THN Rankings – West

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

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

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.

This article has 7 Comments

  1. Minny? Are they even going to make the playoffs? I guees THN figures that Gaborik is in his last year of a contract so he’s going to win the Rocket Richard and MVP. How else are they going to win their division? Both EDM and CGY have improved, at least on paper, and PHX can only rise up the standings. CLB is also very motivated to make the post-season so Minny will do well to get 8th.
    The only reason I can guess that the Avs will finish so low is that they make Raycroft their starting tender.

  2. A large part of Minny’s success also depends on Gaborik’s health. If he can’t stay healthy they really no longer have a go-to scorer guy. While it is Gaborik’s contract year, he’s also been reportedly been a little disappointed that Risebrough chose Rolston over his friend Demitra, but only to lose both in the process.

    Raycroft really came under a lot of fire in Toronto. He wasn’t great, or even good, but he wasn’t terrible either. His first year as a Leaf he posted a 35-27 record with a 2.99 GAA. That’s actually not bad. If he returns to that form, and not even his 2004 form, the Avs should be delighted. They head into training camp with Budaj as the starter anyway, even though Budaj’s career SV% is only slightly higher than Raycroft’s.

  3. I agree with the thought of Flames as first in the NW. Consistency is a huge element in team sports. They have the best squad overall and have depth up the middle with Langkow, Conroy, Lombardi and the acquisition of Cammalleri. Cammalleri won 174 faceoffs last year (54.2%) for the Kings as a winger.

    Anyone who thinks the Coyotes are not a playoff team have not been watching much hockey and I would completely disregard that. Strength up the middle, heart, mobile defence and goaltending. Add to that-prospects that will challenge and keep the veterans honest and moving. Uh….hello!

    Pull Minnesota out of 4th and slide Anaheim into that spot while resting the Yotes at 6th after a hot start and I’ll agree. Howson’s Jackets are primed for the playoffs this year though.

  4. Backlund signed with the Flames on May 2, and he will very likely start in Quad City. The centre split time between Vasteras U20 and Vasteras Div. II, and will be at least 1-2 years away from making contributions to the Flames.

  5. Really eh? Thought he looked wicked at the World Juniors, I figure he needs another season of seasoning in the AHL, just to get used to the rink, the physical brand of hockey etc.

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