Western Conference Predictions
Let’s take a look at how out to lunch I was regarding what I thought was going to happen this season. I’ll start with the Western Conference and try to keep it as short as possible.
1. Anaheim Ducks
Cam Fowler has put any trade rumors to bed with stellar play, the Ducks manage to win without Perry and Getzlaf going full throttle. They are where they are expected to be but the question remains playoff performance for this group.
2. San Jose Sharks
They are exactly where I placed them and they once again represent a threat in the Western Conference. This group is interesting heading to the trade deadline since many rumor sites say that this team is still looking to acquire scoring.
3. Edmonton Oilers
The impact of Connor McDavid is more important than I gave it credit to start the year. Solid additions of Larsson and Lucic help. Team still requires goaltending and defensive depth before they can make some noise in the post-season but 2017 should be a gigantic step in the right direction for this organization.
1. Minnesota Wild
Eric Staal finds his game as Bruce Boudreau is willingness to play the players in the role they should playing in as opposed to looking at the dollar sign associated with their contracts. Ask Coyle and Grandlund about their breakout seasons. Dubnyk’s save percentage also helps this team’s impressive goal differential. Who would have thought?
2. Chicago Blackhawks
My prediction was based on a cooling off for Patrick Kane which hasn’t happened at all. Corey Crawford is continues to prove that he is better than “the goalie that gets to play in front of a stacked team”. They may still be thin on depth to have success in the playoffs. Then again, that may be why many rumor sites think they are poised to acquire Thomas Vanek and others at the deadline.
3. Nashville Predators
I really wasn’t sure about this team with the many players holding less than stellar track records. The start of the season was a disaster yet the team has bounced back nicely and have been good enough of late to get into the playoff picture. Coach Laviolette must surely hope that the return of P.K. Subban doesn’t coincide with a return to the mediocrity of October.
Wild Card Qualifiers
7. Calgary Flames
This team has spent the last three seasons proving to be the most impossible team to predict. The goaltending has been solid of late and the kids are showing the ability to play a more complete game. The blue line is also living up to the hype of August 2015. They are young and therefore streaky. This would be a fun team to watch in the playoffs, but there are some deep teams that can still pick it up beneath them in the standings.
8. St. Louis Blues
When was the last time a Ken Hitchcock team allowed this many goals? The Jake Allen experiment looks like it’s about to end. The only negative here is that this will cost even more of their depth. The Blues better hope the Jets or Stars don’t start winning in the second half.
In the Hunt
9. Los Angeles Kings
My prediction was on the continued success of Quick, Kopitar and Doughty. Take Quick out of the equation and what you have is a team hanging on for dear life to playoff aspirations. With Edmonton earning a spot near the top, the Calgary/Los Angeles battle I predict will happen for a playoff spot as opposed to the predicted 3rd Pacific spot.
10. Vancouver Canucks
I said that Vancouver wasn’t finishing 14th and I was right, though I have to admit that 10th is higher than I anticipated. That being said, they are a whopping two points out of 12th which is where I expect them to finish as they just don’t have the players to compete once teams start playing like their playoff lives are at stake.
11. Dallas Stars
What happens when a team that relies solely on offense can’t find the back of the net? A team built to win now finds itself in the 11th position in the conference is what happens. The only good news in Dallas is that the season might give GM Jim Nill the evidence needed to trade some scoring for some D which might actually be beneficial for the long-term success of the team. It will be very interesting to find out at the trade deadline what direction this team takes.
12. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets remain in the playoff picture despite wildly inconsistent play. With the addition of Laine, there is little doubt this team can score but their defensive unit often looks uninterested in what Paul Maurice has to say, which is not a recipe for success at any time, never mind when the team is banking on two goaltenders who are so young. Will Paul Maurice survive another year out of the playoffs because that seems to be their likely destination?
13. Arizona Coyotes
My assessment on this one was “money”. Chayka hasn’t changed the fortunes of the team and likely won’t as fans everywhere should be beginning to understand that advanced stats in hockey aren’t as telling as they are in baseball. Who will be the desert cast-offs this season is about the only interesting narrative worth following here.
14. Colorado Avalanche
So, the coaching wasn’t the problem and it appears as though the wheels are falling off. I find conflicting the idea that Sakic would be stepping down at the end of the season yet be trusted to start the rebuild and selling off what looks like a very interesting crop of talent that may find its way out of Denver in the next month and a half.
Thanks for reading,
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