Oh sure, the puck hasn’t even touched the ice yet for the Little Team That Can (And Will)™. But that’s never stopped the writers here at OilersNation from putting on their prognostication (I had to look it up) hats to determine how things are going to shake out this season. Find out what’s going to happen in the Western Conference this season, according to OilersNation.
Robin Brownlee’s Predictions
THE PLAYOFF TEAMS
- San Jose
- St. Louis
The Sharks are loaded up front and are the class of the West… the Red Wings will slip some but will hold off the Blackhawks in the Central . . . loaded with grit and skill up front and set in goal with Roberto Luongo, the Canucks could overtake Detroit for second overall… the Flames have a great blue line but are suspect up front . . . watch the Blue Jackets climb the ranks with youngsters Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov providing Rick Nash some offensive support… love him or hate him, the Ducks will miss Chris Pronger and Anaheim could easily slip two spots, opening the door for Dallas or Edmonton.
12. Los Angeles
NO CIGAR FOR THE MIGHTY OIL
I’m leery of expecting more than 50 games from Nikolai Khabibulin, who didn’t inspire great confidence in pre-season, and that makes goaltending a question with unproven Jeff Deslauriers as the back-up… unless Gilbert Brule is the answer, GM Steve Tambellini still has a gaping hole in the line-up until he goes out and gets a bonafide face-off man and penalty killer… the Oilers will bleed points in division games against the Flames and Canucks… special teams should be better, but the penalty killing was so inept last season it’ll need to improve 10 places just to be middle of the pack and will have to do it without Fernando Pisani to start the season… Dustin Penner looked rejuvenated in pre-season, but in his two seasons with the Oilers he’s yet to show he can maintain any consistency… Sam Gagner needs to put a first-half together for the first time in three seasons and he’ll have do it with Pat Quinn’s shoe in his backside as he’s starting on the fourth line.
Jason Gregor’s Predictions
Outside of three teams, I think there are nine teams that could take the final five playoff spots.
The Sharks. They’ll win the west by ten points, because they are the best regular season team in the league. Thornton and Heatley will light it up and the Shark Tank is still one of the most intimidating rinks in the league.
The Hawks. They are still very young, but their playoff run last year will only make them better. I’m still not sold on Huet, but the Hawks depth will push them to the top of their division.
The Wings. I’m sure sick of this team, because they aren’t that exciting to watch, but man are they good. The Hawks will give them a run for the division, and I think the Wings will actually finish fourth, but they are in easily.
Now it gets difficult. Everyone is in love with the Canucks, and most are picking them to win the NW. Outside of the Sedin Sisters, they don’t have many proven scorers up front. Will Burrows be that productive again? What about Kesler? I like the grit those two have so I’ll go with the Canucks, but the NW will be tight.
In fifth I will go with the Blue Jackets. Derek Brassard will make Nash a 48-goal man this year, and the Jackets are loaded with young talented players. Their defense is questionable, but look for Scott Howson to address that as the year progresses.
The Flames won’t be very exciting on or off the ice. They might have the worst quotable team in the league, but Brent Sutter will ensure they play stifling defence and finish 6th. The problem for the Flames is that they won’t get out of the first round because Kiprusoff will be burnt out once again.
The Oilers were a speed bump down the stretch last year, and considering nine of their forward underachieved and they were still in the playoffs with ten games to go, I’ll put them in 7th. Quinn and his staff will make them more accountable, and their goals against will go down. Their PK will be better and that probably gives them at least two more wins, toss in the new coaching staff and the Oilers manage to win the dog fight for the last two playoff spots.
My surprise pick will be the Los Angeles Kings finally getting to the dance. Drew Doughty is outstanding, and they have lots of depth up front. Their goaltending will be a question mark, but I like what Dean Lombardi has built in LA and the Kings will make the playoff for the first time since the 2001/2002 season.
The Blues will miss the playoff by one point, because they will be decimated by injuries again and many of their young kids won’t perform like they did last season.
The Ducks are another team I have fallen out of the race. Their backend isn’t as strong, and something tells me they are ready for an off-year. The Preds and Coyotes will also be close. The Avs will finish last and have the best odds of choosing first overall.
I do think that if any team from 4th to 12th suffers one or two significant injuries they won’t make it to the dance. Let the games begin….
