Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the Edmonton Oilers’ new division. Now the pivotal question: will they snag one of the four playoff spots in this group?
1. Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are my choice for the top spot in the division; this team won the Cup in 2012 and went to the Conference Finals in 2013 and the roster hasn’t changed much. They fell down the standings last year thanks to an abnormally poor regular season from Jonathan Quick, and that isn’t likely to be repeated. They should be well clear of Edmonton.
2. Vancouver Canucks. This roster doesn’t look as good on paper as previous editions of the team, but the same stars are there up front and the defence might be the best in the Western Conference despite the lack of a superstar number one. A lot hinges on Roberto Luongo; the Canucks have gambled that after wanting to leave he’ll be able to come back and contribute at a high level. It’s a risk, but they’re probably right.
3. San Jose Sharks. This is a very good team; they’re smartly coached and smartly managed (given my choice of NHL general managers, there aren’t many I’d take ahead of Doug Wilson) and they have great depth and talent down the middle.
4. Anaheim Ducks. The loss of Sheldon Souray to injury and the addition of Mark Fistric on defence have changed the picture a little bit since our comparison, weakening the Ducks’ defence. This is a catchable team for the Oilers but not one I’d care to bet on Edmonton being ahead of.
5. Edmonton Oilers. We’ve analyzed Edmonton’s strengths and weaknesses to death this season. Up front they have solid top end talent but questionable depth, particularly at centre. On defence, they have exceptional depth but a dearth of proven top-two defencemen. Devan Dubnyk provides solid goaltending. Put it all together and this is a team on the bubble, one I have projected to be in the playoff race until the bitter end (though they could snatch a crossover spot in the Central). (Others feel more optimistic about the team’s placement).
6. Phoenix Coyotes. A forward corps that leans too much on Mike Ribeiro and Shane Doan is the Coyotes’ primary weakness, and what might make them vulnerable to the Oilers this season. Any of the three teams listed here could snag that final playoff spot in my estimation; there isn’t a night-and-day difference between Anaheim and Edmonton and Phoenix.
7. Calgary Flames. The roster was gutted last season and it seems likely to take a few more vicious kicks in the lead up to the 2013-14 trade deadline. The forward group lacks top end talent, the defence is suspect and nobody knows who the starter is. Welcome to the rebuild.
Recently around the Nation Network
A new picture has been making the rounds in Winnipeg, one showing a much leaner version of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. At Jets Nation, Travis Hrubeniuk writes about what Jets fans can expect from the oft-criticized defenceman:
I believe that he has the chance to be a truly successful top pairing D-man with the numbers to back it up, should a couple things happen. First, he needs some help in net. It’s been the story for this team for years now. People refuse to believe that the Jets have been a solid defensive team with poor goaltending behind them, and choose to inaccurately accuse the blue line of inadequate play. Byfuglien may as well be the poster boy for this myth, as he and Enstrom are truly an effective top pairing duo.
Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff: