#NHL Northwest Division Update

The Northwest boasts last year’s Western Conference champion, which was also its only playoff team.  At the end of each summary we will highlight just one blog for that respective team, but there are many quality sites out there if you care to search for them.  Please share your comments on the rest of the teams across the NHL as we fill the void of the offseason.

Calgary Flames
2010-2011 Record: 41-29-12 (2nd  in the Division)

Offseason Thus Far: Last year it was about getting the band back together and the Flames flirted with the final playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference.  Prospect Brendan Morrison along with T.J. Brodie and recently acquired Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond will be among those expected to fill marginal roles.  The Flames were clear that they were not going after any big names prior to the free agency window opening. 

Analysis:  Well at least we know why Olli Jokinen has a new hair cut.  Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, and Jerome Iginla will be counted on as usual.  Calgary played well in longer spurts last year, but was unable to crack the top eight.  Defenseman Mark Giordano had a break out year and was pivotal on the power play.  The Flames should find itself in a similar situation fighting for the last playoff spot.

Blog: Red Mile

Colorado Avalanche
2010-2011 Record: 30-44-8 (4th  in the Division)

Offseason Thus Far: The Avalanche have been very active since the last half of the 2010-11 season.  They will have Semyon Varlamov and JS Giguere as the goalie tandem.  Jan Hejda hopes to fill in for the departed John Michael Liles.  Liles had his best year as a member of the Avalanche.  However, the biggest key to the season may be getting away from untimely injuries

Analysis: Kyle Quincey is coming off and injury and Paul Stastny had a very bad year.  Matt Duchene is maturing and Shane O’Brien and Patrick Rissmiller hope to become key role players.  Honestly, it can’t get any worse this year for Colorado.  They will be much more competitive.

Edmonton Oilers
2010-2011 Record: 25-45-12 (5th in the Division)

Offseason Thus Far: Expectations were not high last year for Edmonton and they dealt with their fair share of injuries cutting into those even further.  Ryan Smyth returned home and the team’s toughness is way up after signing Darcy Hordichuk, Ben Eager, and Andy Sutton.  General manager Steve Tambellini did what he could in a non-draft season and the addition of Eric Belanger should provide leadership and quality play. 

Analysis: Dustin Penner is no longer there so the team will lean on Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky for guidance.  However, it will be about the next step for the young guys like Taylor Hall, Linus Omark, Magnus Paajarvi, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With health and more veteran presence in the defensive core this will be a better team, just not a playoff team.

Minnesota Wild
2010-2011 Record: 39-35-8 (3rd  in the Division)

Offseason Thus Far: A late night trade sent Martin Havlat to San Jose in exchange for Dany Heatley.  Heatley is a good addition, but there seems to be a stigma that is following him.  Devin Setoguchi also finds himself with the Wild and could be on the left side of Mikko Koivu on the Minnesota top line.  Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen were other big name loses for Minnesota.

Analysis:  Thank you to the Wild for providing a countdown clock on their website.  The loss of Burns could prove to be the biggest issue for Minnesota this year but they hope Marek Zidlicky can rebound from a subpar, injury-riddled season.  Greg Zanon and Clayton Stoner have proven themselves as a solid pair.  However, coach Mike Yeo’s system is about the attack so Heatley and Setoguchi will need to produce. 

Vancouver Canucks
2010-2011 Record: 54-19-9 (1st in the Division)

Offseason Thus Far: The Canucks come off the bitter taste of defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals with the team still mainly intact.  Most knew a defenseman would be on the way out and it ended up being Christian Ehrhoff.  Marco Sturm and Andrew Ebbett were added for depth. 

Analysis: This will be a very emotional season for Vancouver.  Roberto Luongo has taken most of the heat for losing the lead in the Finals and a hand full of fans self destructed after the loss.  The team still has the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler though.  First place in this division should be the only expectation.  It will be the playoff run that counts.


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