Eleven out of 12 months of the year (I'm looking at you, August), there is some sort of exciting NHL-related action going on. Friday at noon, teams will be eligible to sign unrestricted free agents, which will create several weeks of mayhem in the hockey world.
The Western Conference's parity is what makes it so interesting right now, and it will cause many teams to do whatever they can to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd in free agency.
Before the frenzy begins, let's take a look at how the Western Conference stacks up.
Even though Colorado and Nashville finished lower in the standings in 2013, Calgary is the worst Western Conference team right now. They are in the middle of a rebuilding phase and will likely be in the bidding to grab Connor McDavid in next year's draft.
Without Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester or Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames will likely be the bottom-feeders in the NHL in 2014.
Colorado has made all sorts of personnel changes this offseason and also picked Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall choice in the draft. He will add to a young offense that already boasts Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.
Duchene has been a little disappointing recently, and the team will need to fix its defense and goaltending issues if it wants to go anywhere.
Colorado will likely finish last in its division next year, but this is a team that shows all sorts of promise for the future.
The Dallas Stars have new uniforms, a new GM, a new coach and an overhauled roster. Gone are Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr and Loui Eriksson. New are Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Sergei Gonchar. Despite making some good additions to the team, Dallas is still rebuilding and will likely miss out on the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
Stranger things have happened, though, and the Stars have a team that has the potential to be one of the big surprises this season. Unfortunately for them, there may be just a little too much competition.
The Predators got the steal of the draft by grabbing top-rated Seth Jones with the fourth overall pick. Jones will be placed next to Shea Weber on the blue line, creating what could become one of the best defense pairings in the NHL.
Nashville has a serious offense problem, as the Preds scored the lowest amount of goals in hockey in 2013. It doesn't matter how many pucks Pekka Rinne can stop, Nashville will not return to the place they were in 2012 if the team can't put the puck in the net.
Nashville needs to grab a couple of forwards in free agency. If they get some quality scorers, the Predators could become a playoff contender and one of the better teams in the Western Conference.
Edmonton is a team that is slowly improving because of its plethora of young talent. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov were all productive performers in 2013, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has failed to live up to expectations thus far in his young career.
For the first time since 2009, the Oilers did not hold the first selection in the draft, but they addressed their defensive needs by selecting talented defenseman Darnell Nurse.
Edmonton is climbing its way up the ladder, but it will join a very tough division with all sorts of competition. It will be interesting to see how they fare after another year of experience.
The Jets finally get a much-awaited move to the Western Conference with the new realignment. Even though they had to do all sorts of traveling last season, they nearly made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
This is a talented team that could make some waves in its new division. Winnipeg does not have a clear star player, but it plays in one of the loudest buildings in hockey and can use home ice to its advantage. Road games should be easier too, because they do not have to travel to the other side of the country for most games.
The ownership situation seems to have finally been solved in the desert, and the Coyotes have a solid future in Glendale after the city council voted on a new arena agreement.
With the off-ice distractions going away, the Coyotes can focus on winning. They made it to the Western Conference Final in 2012 but missed the playoffs in 2013. They have the talent that it takes to make it back to where they were two years ago; Oliver Ekman-Larsson is becoming one of the better defensemen in hockey, goaltender Mike Smith has been re-signed, and the team has a decent amount of talented scorers.
If the Coyotes can grab another scorer or two, they should be on track to make a run at the playoffs.
The Wild made all sorts of noise at this time last year, snagging Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in free agency. They cracked the top eight in the Western Conference but were dismantled in five games at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
It sounds like Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be gone, and big hitter Cal Clutterbuck has been traded to the Islanders, but Minnesota should be able to build on its successful season and be a playoff team once again.
The Canucks won the Northwest Division yet again in 2013 but were swept in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. Now, fans are questioning the management after goalie Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey for a draft pick that became Bo Horvat.
John Tortorella has been brought in as the team's new head coach, and he will likely change the team's style to be more gritty and less pretty.
This same change happened in Detroit before the 1996-97 season, and the Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver will be a very interesting team to watch as it enters a much more competitive division with a team that many say is beginning a decline.
The Sharks were a tale of two teams in 2013. They began the season with a seven-game win streak but ended up falling into a massive slide before rebounding and claiming the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
San Jose's core will remain intact, and it will obviously be playing at the HP Pavilion (renamed the SAP Center for this upcoming season), where they played 24-2-5 in the regular season and playoffs.
The Sharks are not one of the league's youngest teams, but they play well in every facet of the game and should be considered a dark horse to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blues grabbed a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings in last year's playoffs but lost four straight and were quickly eliminated.
After two quick playoff exits at the hands of the Kings, St. Louis is looking for a way to get further into the postseason.
The Blues are an all-around talented team with superb defense and goaltending as well as a decent offensive attack. They should be considered one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Anaheim lost a seven-game series against the underdog Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs, but they proved that a down year in 2012 was a fluke after finishing just a few wins behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the regular season.
Even though the Ducks went seven games with Detroit, they did not get a ton of production from their top stars, most notably Corey Perry. Most of the team's success came from up-and-comers like Nick Bonino and Emerson Etem.
Anaheim's plethora of veteran stars and young potential will make the Ducks a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.
The 2012 Stanley Cup champions returned to the Western Conference Final again in 2013 but were stopped in their tracks by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Nevertheless, the Kings are still one of the deepest and most well-rounded teams in hockey and will not be going anywhere for next few years. Jonathan Quick is arguably the best goalie in the game, Slava Voynov is one of hockey's fastest-rising defensemen, and the team is loaded with talented forwards.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown did not produce as much as they were expected to in the playoffs, which is a big reason why they could not repeat. If Los Angeles gets the production it wants from its top players, it has a pretty good shot at getting its second Stanley Cup title in three years.
The Stanley Cup champions have to be considered the favorite to win it all again in 2014. This team broke several records in the shortened 2013 season and capped it off with a decisive Stanley Cup championship.
Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik are already gone, but the Blackhawks will retain more players than they did after the last time they won the Stanley Cup back in 2010.
Chicago proved without a doubt that it is the best team in hockey right now. Repeating as champions will be a difficult task, as nobody has done so since the Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998, but the Blackhawks will be out to prove they are capable of bringing home another banner.