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We are officially 1 week into the young NHL 2014-2015 season and last week we posted our NHL Eastern Conference predictions. This week we will shock you with some of our BOLD Western Conference predictions.
After the first week, we will admit there are some usual predicaments, the Edmonton Oilers are still losing (0-3) and the the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks are atop the regular season standings with 3 victories a piece. So, what is going to change over the next 5 months or so?
With so many changes, who will end up "in" and who will end up "out"?
Anaheim Ducks: 2 key moves in the off-season, but basically cancel each other out. The Ducks lost Teemu Selanne, however added the great two way player Ryan Kesler. Will it be enough to get them to the Stanley Cup Finals? We think they remain, status quo. They will advance to the second round of the playoffs but will not be in the the Cup Finals this year.
Arizona Coyotes: New name (no longer the Phoenix Coyotes) is not the answer! They lost 2 legitimate offensive scoring forwards in Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro (combined 36 goals).They will need to lean heavily on defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver -Ekman-Larsson. Not enough scoring in the desert and they struggle all year.
Calgary Flames: The Flames added Goalie Jonas Hiller, and will depend heavily on their youth. 19 year old, center, Sean Monahan (sixth pick in the 2013 draft), scored 22 goals as a rookie, and Calgary also drafted top center Sam Bennett with the No. 4 pick this past June (2 months after signing Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau, 21). There is a lot of competition in the West and these 3 will learn that quickly. This will be a learning season for the youngsters.
Chicago Blackhawks: Always a powerhouse in the West and they added veterans and offensive weapons in Brad Richards and Michal Handzus. If you also add third-year winger Brandon Saad to the mix, a 21-year old who scored 47 points last year. You'll immediately notice that this team has 3 incredible lines and tons of depth. Anything short of the Stanley Cup finals should be considered a disappointing year.
Colorado Avalanche: The Cinderella story from last year and still a very young team. Tons of potential but injuries will play a big role in the outcome of their season. They also lost some quality players over the summer, most notably 28-year-old center Paul Stastny, but they added experience, acquiring a trio of 30-something vets—forwards Daniel Brière and Jarome Iginla, and defenseman Brad Stuart. Matt Duchene must stay healthy to give them a chance in the playoffs.
Dallas Stars: The Stars added Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky but who’s on the blue line keeping the puck out of their zone and net? Defense will be their Achilles heel and leaves them on the outside looking in.
Edmonton Oilers: What do Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Taylor Hall all have in common? They were all drafted 1st overall but none of them have ever played a minute in the NHL playoffs. That commonality continues this year. They still have huge gaps in their defence corps and need to develop something other than scoring.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are a very good team, bottom line! Having won 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cups (like Chicago), if they do not reach the Stanley Cup finals it will be a failure of a season. Tanner Pearson (drafted 30th overall in the 2012 draft) is off to a hot start with 6 points in 4 games.
Minnesota Wild: A solid, defensive NHL team added a 40-goal scorer in Thomas Vanek. Will that be enough to get them deeper into the playoffs? We think so.
Nashville Predators: The Preds added James Neal and he will most likely play with newly acquired Mike Riberio (from the Arizona Coyotes). They have several young stars like Calle Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis but we believe they do not have enough to get into the playoffs this year. Oh yea, and Barry Trotz is gone too!
San Jose Sharks: Basically the same lineup as the last few years and most likely the same results, stellar regular season and dismal results in the playoffs. Joe Thornton is no longer the captain and that move does nothing to get them winning in the playoffs. Another playoff failure.
St. Louis Blues: Two straight first round playoff exits for the St. Louis Blues, so is this the year that St. Louis Blue advance? They added Paul Stastny (already 1 goal and 3 assists in 3 games). He gives some much needed depth to their offence and we believe they move forward this year.
Vancouver Canucks: The Sedins are still there and that means the Vancouver Canucks are still relevant. They added Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata we believe they will be back in the playoffs in 2014-2015.
Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg has some great young talent in forwards Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba, but we believe that they just do not have enough firepower or depth to compete in the Western Conference this year.
NHL Western Conference Predictions
Here are our Western Conference playoff teams (in no particular order):
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Our Western Conference prediction has Chicago grinding hard with the St. Louis Blue in the conference finals, and ultimately winning in 7 games. The Blackhawks will advance and play the Montreal Canadiens in an epic original six Stanley Cup finals, the 2nd original six matchup in 3 years. (The Bruins and Blackhawks fought hard in 2013, with Chicago coming out on top).
Unfortunately, we believe that the following teams will miss the playoffs this year:
What are your thoughts?
Stay tuned for our NHL Player Award predictions!