Forward Progress: West Predictions

Every year I like to take a shot at NHL predictions. Sometimes I'm close, sometimes I'm utterly embarrassed. This year is no different, except that I get to share my prediction with you here on Pens U. Take a look and let me know your thoughts!

First up, we start with the Western Conference...

1: Vancouver Canucks
2: San Jose Sharks
3: Chicago Blackhawks
4: LA Kings
5: Detroit Red Wings
6: Anaheim Ducks
7: Nashville Predators
8: St.Louis Blues
9: Calgary Flames
10: Minnesota Wild
11: Dallas Stars
12: Colorado Avalanche
13: Columbus Blue Jackets
14: Edmonton Oilers
15: Phoenix Coyotes

Central Division
1: Chicago 105 points
2: Detroit 99 points
3: Nashville 96 points
4: St. Louis 95 points
5: Columbus 79 points

1: Vancouver 114 points
2: Calgary 93 points
3: Minnesota 91 points
4: Colorado 82 points
5: Edmonton 73 points

Pacific Division
1: San Jose 107 points
2: LA Kings 102 points
3: Anaheim 98 points
4: Dallas 90 points
5: Phoenix 66 points

1-Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: Strong down the middle.
Scoring depth on the wings.
Strong on special teams and faceoffs.
Solid defense.

Weaknesses: Lacking some toughness.
Stanley Cup Final loss hangover.
Goaltending lets them down at key times.

2-San Jose Sharks
Strengths: Strong top two lines
Potent blueline with the addition of Burns
Addition of Handzus gives them shutdown 3rd line center they lacked.

Weaknesses: Lost some speed and scoring with trades of Setoguchi and Heatley.
Penalty kill needs improvement.
Is Niemi just another Nabokov?

3-Chicago Blackhawks
Strengths: Will score a ton with Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa.
Good power play.
Solid defense led by stars Keith and Seabrook

Weaknesses: Penalty kill needs work.
Corey Crawford needs to avoid a sophomore slump.

4-LA Kings
Strengths: Excellent scoring depth.
Defense getting better and better.
Two quality goaltenders.

Weaknesses: Power play could be better.
Need to be more consistent.
Ability to meet high expectations.

5-Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: Top end talents with Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Depth. Can roll 4 good lines.
Hunger. Eager for one more long run.
Excellent coaching.

Weaknesses: Goals against was high last year.
Howard needs to be more consistent.
After Datsyuk and Zetterberg, there's a big drop off in scorers

6-Anaheim Ducks
Strengths: Best top line in NHL
Balanced defense
Solid goaltending if Hiller is healthy.

Weaknesses: Depth players are getting old.
Big questions in goal if Hiller isn't a go.
No significant upgrades while their division rivals spend away.

7-Nashville Predators
Strengths: Weber and Suter a top defense pairing in the NHL.
Rinne is a future Vezina winner.
Hard working from top to bottom.

Weaknesses: Lack of scoring punch.
Power play is weak.
Defensive depth after the top two.

8-St.Louis Blues
Strengths: Great young scoring depth.
Score a lot of goals despite no superstars.
Defenseman Pietrangelo developing into a fine blueliner.

Weaknesses: Among the worst in league at faceoffs.
Depth on defense.
Halak needs to better in goal.

9-Calgary Flames
Strengths: Jarome Iginla.
Veteran leadership.
Scoring depth good when hot.

Weaknesses: Aging players.
Scoring depth can go into prolonged slumps.
12 players have no-trade contracts.

10-Minnesota Wild
Strengths: Solid goaltending.
First line more dangerous.
Gritty forwards

Weaknesses: Will still struggle to score outside the top line.
Thin depth on defense.

11-Dallas Stars
Strengths: Depth at forward and defense.
Strong young core.

Weaknesses: Lack star power and leadership with Richards departure.
Unproven head coach.
Goaltender needs to continue to improve and stay healthy.

12-Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: Young nucleus of potential scorers
Team speed

Weaknesses: Defense
Penalty killing needs a lot of work

13-Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths: Nash, Carter, and Umberger will be a tough line to stop.
One of the best teams in faceoffs.

Weaknesses: Goaltending. Will Mason ever return to rookie season form?
Take a ton of penalties.
Need more puck movement from blueline.

14-Edmonton Oilers
Strengths: Excellent young talent.
Team speed.
Potential for scoring depth.

Weaknesses: Goaltending
Special Teams

15-Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: Shane Doan is a great captain and "glue guy".
Keith Yandle developing into great defenseman

Weaknesses: Big downgrade in goal after Bryzgalov left.
Average depth.
Will struggle to score goals again.

WEST WINNER: Chicago Blackhawks
Darkhorse candidate: LA Kings

Coming up next week, my East predictions and in depth Pittsburgh Penguins predictions!


Damian Romano said...

Good list of predictions here. No doubt the Yotes will be the cellar dwellers this year. But it's gonna be tough as to who comes out of the West. No question the Hawks have a good squad. I tend to think the Sharks might find a way not to choke this year. We'll see though...

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