Hey, everyone else ran his fairly ridiculous picture from ESPN's Body Issue, why not us too? Can't imagine the verbal dressing room abuse this is worth.

On to the West, a time zone and part of the country that actually does exists, contrary to the opinion of the majority of hockey media members. If Detroit moves to the East next year as per rumours, the only time most fans are going to read about this conference will be during inter-conference play.

But me, I live out west. The wild, wild west of Arizona, in fact, and I take quite an interest in this conference.

Here’s how I see things shaking down after everybody has played their 82 games:

1. Vancouver

2. Los Angeles

3. Chicago

4. Detroit

5. San Jose

6. St. Louis Blues

7.Anaheim Ducks

8. Nashville Predators

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

10. Minnesota Wild

11. Edmonton Oilers

12. Dallas Stars

13. Phoenix Coyotes

14. Calgary Flames

15. Colorado Avalanche

Western Conference Final: LA vs. Vancouver

Western Conference Champion: Vancouver (me picking a re-match of last year’s Cup final may look like the easy way out, but both teams are still stacked)

*****

Three explanations coming: Top of the Conference, the Playoff Bubble Teams, and the Bottom Rungs

Top of the Conference

I really didn’t wanna be the guy who picked “chalk” (all favourites) as they call it, but c’mon – that Vancouver Canucks team didn’t lose anything valuable from last year, has more experience, and still has one of the best goalies in the league despite the opinion of you delusional humans who somehow became convinced Luongo isn’t an absolute stud.

The Kings are killer – if it wasn’t Van, they’d have been my team. So many great threats up front, a few rocks on the back end and great goaltending.

I have Chicago re-finding their stride again. Don’t forget, they lost to the 1-seed in playoffs in round one last year, in game seven, in overtime. It took them awhile to figure themselves out again after purging so many good players post-Stanley Cup, but they figured it out. They’ll regroup nicely.

Last, I have Detroit getting the last home ice spot because it seems they’ll never stop being the powerhouse that is Detroit, they have the best coach in the league, and Pavel Datsyuk could get home ice if we surrounded him with players who could only use plastic light sabres for sticks. And he’d still get 40 assists.

Playoff Bubble Teams

You know who could weasel into the playoffs this year? The teams from 6 to 14. No offense to you Colorado – we’ll talk in a second.

But truly, looking at that grouping of teams, there’s a few bright spots and couple questions in every lineup. Columbus made a few big splashes that could take them to the next level. For once, Minnesota actually has a couple interesting players on their roster (which is why it’s sad I have them at 10 – not bad, not good, just….there, again). And who knows how early the Oil will come into their own?

In the end though, I’ve been waiting for St. Louis to come through and be the team they can for awhile now, and it’s got to happen eventually. Great talent up front, solid goaltending and a good coach. This is the year they pull it together.

Bottom Rungs

Colorado actually has some seriously bright spots in their roster. To name a couple: I think Duchene is a stud, and we know Stastny definitely is. But when I think of teams that could surprise me, prove me wrong and get into the playoffs, I just don’t see it here. Badly lacking depth, Landeskog will be good but green, and the goaltending is neck-and-neck with Phoenix for worst tandem in the league (okay, Colorado’s a little better).

Those other teams just above them, well, there’s just a little more potential there to surprise me.

In the end, 7 of last year’s playoff teams from the West will return to the land of glory.

Comments (12)

  1. Vancouver to repeat as #1? That’s ballsy, especially considering Kesler and Raymond will miss some time, fatigue from the SCF run, and the loss of Ehrhoff. They ought to win their division easily, but I can see them falling behind SJ/LA, and Chi-Town.

    PS: I did not need to see Kesler nekkid for the 10th time today >:(

  2. San Jose #5? Not a chance that I can see. That’s your most controversial pick, and I would like to have read your justification it.

  3. Congrats Canucks!
    Most teams wearing the “C” are crappy:
    Colorado
    Calgary
    Columbus

    I prefer Kesler doing damage “wearing” his uniform:
    http://www.CanuckStruck.com

  4. Wow, so you rank the Oil 11th but offer no followup? I mean, I’m an Oil fan, I’d like to be optimistic but have been burned so badly the last 6 years. I NEED TO KNOW YOUR REASONING FOR BEING SO OPTIMISTIC, SO I CAN CONVINCE MYSELF ITS OK TO BE OPTIMISTIC BECAUSE A NON-PARTISAN BLOGGER WAS OPTIMISTIC, ONLY I KNOW I’LL END UP BEING HORRIBLY DISAPPOINTED AGAIN REGARDLESS ARRRGGGHHH DAMN YOU TAMBO AND LOWE!!!1!!1!

