commentary & opinions on the sports and political scene
WESTERN CONFERENCE – Pacific Division
September 14, 2011Posted by on
Coach Todd McLellan is charged with getting these guys to the Cup finals, if not winning it….and they really should. Four straight division titles, five straight 100 pt plus seasons, and two straight trips to the Western Conference finals. GM Doug Wilson didn’t sit around this summer and moved out Heatley and Setoguchi for Burns and Havlat….Burns isn’t as good as his reputation and Heatley is much better than his so only time will tell on this one but the shakeup will be good. The addition of Michal Handzus gives them a big, shutdown center that will help their struggling PK and give them some grit. Their top 6 are as good as any in the league and they get a lot of offence from the blue line as well. We question whether Niemi is worth the four year extension he got with an average save % and 14th in the league.
2nd – L.A. Kings
Coach Terry Murray can’t complain with the players he has to work with this year, and he needs to get the team past the first round to keep his job. The Kings were aggressive this summer going after several players they wanted, and finally getting Mike Richards from Philly for Schenn and Simmonds. We like this deal. Simon Gagne is a decent replacement for Handzus. The defence is strong with Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson leading the way, although Johnson will have to improve on his team leading -21 last year. Jonathans’ Quick and Bernier could be the best tandem in the NHL this year in the pipes. Look for an early trade in the season to address any issues quickly, and they might challenge San Jose for top spot.
3rd – Anaheim Ducks
Coach Randy Carlyle has the team into the playoffs 5 of 6 seasons in his tenure, but since winning the Cup in 2007 hasn’t made much noise. Corey Perry is coming off a great season plus Getzlaf,Koivu, Ryan and Selanne should be good as well. They’re getting a little old with Jason Blake, Koivu and Selanne having 115 yrs of age between them. Local 2010 draft pick Emerson Etam tore up the WHL with 45 goals and 80 pts last season and could make the big club this year. In net Jonas Hiller is a concern both with health and his goals against. Dan Ellis is a capable backup but no starter. Team GA last year was 20th in the league and needs to be better.
4th – Dallas Stars
Coach Glen Gulutzan comes in to replace Marc Crawford who failed to make the playoffs three years straight. GM Joe Nieuwendyk is taking a chance on the relatively unknown AHL coach and trying to change the atmosphere in the locker room. The loss of Brad Richards is going to hurt, but they have some decent depth throughout the lineup if not any big names. Souray and Pardy should help out the struggling PK ranked 23 in the league last year in %. Goaltending is average at best with Lehtonen and Raycroft 15th in GA last year. It’s a learning year for the new HC and that will leave this team short of playoffs again.
5th – Phoenix Coyotes
Coach Dave Tippett is one of the best there is. Who in the NHL has done some much, with so little talent? He gets guys to compete and play a style that keeps them in games every night. A lot of the credit should also go to C Shane Doan who is completely on board with his HC. Keith Yandle is a fantastic defenseman on a below average group of blue liners. Up front is a mish mash of ok players but near enough to get them to playoffs. Mike Smith comes in to replace Bryzgalov who we think was overrated anyways and should be decent enough. We want to cheer for these guys with all the problems but it’s tough.