The Western Conference Team Rankings
After taking a look at what has happened in the Eastern Conference so far this year, its time to look at who’s the best in the West for the first half of the season.
1) Detroit- It’s hard to pick one from the top 3 teams in the West (Colorado, Vancouver, Detroit), but as it stands Detroit is number one in the West, and I feel they went through the most adversity of the three teams, having 9 regulars out and their 3 ring goaltending circus. Detroit is the highest scoring team in the NHL, which is pretty amazing considering they had 6 forwards (2 full lines) out at one time. Datsyuk and Schneider have made the biggest impact on the team this year, and the Cujo come back is also drawing attention. If this team can get healthy expect their defense to improve, and no trades at the deadline. Should be a interesting second half to see if Datsyuk can keep up his numbers and if the 3 ring goaltending circus can be resolved.
2) Colorado- Like Detroit a few injuries to this team (Kariya and Forsberg) have slowed this team down a bit, but now that they are healthy, they are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 games. The third highest scoring team in the NHL holds a lot of firepower. Don’t mess with this teams power play. Expect them to be neck and neck with Vancouver right till the end. David Aebischer has put up some excellent numbers so far but can he keep it up in the second half and even into the playoffs?
3) Vancouver- A solid team at home and on the road, this team is my pick for the President’s Trophy. Jovanovski is not having the season I thought he would, but Sopel is playing way above expectations, and Ohlund might be the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. Bertuzzi needs to score a little bit more and Cloutier has to make a statement at these years playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team pick up one more forward before the deadline.
4) St.Louis- A very solid team this year, but so many injuries has really hurt this team. Easily could have been number one team at this point if it wasn’t for their injuries on the blue line. Weight and Tkachuk are averaging a point per game but have to stop getting suspensions. Pronger is the Norris Trophy winner at the moment. Osgood has been okay but is going to have to be better with Macinnis and Jackman out.
5) San Jose- Look who’s back. The Sharks are again among the elite western conference teams this year and are continuing to get better. Should end up being a close race between SJ, Dallas, Phoenix and LA. Right now they look kind of thin upfront besides Marleau but the goaltending tandem of Nabokov and Toskala have been solid all year. Has anyone notice how big their defensemen are? There monsters!
6) Calgary- I don’t want to jinx them but I think the Flames will be making a long waited return to the playoffs this year. The story of this team has been Kiprusoff who is having an amazing year, and should be returning from injury fairly soon. This teams goals against average is second only to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and Iginla is having a good season after a poor one last year.
7) Phoenix- Who needs Burke when you have Boucher getting 5 shutouts in a row. It remains to be seen if this was a fluke but Doan and Nagy are having all-star like seasons. The Coyotes will be hard pressed to make the playoffs this year with such a young team, but expect them to be right in the mix.
8) Nashville- Anyone notice this team gets a lot of fans for a non-playoff team, and a team from down south? Anyways, this team doesn’t do anything particularly good but they don’t do anything really bad either. Their main surprises this year come from two defensemen, Timonen who has 22 points and Zidlicky who has 25 points. Upfront their top scorer has 28 points, but they are still clinging to a playoff berth at the present time. A pretty good team at home, if they could end the season with a .500 record on the road they could grab the final playoff spot.
9) Dallas- What’s going on in Dallas? They’ve gone to first in the West last year to the middle of the pack this year. Makes you wonder how much Hatcher really meant to this team. A team with as much firepower upfront as the Stars should not have only 90 goals this year. Guerin is the only star on this team playing like a star, and Modano should hold his head in shame this year.
10) LA- Deadmarsh, Palffy, Allison and Straka, all superstars, but also all injured for the rest of the season. I don’t know what to say about this team, if they were healthy they would win their division and make the playoffs but they aren’t. Now that Palffy is done for the season, they will have to depend on a aging forward in Robitaille and a young star in Frolov, for scoring.
11) Edmonton- Not doing very well in the goals against department this year, and their offense if average at best. They traded Comrie and now their top center Horcoff has 6 goals, between the their top 5 center’s they’ve combined for a total of 15 goals. Salo is having another bad year in net and it makes you wonder if he’s still haunted by that Olympic goal. Their power play is 29th in the league, ouch.
12) Minnesota- Had the problem of signing Gaborik this year and since they signed him he isn’t doing much anyways. Looks like Daigle has finally found a home in Minny, but a real hurting stat is that no one on this team has 10 goals yet. The only real bright spot so far this year is Roloson who is putting up some outstanding numbers.
13) Anaheim- Talk about Stanley Cup Finals hangover, I hope they don’t become another Carolina. Fedorov after a slow start is starting to pick his game up, but the team still isn’t scoring enough goals. Giguere has come back down to earth and isn’t looking like the goalie he was last year. Their not out of the playoff picture yet but at 2-5-3 in their last 10 games, they soon will be.
14) Chicago- The injury to Thibault has really killed this team. Basically they’ve been playing with backup goaltenders all year and the injuries to Zhamnov and Daze also hurt. Look for Zhamnov to be moved at the deadline if he doesn’t sign a extension soon. They’ve given up the third most goals against.
15) Columbus- Not sure why so many people thought this team would make the playoffs. When’s the last time you saw the top goal scorer in the NHL on the team that has scored the third fewest goals? Nash has been the only bright spot on this team this year, but Denis is taking way too much heat, he isn’t playing that bad.
So that concludes the first half of the year power rankings. Should be a very interesting second half. I can’t wait to see if Atlanta or the Rangers can make the playoffs in the East, or if the Nashville and Calgary can keep their playoff spots in the West.