Northwest Division: Ranking the 5 teams for 2010-2011
Last season, no one believed Colorado would make the playoffs, Calgary was expected to perform and make the playoffs, Vancouver was considered as one of the top threats and a candidate for the Stanley Cup, Minnesota had to improve from their performance in 08-09 and Edmonton, well, they were expected to play another season and win games.
None of this happened.
Colorado did make the playoffs.
Calgary did not.
Vancouver was eliminated in a seemingly identical series against Chicago for a second straight year.
Minnesota did not improve on their performance.
Edmonton did play another seaon, only people would've liked to erase it from history.
What will happen next year? This is an analysis (in alphabetical order) of the five teams and how they will fare on 2010-2011.
My old man once said going back to a relationship which did not work the first time wasn't very smart, yet he did not stop me from doing so. Guess he wanted me to learn.
Is that's what is going on in Calgary? They have resigned Jokinen and Tanguay, two players who have enjoyed an 'interesting' history with the franchise.
Jokinen did not work and ended up being traded to New York after his production dipped considerable from the respectable 21 points in 28 games he managed when he arrived. And he's back. Tanguay did score with the flames. He had a 1 ppg average the first season with the team but then saw his production fall by twenty points.
If they manage to bring back their A-game, they will help Iginla and an offense ranked second to last in goals per game and ranked 26th on the powerplay.
The thing is why should this time be any different?
The Flames brought in Staios, Hagman and White, players who can be 30-point producers while bringing physical game. With such players added to a roster comprised of ironmen Bouwmeester and Sarich, the Flames should improve on their last season's defensive performance, an admirable 5th overall on goals against.
Defensively, they are good. Offensively, it remains to be seen. The team will begin, as usual, with a powerful game but will fade away as the season progresses. They will be on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in, next to the fellows on the following slide.
A dream run last season proved that the Avalanche were a good franchise and managed to rebuild quickly. The young faces dazzled with good play and workhorse Craig Anderson clocked in 71 games, 2047 saves and 7 shutouts.
It will, however, not be the same this season. O'Reilly and Duchene will be more comfortable and will improve on a great season. Stastny is ready to step up as offensive leader and players like Yip and Stewart are going to keep producing for the Avs.
That is not the point of concern.
It's on the defensive end.
The team ended up ranking 21st in the Penalty Kill department, gave up more shots than any other team and ranked 25th in shots against per game, with a massive 32 shots.
Yet they have not taken an aggressive stance and hunted out defensive players to help in this dilemma. Their players on D are either fast but too young and inexperienced or experienced but old and a bit on the slower side.
Anderson has proven that he can play hockey for long runs but, unless they have a late, very aggressive change in the defensive aspect, the team will be again getting into the playoffs by a matter of single digit point difference.
Sorry, Oilers fans, but they won't make the playoffs again.
They will do so in a couple of years but not in 2010-11.
The Oilers are clearly in a rebuiliding mode, bringing guys like Ryan Whitney and Kurtis Foster to help on the defensive aspect and gritty forward Colin Fraser fresh of a Stanley Cup with Chicago.
Then there's that Hall kid. Some say he's talented.
Taylor Hall will be another Steve Stamkos and that's why his impact will be visible, but not this upcoming season. He needs one (perhaps two) seasons to break into the NHL level of play, but once he does, watch out for this one.
As for goaltending, there's still a bit of uncertainty in this department. They have brought in Martin Gerber, who proved he can play, just not constantly. Khabibulin is old and perhaps should consider calling it quits. Yet having experienced goaltenders around him allows for a young Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers to develop into the goaltender they need. He has had experience in the NHL but still needs a couple more seasons to deliver as expected.
Don't expect the Oilers to reach the playoffs, though they should improve on last season.
I don't think it's that hard to improve from dead last, though.
The Wild are a strange hockey team. They theoretically are a good team, but haven't been able to produce lately. Their playoff appearances have been less than exciting, certainly not what they expected.
It's as though talented free agents don't want to play in Minnesota, but why?
This team has veterans with playoff experience such as Brunnette, Nolan and Matt Cullen. They brought in John Madden, who has three Cups under his belt and will be a great addition to the third line.
They have young forwards who can produce points but they haven't lived up to the standards. Koivu and Havlat just had o.k. seasons. Bouchard has produced for them and is creative up front, I like the way he plays.
Yes, the rest are guys who still haven't developed into what they can become but are the base for the team's future.
The Wild have a tough task ahead and still don't have the team to repeat their playoff performance of years past. The Wild seem scattered, they lack a defining style of play and Todd Richards has to find it soon.
For now, they will have another on-off season and will be enjoying their summer break sooner than the next team on the list.
Such an interesting hockey team. This team is talented; right off the bat, I can mention six players with respectable careers:
The Sedins, Kesler, Luongo, Ehrhoff and Samuelsson.
Yet, it's the same story every year. They don't go far.
Many blame Luongo, stating that he is not the big star the Canucks have expected him to be, but I don't hold any grudge against the guy. He is a good goaltender, just a bit overpaid perhaps.
Others claim that the team as a whole falters and can't handle the pressure of Stanley Cup playoff hockey.
That seems as a reasonable theory, but I disagree. If you look at the teams which eliminated the Canucks, there's a factor there: they were talented. The Ducks won the Cup after passing through Vancouver, and so did the Blackhawks last season.
That's not faltering under pressure, that's being outplayed by the Stanley Cup Champion.
This year, however, things will shape up to be different.
The Twins will play great, like they do every season, and bring in big numbers for the team. Luongo has a chip on his shoulder and will play like everyone expects him to be. The younger players will raise their game and additions like Malhotra (a key faceoff man) and Ballard will provide the necessary elements for the team to suceed.
And the Canucks will move on to the Conference Finals. That they win the Cup is a bit farfetched, but certainly they have the talent to make it further into the playoffs this year.
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