IC Radio: Western Conference Preview
The following team previews have been paraphrased from Saturday’s Illegal Curve Hockey Show Season Preview. Download the podcast from IllegalCurve.com or subscribe to the Illegal Curve Hockey Show on iTunes.
St. Louis Blues
Last season: Place in NHL 3rd, Goals for rank 21st, Goals against 1st, Power play 19th, Penalty kill 7th, Face-offs 14th.
Additions: Wade Redden, Jeff Woywitka
Subtractions: BJ Crombeen,
Drew: The big addition will be Vladimir Tarsenko who is their 2010 first rounder.
Ezzy: They don’t have any superstars, but are so strong at every position. They are like the Boston Bruins of the Western Conference. I think they are going to be a top 4 team in the West for sure.
Richard: I really like this team; they have depth, speed, size. I think this team wins the division.
Last season: Place in NHL 5th, Goals for rank 8th, Goals against 8th, Power play 1st, Penalty kill 10th, Face-offs 22nd.
Additions: Chris Mason, Scott Hannan
Subtractions: Ryan Suter, Alex Radulov, Anders Lindback, Andrei Kostitsyn, Francois Boullion
Drew: How far is the drop for the Nashville Predators?
Ezzy: Shea Weber wins the Norris Trophy finally this year. The Nashville Predators are still good defensively, I just don’t think they have enough firepower to make up for the loss of Ryan Suter. I think they are going to miss the playoffs this year.
Richard: They lost a lot of offense. But in determining whether or not they can be a playoff team, they were top ten in every category last year except for face-offs. The truth of the matter is, if they drop down to the middle of the pack, they could still make the playoffs. I don’t think the West is as good as it was last year. Nashville is a team where if they bet against you, they’ll end up making it.
Last season: Place in NHL 10th, Goals for rank 5th Goals against 22nd, Power play 26th, Penalty kill 27th, Face-offs 12th.
Additions: Sheldon Brookbank
Subtractions: Sami Lepisto
Ezzy: The Hawks are a number one goaltender away from being a Stanley Cup Winner. Bold prediction: The Blackhawks will acquire a goaltender.
Richard: I think the Hawks are an aimless team, what has Stan Bowman done to make this team productive? It’s a hodgepodge of talent, how do they fill out the bottom of the roster? What about the goaltending? I think Quenneville will be the first coach to get fired this season. I think the Blackhawks miss the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings
Last season: Place in NHL 8th, Goals for rank 7th, Goals against 7th, Power play 22nd, Penalty kill 18th, Face-offs 6th.
Additions: Jonas Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Damien Brunner,
Subtractions: Nik Lidstrom, Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart
Richard: I think Detroit makes the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Last season: Place in NHL 30th, Goals for rank 26th, Goals against rank 28th, Power play 24th, Penalty Kill 30th, Face-offs 9th.
Additions: Artem Anisimov, Adrian Aucoin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Nick Foligno
Subtractions: Rick Nash, Mark Methot, Curtis Sanford
Ezzy: The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t make the playoffs this year, everyone is picking them last. It’s a transition year. I can’t go against the grain; I think they’ll be one of the bottom teams.
Richard: They will be harder to beat this year, overall they are better, I think Columbus will surprise some teams and are making progress, but they won’t make the playoffs.
Last season: Place in NHL 1st, Goals for rank 5th, Goals against rank 4th, Power play 4th, Penalty kill 6th, Face-offs 3rd.
Additions: Jason Garrison
Subtractions: Sami Pahlsson, Marc-Andre Gagnani, Aaron Rome
Drew: The Northwest was probably the worst and most top heavy division last year; looking at the Vancouver Canucks roster, is there any way they can replicate being the first overall team this year?
Ezzy: The injury to Ryan Kesler is a huge concern because they don’t know when he is coming back. If he comes back in March, will the Canucks even make the playoffs? The second line is such a huge drop off, their elite status is in question and it concerns me that they haven’t done much to improve. I think the Canucks take a step back this year.
Richard: There are some serious question marks after the first line, but you look at their defense, it’s a pretty darn good top four and their goaltending is solid. I don’t think the window has closed on them, but it’s closing. It’s highly dependent on if Alain Vingeault adjusts his style of play.
Last season: Place in NHL 18th, Goals for rank 24th, Goals against 13th, Power play 13th, Penalty kill 9th, Face-offs 30th.
Additions: Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman
Subtractions: Scott Hannan, David Moss, Olli Jokinen
Drew: Is this the same Calgary Flames where they are fighting tooth and nail to get to the 8th seed in the playoffs and fall short.
Richard: I like the Bob Hartley hire, I don’t like the contracts they gave out, but I like the players they acquired. They will coach offense for the first time in a while. The issue I have is that the strength of successful franchises is at the centre position. They finished 30th in face-offs last year because they have a number of players (i.e. Tanguay) playing out of position. They’re probably back to a similar situation from years past.
Ezra: I don’t think that their secondary scoring is good enough. Again, they will be in that 9th or 10th position.
Last season: Place in NHL 20th, Goals for rank 24th, Goals against rank 15th, Power play 9th, Penalty kill 12th, Face-offs 5th.
