Giguere's back to within one game of a Stanley Cup win, but donít look for it to happen again. Like others before him Giguere came from nowhere to take his team on a miraculous run, but the 82 game schedule will take itís toll on a relatively young team and leave the Ducks on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Prediction 9th in West

Los Angeles Kings
The best move the Kings may have made this year was giving up on the human sunburn, Felix Potvin, and bringing in Roman Cechmanek. Although the big Czech has been inconsistent at best in the playoffs, the move should be a breath of fresh air as he gets out of Bobby Clarkís doghouse. The upgrade in the nets however will pale in comparison if Jason Allison can make a healthy return and seeing Ziggy Palffy should score 40 + goals. With veterans Adam Deadmarsh, Arron Miller, Trent Klatt and another return of Luc Robitaille watch for the Kings to make some noise this year.

Prediction 6th in West

Dallas Stars
Even with Marty Turco signed to a new deal the Stars are going to find out in a big way just how much Darian Hatcher meant to their line. 25 - 30 minutes in ice time every night is not going to be made up by Teppo Numinen and it should be interesting to see how Sergie Zubov performs without the rugged blueliner on the ice. Watch for Mike Modano and Jason Arnott to have career years and the Stars to have home ice advantage in the first two round of the playoffs.

Prediction 2nd in West

Phoenix Coyotes
As Sean Burke goes, so go the Coyotes. When Burke gets traded north, watch for the Coyotes to head south. With a small, unimposing team that is waiting for the new CBA to be established, the Coyotes will not be a factor in the west. The Uniforms might look better but it will still be a long winter for Mr. Gretzky in the desert.

Prediction 15th in West

San Jose Sharks
After last years flop, the loss of Owen Nolan and Teemu Selane, and not resigning gritty veteran Adam Graves, this could be considered a rebuilding year for the Sharks. Donít be surprised however if you see this team floating around the middle of the pack come April. With a lineup that still includes Vinny Damphousse, Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, Mike Rathje, Kyle Maclaren and Evgeny Nabakov the Sharks will be a much improved team.

Prediction 7th in West

Northwest Division

Calgary Flames
Although they will be a better team this year, the Calgary Flames are still extremely young with little experience. Expect to see better years from Jarome Iginla and Roman Turek who, when at the top of their game, can both be dominant players. The supporting cast, however, will have to grow up in a hurry in order to make a run. The Flames will contend for a playoff birth this year giving Southern Alberta hockey fans something to cheer about but in order to secure a playoff birth theyíll need a bunch of teams above them to flop.

Prediction 12th in West

Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers who have squeaked into the playoffs the last couple of years will probably do the same again this season but only if Ryan Smyth and Tommy Salo have career years. Management is betting on some of their young prospects like Fernando Pisani, Ales Hemski and former Ranger Radek Devorak to become regular contributors this year but the loss of Todd Marchant to Columbus, and the contract dispute with first line center, Mike Comrie, could prove to be fatal for a small market team that relies on two home playoff games every spring.

Prediction 8th in West

Minnesota Wild
Trap / Hunt. Trap / Hunt
Effective when you can hunt but donít expect the same results from the Wild this year if they canít come to terms with budding superstar Marian Gaborik or crafty veteran Cliff Ronning. The Wild shouldnít have any trouble keeping the puck out this year as they lull their opponents and TV audiences into a coma, but come November donít be surprised to see G.M. Doug Risbrough find some unused cash to try and find the opposing end of the rink.

Prediction 10th in West

Colorado Avalanche
With an offensive lineup, which would rival the Edmonton Oilers of the mid 80ís, the Colorado Avalanche will have no problems putting the puck in the net. However itís after you get past the ďsuper sixĒ where the Avís will struggle this year. The loss of Patrick Roy could prove to be devastating with a defensive core that is shallow at best. Should David Aebischer falter in the early going, watch for Pierre LaCroix to pull the trigger on a three-team trade involving either Curtis Joseph or Sean Burke.

Prediction 4th in West

Vancouver Canucks
After a bitter loss in game 7 of the conference semi final to the Minnesota Wild, this team is determined to take it to the next level. With the best line in hockey returning the Canucks shouldnít have any problems with goals during the regular season, but the loss of Murray Baron from the blue line could be a problem on the back end with no one to make people pay for going to the front of the net. If the Canucks are to ever to win it all, this could be the year. Their season will be judged in June, and will hinge on the play of the Sedins and goaltender Dan Cloutier.

Prediction 1st in West

Next week...the EAST!

Have an opinion on Mark's article? Let us know. Just hit reply below and post your thoughts.

Forum Admin

2330 Posts

Posted - 10/01/2003 :  18:40:57  Show Profile
Don't be shy! Mark only barks, he doesn't bite since he lost his two front teeth. What's your opinion on the NHL west?
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Top Prospect

49 Posts

Posted - 10/05/2003 :  06:51:45  Show Profile
Detroit won't be able to keep up this high spending for too much longer. I wouldn't be surprosed to see some other team with a little more bread to burn snag him from the Red Wings big budgeted talons.

I have a theory about stacked teams (like Detroit). If you pile your stack too high, sooner or later it'll become unstable and colapse.

They can't keep this spending up forever. Nobody but the New York Yankees can spend cash like they do.

I bet they are quietly looking for a place to unload Cujo. With the Dominator and Manny Legace, they should feel pretty well covered between the pipes.

I'd say look for a mid season trade for Detroit.

Hatcher was a smart acquisition, but I'd wait and see what their chemistry is like. It seems to me that they may have a few too many alpha dogs.
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PickupHockey Pro

365 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2003 :  00:02:37  Show Profile
Looks like you might miss the boat Mark! Calgary, Nashville, St. louis, Dallas, LA

I guess your crystal ball was a little scratched up.
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