This is the third and final part of my three-part predictions. First I did the Eastern Conference, then the awards, and now the powerhouse Western Conference. So read, enjoy, and discuss...here come some disagreements for sure.
1. Detroit Red Wings
With the addition of Hossa (like they need him) look for the wings to not only lead the league in defense but also in offense. I think they will repeat. There is no reason why they shouldn't. They are just too damn good.
2. Calgary Flames
When critics say that the Northwest is the toughest division in the NHL, I think that they are talking about the Flames. This is by far the meanest, toughest, most disciplined team in the NHL. Bertuzzi will fit in nicely alongside Iginla. Look for young Dustin Boyd to have a breakout season, and expect Kiprusoff to bounce back after a shaky '07-'08 season.
3. Dallas Stars
This one is simple: If Sean Avery stays healthy and doesn't get suspended, Dallas wins the division. If not, watch for San Jose. Turco is still one of the best, and having a line of Avery, Richards, and Modano (or Riberio), is lethal at any part of the game.
4. San Jose Sharks
Look for Marleau to bounce back in a big way. If Joe Thornton can stay healthy he might challenge Ovechkin for the Hart trophy (see awards prediction article). The only question I have with this team is behind the bench. Nabokov should win the Vezina playing behind a defense group like the one he has in front of him.
5. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers just might be the most exciting team in hockey. Once again they are young, fast, and hungry. Bringing in Erik Cole was a great move by GM Kevin Lowe, and with some solid coaching from MacTavish, they might even push Calgary for the division title.
Edmonton is one of few teams in the league that can roll four lines like clock-work, and they have one of the best looking 4th lines in the game.
6. Chicago Blackhawks
Yes, the youth movement has arrived in the West, and the Hawks have one of the best young players in the game. No wait, two of the best young players in the game. Look for Huet to overtake Khabibulin for the No. 1 job.
This team will be fast, and ultra dangerous. They really remind me of the Penguins three years ago.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Not going to be so "Mighty" this year. The Ducks will scrap their way into the postseason on defense, and defense only. Mind you goaltending is a part of defense. The Ducks are getting old, slow, and worn out. Look for the Flames to pick apart the Ducks in round one.
8. Colorado Avalanche
Tucker will add even more leadership to this great blend of veterans and young guns. The only question I have with Colorado is in net. Budaj proved himself last year, but I'm still not convinced. Forsberg will be back after Christmas, but get injured again before the playoffs.
9. Phoenix Coyotes
One more season, and they will be in.
10. Minnesota Wild
Where are the goals going to come from?
11. Vancouver Canucks
See No. 10.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
More leadership needed.
13. Nashville Predators
Victims of Detroit and Chicago.
14. St. Louis Blues
See No. 13.
15. Los Angeles Kings
No offense + no defense + no goalie + tough division = 1st overall pick.
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