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Tue, 01 Oct 2013 02:18:32 GMT
NHL Western Rankings

1. Chicago Blackhawks (Cup Contender)

When you win the Stanley Cup, you often lose a lot of players to free-agency and have to retool. Stan Bowman appears to be great with tools, cause I don't see why this team isn't still the bet to win the Cup again. This team still has Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford.

2. Los Angeles Kings  (Cup Contender)

This team is loaded with talent. They'll finish near the top of the conference. Supreme goaltending; Jonathan Quick. The real key on this team is the party boys; Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Hang out at the clubs in on Los Angeles next playoff to find out if this team is gonna challenge for the Stanley Cup. If Richards and Carter show up at the clubs, then they won't show up on the ice.

3. Vancouver Canucks (Cup Contender)

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo. I don't see this team missing the playoffs. When Roberto starts slow this season, there's nobody to take the reigns. He'll struggle thru the first month, then catch fire and this team will move up to the top of the conference. Add a solid top 4 defenseman set (Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis) and you have a really good team.

4. San Jose Sharks (Playoff Team)

Years after year, the Sharks have one of the best teams on paper, but always fall short in the playoffs. This might be the last year you see Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle leading this team. They're all UFAs at season end. All three are likely looking at pay cuts going forward unless they return to their all-star statuses or produce in the playoffs. Not sure what else can be said, except SAME OLD.

5. St Louis Blues (Playoff Team)

Ken Hitchcock doesn't score a lot of goals and neither does he block a lot of shots, but the Blues' coach doesn't like missing the playoffs. I don't expect anything different. The key to this team competing for more than a playoff spot is Jaroslav Halak. If he returns to form and their scoring by committee continues to work, then this team could move up. Unfortunately, their lack of big scorers makes a Stanley Cup a pipe dream.

6. Anaheim Ducks (Playoff Team)

The Ducks look like a playoff team, but a couple key injuries could easily put them out. They are already missing Sheldon Souray for the 1st half and their 2nd line may require geriatric care; Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. That said, I don't really see this team competing for the President's Trophy or the Stanley Cup.

7. Edmonton Oilers (Playoff Contender)

Loaded with talent at forward and defense. If they can just convince these superstars to play a team game, then we might be looking at the next NHL dynasty. It's really up to their top 4; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle. They will define where this season takes them. They could win the President's trophy or miss the playoffs.

8. Nashville Predators (Playoff Contender)

Pekka Rinne is everything for this team. He's good enough, he can steal games to put this team in the playoffs. He's also good enough to steal some playoff games. Outside of Shea Webber, the skaters on this team are very weak. Don't expect a lot of goals. I wouldn't qualify any forwards on this team as NHL quality power play material. If Rinne gets injured or struggles, this team could be looking at a high draft pick.

9. Dallas Stars (Playoff Contender)

The forwards are mostly refabs from other teams, but the Stars have a premier top 4 d-man lineup; Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. Keri Lehtonen is no all-star goalie, but he's good enough that with their defensemen, they might be able to sneak into the playoffs.

10. Winnipeg Jets

There's enough good pieces here for this team to compete for a playoff spot. Some good years from Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane could actually put them into the playoffs, but I'm guessing they'll be on the outside of the playoffs when all is said and done.

11. Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes will finally have stable ownership this season, or at least we hope. This could turn around the franchise, but it could take a few years before they contend for anything. Mike Ribeiro and Shane Doan are quality leaders, but they are both in their mid-30s. Their experienced defense (Keith Yandle, Zbynek Mahalek, Rostislav Klesla {concussion} and Derek Morris) is what could save this team. And Oliver Ekman-Larsson is an up and coming potential all-star on their defense.

12. Minnesota Wild

Ryan Suter is a great defenseman, but they don't have too much on defense beyond him. They are gonna need big improvement from their 2 thru 4 defensemen (Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard and who) to make the playoffs. They surely aren't gonna have a hard time scoring goals with Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville. Might be a struggle just to make the playoffs.

13. Colorado Rockies (Lottery Team)

Upfront, the Rockies have a lot of good forwards. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said between the pipes and on defense. The defense is led by Erik Johnson, whom many thought would be an all-star defenseman. He's still a good d-man, but he's no power play quarterback, nor is he a shutdown d-man. He's a good 3-4 d-man on most teams in the NHL. The rest of the Rockie defense is stop gap at best and Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere are not gonna steal many games for this team. I suspect they'll have fall short of the playoffs once again.

14. Calgary Flames (Bad Team)

A bad start to the season could quickly degrade. Karri Ramo is an extremely good goalie, but unproven in the NHL. If he doesn't win a few games early for the Flames, his own performance might start to suffer, especially with the weakest lineup in the NHL standing in front of him. Then it becomes all too possible their 1st line (Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak are all UFAs) gets traded for prospects. Even if Ramo performs like an all-star, this team has no chance of making the playoffs.

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