Ok. I gave you my Eastern Conference preview. I like the Captials to win the regular season, but I don’t see them getting past the second round of the playoffs. I think the East will be a crapshoot again this season. Much like 2009-10 when the Flyers came outta nowhere to win a trip to the finals.
The West however, is another story. There are some great teams and a ton of talent. The top-five will have to punch each other out for a chance at Lord Stanley. Here is how I see it.
1. Los Angeles Kings: Yes, I went there. Jonathon Quick is pretty darn good. Johnathon Bernier has made the leap to the NHL, he is a high-pick talent. Not to mention the retuning core plus the subtraction of Alex Frolov makes the Kings pretty good.
2. Vancouver Canucks: The ‘Nucks could ice four lines of defensemen if they wanted. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Roberto Luongo won’t be very busy this season. The Canucks need to find their way through the playoffs though. We will see if they can finally complete that journey in 2010-11.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: I picked the Hawks here because they are still the best team in the Central. They lost a lot of integral pieces but the Central didn’t do enough to catch up to them. Safe pick to make the second season. Marty Turco won’t be good enough to win a series though.
4. San Jose Sharks: Their goaltending just isn’t good enough. I think they will be a good team but I see the Kings dethroning (no pun) the Sharks in the Pacific this season. Although, a Sharks-Wings first round series is exciting.
5. Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard is getting there. That is for certain. But, adding Mike Modano is not going to make the Wings the Cup winner. I don’t think they did enough to move back ahead of Chicago. Not yet at least.
6. Nashville Predators: This is another big leap. The Preds didn’t do much in the offseason. But Pekka Rinne is solid between the pipes. If these guys work hard they will be successful. Besides, Trotz has never had trouble getting the most out of his players.
7. Anaheim Ducks: I really hate Jonas Hiller. He has terrible taste in gear and I feel like most of his equipment is illegal. But, he makes saves and the Ducks have some great forwards. They will be back in the post season and will likely cause some problems for whoever they face.
8. Calgary Flames: I really love Jarome Iginla. Plus, Mikka Kiprussoff is all-world. I think all of their new pieces from last season will gel this year and they will be a winner again. Plus, once you get past number six in the West it is anyone’s game.
9. Colorado Avalanche: A year older, this team will be good. But, I feel like they will decline some. That will cost them the playoff spot they snuck into last season. These guys will cause trouble though. Don’t be surprised when they are in the thick of the playoff hunt.
10. Phoenix Coyotes: Count on a backside for these guys in 2010-11. Ilya Bryzgalov will be good again. But, all of the dark horse talent they got production form last season will not be back again. They will compete, but ultimately fall short.
11. St. Louis Blues: I can almost guarantee Jaro Halak will fumble the starting role in St. Louis. Remember what happened to Patty Lalime when he went to St. Louis to be their net savior? But, these guys are talented. I just feel that Halak won’t be brilliant and they will miss out on the postseason.
12. Dallas Stars: This will be an interesting year for Dallas. They have a new netminder who could be great or could be average. And their leader (Modano) is gone. So, they have some good pieces in place. We just need to see what is missing as the season progresses. I say they are two years from a playoff run.
13. Minnesota Wild: Nik Backstrom seems to be backsliding quite a bit. I feel like these guys might see the sellout streak end if they don’t find a way to put some strong pieces in place over the next few seasons.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Steve Mason. He is the new Cam Ward. If this guy shows up the Jackets will be good. But, if he is just average the Jackets won’t win any games. My money is on average.
15. Edmonton Oilers: They are on their way back. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will make some magic for the Oil. I think they need to address the goaltending situation in the next year or two. The Bulin Wall does too much drinking to stand and the other options aren’t NHL-caliber. Give the Oilers a few more years to iron out the kinks.