A Minor Preview of the Western Conference, After C Moon

Pardon me if I step on Peroni’s toes while offering this Western Conference Primer, after I discuss the greatness of Paul McCartney’s “C Moon”. While I empathize with McCartney’s plight, given the misunderstandings of the older generation, I myself am beginning to truly understand the older generation. When the neighbor kid rides his bike on my grass it really pisses me off. I will kill him someday, make no mistake. So why is Paul cooler at 60 than I am at 35? I caught myself taking garbage to the curb in a bathrobe, black socks, and slippers the other day. Paul would never do that. OK, on to hockey.Anaheim Mighty Ducks: I fully expect this top line to crank out some serious scoring. Oates is STILL such a skilled playmaker, and I’d expect a great year from Sykora and Kariya. What happens after that? I dunno…maybe someone else at the forward position could mix in a little input. They have beefed up their defensive depth, and I fully expect Giguere to be a superstar someday. Honestly, I’d not be too surprised if he ended up with a career similar to Theodore and Luongo in the end. But they’re relying greatly on one line and severe youth questions in goal. Good luck with all that. The playoffs are so close, yet so far.

Calgary Flames: The loss of Al Letang and Curtis Jospeh will really hurt this team (HA HA). If anyone doubts the long-term greatness of Iginla, please shut up and examine the numbers. He is NOT a one year wonder. He is a star on a meteoric rise. I don’t necessarily expect 50+ goals again, but I do expect a consistent, tough, energetic 40 goal scorer who makes his teammates better. That being said, get this guy some linemates. What if Calgary had swung the Oates deal? One great player could equal the playoffs here.

Chicago Blackhawks: I’d expect Eric Daze, Michael Nylander, and Kyle Calder to improve from their great years last year. However, they can’t count on another careeer year from Thibault and Zhamnov. The loss of Amonte is NOT compensated for with Sergei Berezin. When are we going to start calling this team the Red Army? When will this team call Dafoe’s agent? Things continue to look depressing for all of us Chicago natives. I’m afraid the playoffs are out of the picture.

Colorado Avalanche: No real changes except the loss of Kasparaitis? Well, this team doesn’t really need to change, and Kaspar is overrated anyway. Their youngsters having a year under their belts, and a healthy Forsberg makes this an improved team. Two issues: will their defensive depth hold up, and will Patty have such a ridiculously great season again? My guess is “no” on both counts. But every time I bet against Roy I live to regret it. I hate that he’s so good. Go ahead and claim that division title now.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Their defense should be better, but it wouldn’t hurt if someone on this club mixed in a goal every now and then. What do they have offensively like Marion Gaborik to give their fans a little hope? Does it seem odd to anyone else that the youngest forward on an expansion team is 25 (minus Nash)? Pray for Klesla and Nash. Also for either Denis to play 75 games and live up to projections, or else a veteran goaltender acquisition. Not only will they be one of the worst teams this season, but also one of the most boring.

Dallas Stars: Marty Turco. That’s all. With one of the deepest offenses and defenses in the league (who wouldn’t want Morrow and Boucher to be on their third line or third D pairing), I think it all boils down to Marty. So many people on this site doubt his abilities. Don’t. Trust me. But even if he fails, is Tugnutt such a bad option? I suppose chemistry issues could come into play. But the people Armstrong brought in aren’t Audettes and DiMaios, they’re guys who should fit in their respective roles very well. That Pacific title will be a nasty bloodletting to earn this season.

Detroit Red Wings: See Colorado Avalanche. This team was SO dominant, the loss of a few components makes no difference. Their youngsters bring hope to an already expectant team. But it’s put-up or shut-up time for Joseph. Can we all agree if he fails on THIS team that all his doubters were ahead of the curve here? P.S.: please have a discussion with Montreal about whether or not you are TRULY “Hockey Town”.

Edmonton Oilers: Basically, you’ve traded Hecht for Dopita. Does that propel you into the playoffs in a nasty, nasty West? Comrie had better continue being a stud, or this team is in trouble. He covered the loss of Weight, but he’d better keep it up. Tommy Salo is so grossly underrated. Perhaps he could put in a career year and take this team a few rounds in. But that’s likely wishful thinking.

Los Angeles Kings: Hello? Anyone there? Eric Rasmussen is supposed to fill the character void left by Boucher, Buchberger, and Ronning? I’m not sure there’s room for him, but would Cassels fit here? That top line is wonderful, but some depth and a little more D would help. Good thing Potvin seems to have found his stride in LA. Like Salo, a career year for him could be the key, but I don’t think three playoff rounds are in their immediate future.

Minnesota Wild: Someone needs to emerge from this goaltending tandem. Having two possible goalies is not the same as a bona fide top notch guy. Their young guys look nice, and I expect a good offensive future for this team. Gaborik and Brunette look great together. But how about adding a top-flight defenseman?

Nashville Predators: They promised their fans the playoff this year. Ouch. Mann, Wilm, Gilchrist, and Trepanier Don’t add up to the playoffs in my mind. You can’t just add quantity in the offseason. There must be some quality in the mix. Mike Dunham standing on his head every night will still not propel this team into the postseason. A few years will do the trick, though. There is a future here. Will Upshall get his chance this year? I can’t wait to see how pissed the Canadians will be if this team wins a Cup someday.

Phoenix Coyotes: Career overachievers. That’s what they’re all about. I think we’d all look at this team on paper, and conclude what we did last year, that they’re not that great. But Amonte and another great year from Burke equals success. All of these guys play over their heads. Nobody’s going to want to face these guys in the postseason. Nobody. A Dallas and San Jose slow start could possibly even equal a division title.

Saint Louis Blues: Same old same old. Do you Saint Louis fans ever feel like tasting the business end of a pistol? I feel sorry for you. Sure you’ll make the playoffs for the 700th straight year. But for a team that had a real struggle staying afloat (see Dallas) in the competitive West, does Jason Dawe cover the loss of Scott Young and Marc Bergevin and make this team capable of dropping Colorado and Detroit? Not to mention the nasty Sharks and revamped Stars? How about the Kings or Coyotes? You looking forward to facing them in the postseason?

San Jose Sharks: This team doesn’t need to add anything. And keep in mind, for what it’s worth, they still technically own Theo Fleury. They’re not too pretty. They’re not too nice. They just might be the best team in the West if they play their cards right. The re-signing of the allegedly “disgruntled” Selanne for less money is very telling to me. People believe this team is a winner. Why does Owen Nolan not get worshipped more? He’s a poor man’s Peter Forsberg, and I’d have him on my team any day.

Vancouver Canucks: Shut up and spend your stinking money. It’s not everyone else’s fault that YOUR view of success is strictly financial, and that YOUR business plan doesn’t have the word “Cup” in it anywhere. You’ve done nothing to improve your team (oops, forgot Jaroslav Obsut). Standing pat in the West equals death and prolonged mediocrity. Play your cards right, and you might become the Blues, without the consistent playoff appearances to salve the wounds.


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