September 27, 2008

Northwest Division Preview

5th place
Vancouver Canucks

It's amazing how the Canucks went out and got Luongo, yet have gotten worse each year. I expect that trend to continue. They still lack scoring yet they have added Pavol Demitra. I don't believe the Sedin's are top 10 players in the NHL, nor do I think that they can lead a team to a championship. Are they always going to be on the same team or will they ever have to prove themselves on their own?

4th place
Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic came back, but he's not the Joe of old. Ryan Smyth needs to play more than 55 games and score more than 14 goals, as he did last season, if the Avalanche have any hope of making the playoffs. Of course the goaltending is a huge question and whether or not Andrew Raycroft can recover after being thrown to the curb in Toronto.

3rd place
Calgary Flames

Same team as last season with one major change. Mike Cammalleri replaces Alex Tanguay on the top line, pressumably. Todd Bertuzzi is on the team, but he is not even a shell of the player he once was. Defence stays the same, and if Kiprusoff has another "OK" year people will start to question his big 6 year, $35 million contract. Of course, Dion Phaneuf will be a rock in the backend, but it may not be enough.

2nd place
Edmonton Oilers

Gagner and Cogliano should improve on their great rookie stats from last season. Erik Cole is added to the offensive mix, and if Sheldon Souray is able to stay healthy he may be able to return to his dominating form of 2 seasons ago in Montreal. Garon has come into his own as a number 1 goalie, which means you should expect to see Dwayne Roloson moved if some teams are having goaltending troubles. Horcoff had 50 points in 53 games last season before an injury ended his season. If he can stay healthy he should be good for at least 30 goals and 80 points and of course the same should apply to Dustin Penner.

1st place
Minnesota Wild

Niklas Backstrom proved himself as a number 1 goalie when he had a sensational stretch run at the end of last season. The Wild lost Pavol Demitra (15 goals - 54 points), but gained Andrew Brunette (19 goals - 59 points). The bigger loss was that of Brian Rolston who took his 31 goal season to New Jersey. The entire team will be expected to pick up that slack. Defence looks very solid with Burns, Johnsson and newly acquired Marek Zidlicky. Of course any Lacques Lemaire coached team has to be solid defensively.

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