    • … it’s a sad state of affairs when 11th is optimism.

      I still say the Oil should just offer the Kings MP(S) or RNH straight-up for Bernier. They don’t need new forwards, but there’s no way you can convince me that they have playoff goaltending anywhere in the system.

      Of course, Lombardi hates Lowe now and vice-versa, so I doubt they’d do any sort of a deal.

      • Yeah, it would be nice to upgrade our goalies, but Khabi aside (hopefully!) the Oil say they’re bullish on DD, Bunz and Roy for the medium term at least.
        The real problem is the depth and quality on defence. Its already bottom third in the league. One injury (Whitney), boo; its AHL level. Two injuries (or more); its bottom third of the AHL.
        They hope is this: the fwds keep developing, add some depth and/or quality to the blue and hope DD is ready to be a starter if/when khabby tanks/gets injured.
        This is going to go badly, isn’t it?

  5. I actually kind of agree with this ranking (and despite the fact that I’m a girl I too did not need to see that awkward Kes picture again) except for San Jose. Or maybe your list is right. San Jose didn’t completely trash the Canucks pre-season team of rookies, hopefuls and no-names, and the Sharks were running their full lineup, so maybe the Sharks “big stars” need some kind of attitude adjustment or something. You are right that Vancouver now has some needed experience and that Ehrhoff is not that much of a loss — they don’t call his Error-hoff for nothing. You are right that Luongo is one of the best goalies in the NHL and certainly the best by orders of magnitude of any Canucks goalies, including, yes, Captain Kirk who can only really be lauded for his one moment of brilliance that was the 1994 playoffs and nothing else in his whole career. PJ Stock went on national TV and told people to lay off Luongo, please!

    As to LA, I don’t know, that Doughty thing left a real bad taste. Those are the actions of a greedy agent and a young kid who is in real danger of catching the Heatley disease and getting an overactive ego problem. How will his team mates view this? One guy can’t win a cup, one guy can’t even take a team to the playoffs, and if that guy isn’t really liked because he’s a bit of a wanker, how will that translate into wins in the year? Is the rest of the team really that stacked? I’m not sure….

    Anyway, Thursday can’t come quickly enough for this household.

  6. Glad to see that someone has picked Calgary to finish where they’ll likely finish…..tired of reading all the crap and hearing all the garbage about how Calgary is a playoff team or will seriously contend…..what a f%%(*&$ joke

  7. Annnnnddd to bring the level of discourse down, I love seeing the words Throwing Darts so close to Kesler’s naked heinie.

  8. Pretty much agree with your rankings, LA-SJ will be close as will Detroit -Chicago for their division crowns, Vancouver shouldn’t have to sweat too much to win their division. Spots 6-10 are definitely going down to the wire. I can see any of those 5 teams getting in.

  9. Jes – we’re only a few picks off predictions for Van, maybe it’ll be somewhere in the middle.

    Peter – I have San Jose at five because I like the other teams a lot, no knock on SJ. Their stars are getting older though, and odds are getting slimmer as we move forward.

    Kish – The Oil have a ton of pure talent, so it’s just a matter of time until the climb starts. W/ Hall as a potential top-10 fwd and Hemsky back, I think they’ll improve.

    Shrry – Well done, we need to pull the level down as much as possible. That’s just fun!

  10. Even as a Kings fan, I think the initial road trip is going to hold them back a bit and cost them the division. I have them a comfortable 4th and winning a round, but after that it all depends on the matchups. I don’t like how they line up against Detroit; they always get killed by the Wings and need Quick to stand on his head to bail them out. I do think that they match up better with Vancouver and San Jose than when they lost to those two teams in the past couple of years, and frankly you could easily argue that they should’ve won (Sharks), or at the very least got to a game seven in (Vancouver), both of those series.

    I really don’t know about the Hawks. Not sold on their goaltending at all. I’m one of those people who needs to see two good years out of a goalie before being convinced they’re the be-all-and-end-all.

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