Additions: John Mitchell, PA Parenteau, Greg Zanon
Subtractions: Peter Mueller, Jay McClement
Drew: Colorado is still not quite at a playoff team level, but are they on their way up?
Ezzy: The Colorado Avalanche are a team that has tons of skill, I think they will be better this year. It will be tough for them to make the playoffs, but they have tons of young offensive talent. They will be better than last year, but still out of a playoff spot.
Richard: Their season will hinge on whether or not a guy like Matt Duchene can take the next step. Their goaltending holds them back.
Last season: Place in NHL 24th, Goals for rank 30th, Goals against 13th, Power play 27th, Penalty kill 15th, Face-offs 8th.
Additions: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Zenon Kenopka, Torrey Mitchell
Subtractions: Erik Christensen, Guillaume Latandresse, Mike Lundin
Drew: Will Suter and Parise be enough to propel them into a playoff spot?
Richard: Last season they were 30th in goals for. I definitely see improvement for the Wild, but the question is; how much improvement?
Ezzy: When you add superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they will obviously get better. They were the best team in the NHL last season until they came to Winnipeg. They are a bottom playoff team, or just outside with Calgary. It’s tough not to pick them for a drastic improvement after the additions of Suter and Parise.
Last season: Place in NHL 29th, Goals for rank 19th, Goals against 23rd, Power play 3rd, Penalty killing 14th, Face-offs 27th.
Additions: Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov
Drew: Are they youthful enough to get into the playoffs?
Richard: They have speed, youth and energy in a shortened season. I see this team being able to threaten to win the division, they will make the playoffs. Bold prediction: Who’s to say Hall won’t score 40 goals (or the pro-rated equivalent for the shortened season).
Ezzy: Because they have so much offensive talent, they will make the playoffs. It’s not time to order the Stanley Cup rings yet, but two or three years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lifting the Stanley Cup.
Last season: Place in NHL 11th, Goals for rank 18th, Goals against 5th, Power play 29th, Penalty kill 8th, Face-offs 15th.
Additions: Zybanek Michalek, David Moss, Steve Sullivan
Subtractions: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin, Taylor Pyatt
Drew: Much like the Nashville Predators, each year people are wondering when the Coyotes will take a step back; is this the year they take a step backwards?
Richard: Their bread is buttered on the defensive side of the puck–can Mike Smith keep it up?. With Sean Burke mentoring him, and Dave Tippett being the best coach in the league, I don’t see how you can go against them.
Ezzy: My bread is buttered by peanut butter.
San Jose Sharks
Last season: Place in NHL 12th, Goals for rank 13th, Goals against 8th, Power play 2nd, Penalty kill 29th, Face-offs 2nd.
Additions: Brad Stuart, Adam Burish
Subtractions: Torrey Mitchell, Daniel Winnik
Drew: Every year, people say the San Jose Sharks should do better than they do in the playoffs–is this the year they take the next step in the playoffs?
Richard: I like the team top to bottom, but Thornton has proven year after year that he can’t do it in the playoffs. Larry Robinson should go a long way and is probably their biggest offseason addition. The issue is, can they win when it matters most? I think they’ve missed their chance.
Ezzy: I still think they will make the playoffs, but it comes down to Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski along with Logan Couture. In a shortened season, teams that didn’t make that many changes are at an advantage, San Jose is such a good veteran team, they’ll make the playoffs, but will fall short as they have continued to do year after year.
Los Angeles Kings
Last season: Place in NHL 13th, Goals for rank 29th, Goals against 2nd, Power play 17th, Penalty kill 4th, Face-offs 7th.
Drew: Is it possible that the LA Kings are better this year than last year because they’ll get a full season out of Jeff Carter?
Ezzy: It will be difficult for LA to repeat, but the big additions they made were at the end of last season. They are a top team; I have them winning the division.
Richard: “They are strong up the middle, with great defensemen and goaltending. I don’t see any reason why they don’t continue their success.”
Last season: Place in NHL 18th, Goals for 22nd, Goals against 15th, Power play 30th, Penalty kill 13th, Face-offs 20th.
Additions: Derek Roy, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Aaron Rome, Cody Eakin
Subtractions: Mike Ribeiro, Steve Ott, Sheldon Souray, Adam Pardy, Adam Burish, Jamie Benn?
Drew: With all of their offseason moves, are the Dallas Stars a playoff team?
Ezzy: Jagr and Whitney had good years last year, but they were acquired to sell tickets. I don’t think they have enough talent offensively, especially without Benn.
Richard: I think they do make the playoffs. Last year they were short on offensive talent, their top two lines if Benn is signed are solid. Combined with goaltending, I like this Dallas squad; I think they make the playoffs.
Last season: Place in NHl 26th, Goals for rank 23rd, Goals against 19th, Power play 21st, Penalty kill 16th, Face-offs 28th.
Additions: Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Daniel Winnik, Brad Staubitz
Subtractions: Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Brookbank, George Parros
Drew: Any reason you see any improvement from the Ducks?
Richard: It can’t get any worse, especially with Getzlaf and Perry. I don’t see them as a playoff team, but they will be more competitive than last year.
Ezzy: They aren’t going to make the playoffs, the question will be will they trade Getzlaf and/or Perry, this year’s Parise and Suter.