Stanley Cup Favourites

I know it’s very early, and most of us will look like fools come June 2008, but judging by the current lineups who do you think will be the major Cup contenders next season? Pick any three from each conference and give a short reason why.

These are my choices (in no particular order)

Western Conference:

Calgary Flames– Last season their downfall was their PK and road play. I believe Darryl Sutter has fixed that by bringing in Mike Keenan as head coach to get them more consistent. Also, Jim Playfair is back as defensive coordinator like he was in 2006 when the Flames had the stingiest defense in the league. The team core is still intact. They have the offense, they have the defense, and they definitely have the goalie. Flames could go all the way.

San Jose Sharks– After a great regular season competing in a tough division, and breezing through the Nashville Predators in the first round, they could not get past the Detroit Red Wings. This is because the Red Wings dictated the pace and style of play for the game. San Jose’s physical game did no damage because Detroit’s skilled game took over. As long as they don’t let that happen next season they look good for next spring.

Vancouver Canucks– For the entire regular season the Canucks relied on the Sedins to get them on the board and for Luongo to keep them in the game. In the playoffs, that didn’t cut it. The Sedins were shut down effectively by the Pahlsson line, and Luongo couldn’t win it alone for them. This season I believe Naslund and Morrison will rebound nicely, providing the Canucks with the needed offense, and their defense and goaltending is still the same, if not stronger.

Eastern Conference:

Ottawa Senators– You can no longer blame the Senators’ playoff failures on any one player. They got by with skill alone to the finals, but from that point on it was a poor team effort that led to their 5 game loss. Aside from Alfredsson, Fisher, and Phillips (surprise, surprise) the entire team was invisible. Now that they have felt the sting of losing, it’s my bet that they will be back with a vengeance. Look for a more determined Senators team next season.

New York Rangers– The Rangers came close to eliminating the Sabres by holding a one goal lead in the last minute of Game 5, but the defense couldn’t hold their offense back. A similar situation to the Vancouver Canucks, but facing a much milder team. With the additions of Gomez and Drury, who have both proven to be clutch playoff performers, and of course the stingy defense and Lundqvist in net, the Rangers could end up going far.

Pittsburgh Penguins– The sky’s the limit for this team. Last year, they were a skilled team that ended up losing to a more skilled team in the first round. It’s better they learned from their mistakes sooner than later, because this young team is going to be a powerhouse maybe even as soon as next season. They will only get better.

Don’t comment on my picks, post your own.