Jonathan Willis’ Predictions
- San Jose
- Los Angeles
- St. Louis
These predictions were extremely difficult to put together. However, that’s not going to stop me from starting at the top and working my way down through the flawed reasoning and poor assumptions that I used to create them.
Detroit’s obviously a very good team, and while most people think San Jose will be better they’ve really done a number on their defensive depth over the summer and I think they might be in some trouble when injuries strike. I almost did something really wild and slotted Vancouver up top, but the Canucks are a little ways back of those first two teams. The other thing worth mentioning about Detroit is that I see Osgood as being significantly better in the regular season this year.
Chicago’s in the same range as the top three teams, but I’d peg them just a little lower than the Red Wings. Anaheim underachieved last year, something that won’t happen again, and Calgary’s a very good team hampered by lousy goaltending. Columbus rounds out the best of the West; I’m banking here on an improved powerplay and no disappearing act from Steve Mason.
The teams ranked 8th through 13th are largely interchangeable, and it wouldn’t surprised me at all to see the order’s switched around at the end of the season. Edmonton has a bunch of question marks, the most serious of which is whether Nikolai Khabibulin is going to be a) healthy and b) motivated. The Minnesota Wild were actually quite a decent team last year in a lot of ways, but it’s a season of transition for them with the departure of Lemaire. Turco should be better in Dallas, but I’m still not sold on their generic-brand defensive corps. I like most of what L.A. has done but I trust neither their goaltenders nor the health of guys like Smyth, Williams and Stoll. I’ve probably short-changed the Blues here (particularly if Kariya and McDonald come back strong from injury) but they were a miserable 5-on-5 team last year and that must change. Finally, Nashville’s always a playoff threat but they’re one of the least potent offensive teams in the NHL right now.
Off-ice issues in Phoenix have forced G.M. Don Maloney to go bargain-hunting; the team’s performance will reflect that. Meanwhile Colorado, despite a decent new goaltender, is in complete rebuild mode, and have not one but two players from the last draft in the opening night lineup.
Wanye Gretz’s Predictions
- San Jose
As much as things have improved in San Jose with the addition of that son of a bitch Heatley, we can’t see anyone taking down the Red Wings this season in the West. Those dinks in Calgary have greatly improved with the addition of Bouwmeester and unless Iginla decides to retire they should win the division – though they will lose to the Oilers in the seasonal series. The rest speak for themeselves until 8th place. We pick the Oilers to make the playoffs if only because they are going into the season with little love and low expectations. Translation: Expect a bounce back year from Les Oilers, who will make several large moves during the season changing their roster dramatically.
THE HAVE NOTS
9. St. Louis
Know who sucks? These seven sucking teams made of suckers sure do! While most of these squads lay claim to “rebuilding” we know what these teams are really up to. Tax evasion. Tax evasion and murder for hire schemes. Pity the poor Coyotes down there at the bottom of the conference. Can you spell d-o-o-m-e-d? If only the worst thing that will happen to your team this year was missing the playoffs huh Phoenix? If only…. The Avalanche will smartly rebuild and be back in the playoffs within 4 years. Book it in your book of bookings.
Amber McCormick’s Predictions
I am going to be first to admit that I am the worst at picking any long range predictions. I thought Beta would outlast VHS.
At risk of the backlash I could face or ridicule I will face, here are my predictions… random random predictions.
- San Jose- 114
- Detroit- 108
- Vancouver- 107
- Calgary- 104
- Edmonton- 103
- Chicago- 100
- Anaheim- 99
- Columbus- 97
- Minnesota- 96
- Nashville- 95
- Dallas- 93
- St. Louis- 93
- Los Angeles- 92
- Phoenix- 88
- Colorado- 80
I thought about this so much that at one point nothing made any sense!!!
In order to predict the Western Conference standings at the end of the season, I mixed together several noxious chemicals and fed them to one of those sign-language-signing Gorillas. All that this resulted in was a horny gorilla chasing me around my basement. NOTHING MORE.
So I asked my roommate instead. He was passed out on the floor. His husky, Vinny, provided me with these answers.
All I’ll say is this: I think/hope/can’t promise but would like to think… that the Oilers make the playoffs this year. They have a lot going for them, and a lot working against them. I guess we’ll get an idea of how much of a clust#$@% this’ll be come Saturday…
- San Jose
- St. Louis
- Los Angeles
Read what the enemy has to say about the Western Conference: