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NHL 2010-2011 Western Conference Preview & Predictions

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Scott Newman
Scott Newman

The NHL regular season is set to start on Thursday, October 7 2010. I am taking a look at each of the teams with a prediction of where each team may place in the standings. These are the teams that appear to be playoff bound. It's time to get excited for another close fight in the battle for home ice in the Western Conference.




Looking straight up and down, left or right of the Vancouver Canucks and you can't see any immediate weakness. The right thing has happened in Luongo giving up his Captaincy and focus on the job at hand to guide them deep into the playoffs. They have rebuilt a team that works with bigger guys in defence Dan Hamhius & Keith Ballard. Some capable third liners were added in Manny Malholtra & Raffi Torres. The Sedin twins seem ready to go at least a point a game. Big talent is emerging from Mason Raymond to compliment guys like Mikael Samuelsson. There does not seem to be much reason in concern with Sami Salo & Alexandre Burrows set to spend time on the Injury Reserve there is plenty of talent to make up for lost time. Kevin Bieksa will be used as trade bait during the season. This team looks like it is Stanley Cup Finals or bust!
This may come as a bit of a surprise to think the young Kings could win the Pacific Division and finish this high! These guys have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. What is fascinating about this young roster is that they have a fast paced, exciting hockey team. We saw Anze Kopitar emerge last season, he had already been a premier player but really got noticed as a big time player. The battle for the job at the goal crease will be hard fought between Jon Quick & Jon Bernier. Erik Ersberg will begin the season on the Injury Reserve. Drew Doughty & Jack Johnson add so much value to the blue line. Ryan Smyth is the veteran leader of this team. They certainly seem playoff bound it is just a question of what seed? 
The aging warrior of the Western Conference. This will probably be the last season for Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Chris Osgood & Kris Draper so they will all be going for a last run at the Cup! There are a few more names on the roster in their late thirties. This team is still very deep with it's top lines with Pavel Datsyuk & Henrik Zetterberg the dominant pair. Jimmy Howard is now the starting goal tender who broke out last season when Chris Osgood flopped. There is a lot this team can offer and what it comes down to is that they have to win the Stanley Cup now as there will be large changes to come to this successful franchise.
The San Jose Sharks have a lot of talent and are built to win. The biggest blow maybe the departure or Evgeni Nabokov who had been the net minder for a decade. They have two new goalies to prove themselves consistent guys to go to in Antero Nittymaki & Stanley Cup Winner Antti Niemi. The Team Canada heroes Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau & Dan Boyle all return to make this one of the deepest talent in the Western Conference. If Joe Pavelski carries on with his coming out party then this roster will be electrifying with offence and enough defence & goal tending to get the job done on most nights. Another Stanley Cup contender with plenty of incentive to a lot of the roster in particular Joe Thornton who needs to live up to expectation.
The defending Stanley Cup Champion had to trim their roster but still look the business despite the changes! Adding Marty Turco to the crease is a good move as he has a huge desire to win the Cup and a lot to prove that he's still a top 10 net minder. Jon Toews & Patrick Kane are the heart and soul of this talented roster. Marian Hossa finally won his cup and now wants to double up for sure. Duncan Keith leads this defence core of fast & mobile quality. Patrick Sharp is emerging as a top talent also. It is hard to see this team repeat as Cup Champs. They will finish high in the standings.
The surprise team of last season won't be a big surprise this time as we know they are good. Shane Doan leads this talented, experienced & fast team. Ray Whitney joins the main group of Wojtek Wolski, Scottie Upshall & Ed Jovanovski. If Ilya Bryzgalov comes to the party again they will be a real threat out West. Another Pacific Division team that will be hard to beat! Kyle Wellwood is earning a roster spot & is ready to prove that he can really contribute to a very good system. The franchise maybe struggling but the hockey team seems to be playing all they are capable of!
The Anaheim Ducks are a definite threat out West. They have one of the best goal tenders in the conference in Jonas Hiller. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu & Teemu Selanne are all healthy and ready to go. Bobby Ryan returns to bolster the offensive strength of the Ducks. New additions in Lubomir Visnovsky, Andy Sutton or Cam Fowler can help out the blue line. The desire is among this group they just need to get it together from the whole season.
The Dallas Stars have a very good core and will look to edge out the rest of the best in the west! Brad Richards is the leader of the team with Mike Ribeiro set to bounce back this season. There is a problem in the young defensive core where they will need to play better than last season. Stephane Robidas is the undisputed leader of the defence men. Brenden Morrow will be excited that team mates Loui Eriksson & James Neal are back. Kari Lehtonen has a ton to prove in coming aboard to be the starting goal tender in Big D. Andrew Raycroft will get good game time too. Overall the Stars have a lot to prove to everybody that they are good enough to get back in the playoffs! 
9. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche will be close to getting in the playoffs again. They are a very good side with Craig Anderson dominating the goal tending standings for the earlier period of last season. A lot of the forward underachieved but have good talent in guys like Milan Hejduk, Matt Duchene and Peter Mueller. Paul Stastny brings the goods for around a point per game. The Defence is impressive with the likes of Adam Foote & Scott Hannan. They will need to be sharp as they have a lot of young guys coming through their system. Will it work out for the Av's again?
10. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers look poised to rebound from last season’s disaster! Youth joins experience with exciting prospects Jordan Eberle & Taylor Hall ready to bring back respectability to the club. If Nikolai Khabibulin can stay out of jail then the Oilers are a chance to do really well out west. A healthy season from Ales Hemsky will really help them to succeed.
11. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames do not look like they have what it takes to succeed over an entire season. The pre-season is showing they can win stretches without their top centre men. With a top line of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen & Alex Tanguay there is a lack of overall depth. Miikka Kipprusoff is still a top 10 net minder. You get the feeling that Calgary are rebuilding as they are not the dominating force they used to be in the last few seasons.
12. St. Louis Blues
The Blues could surprise everyone this season but it looks as though it might be in the next few. There are no real big names in the line-up but don't get it wrong they are talented. David Backes, Andy McDonald & Brad Boyes are the best forwards. Eric Brewer leads the defence. The big excitement is landing playoff hero Jaroslav Halak for a mere bag of pucks from the Habs. These are reasons to believe in building this team for greater things to come!
13. Nashville Predators
The Predators are a team that seem to turn up at the end of the season to just make the playoffs. They then get turned over by one of the higher seeds. The roster features big gunner Shea Weber who has a bomb from the point. Patric Hornqvist had a breakout season and will look to repeat. The supporting players need to turn it on and improve on last season with forwards like Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat & David Legwand. Ryan Suter is getting better each season. They need to find a way to drive to a playoff spot and then succeed thereafter. The big task is getting their first, having a huge goalie like Pekka Rinne helps!
14. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are a tough nut to crack. They do have a good mixture of players but it is unclear whether it will all gel well together? Mikko Koivu is the leader of this team with other veteran presence in Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen & John Madden.Cam Barker & Marek Zidlicky has a real genuine chance in leading the defence. There are many opportunities for improvement with their roster. Niklas Backstrom needs to be brilliant to give the Wild any chance. Signing Jose Theodore will help this out.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
When you start talking about the Blue Jackets then you instantly mention Rick Nash. The problem is that there is not enough big time talent coming through. They are rebuilding around goalie Steve Mason. Kristian Huselius, Mike Commodore & Nikita Filitov are the hopes for the future. The Blue Jackets will have to work very hard in not finishing last in the league or have everything click really well to compete!
Eastern Conference Preview & Predictions coming soon!

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