NHL Predictions: Predicting the Western Conference Standings for 2012

Ally Williams@@itsallyduhhCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2011

NHL Predictions: Predicting the Western Conference Standings for 2012

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    The 2011-2012 NHL is one of the only professional seasons that won't require a lockout this year. This is why we can look forward to the Western Conference rankings.

    Many teams are hard at work making trades and signings, and the final standings could look very different from the way everything ended up this year.

    This is a prediction of how next year’s Western Conference standings could shake out.

15th: Dallas Stars

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    Ownership issues is the main problem of this club, but in no way is it the only problem.

    Brad Richards—one of the only reasons the Stars didn’t finish last in 2011—is gone.

    Dallas has a lot to figure out before it can even think of competing again.

14th: Edmonton Oilers

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    Bringing in Ben Eager will give more physicality to the Oilers, if anything.

    One of the things the Oilers have going for them is Ryan Smyth. He’ll be a good mentor to the young players and will hopefully be able to help them work towards contending as long as he stays in the game.

    He’ll probably not be on the ice when Edmonton makes it to the playoffs again, but he’ll be a big help in getting them on the right track.

13th: Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Coyotes have more losses than gains so far during the offseason. Losing Ilya Bryzgalov is huge; Phoenix is going to have a big decrease in talent at goalie next season.

    The Coyotes have some good younger players, but the team probably won’t have a great last season in Phoenix.

12th: Calgary Flames

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    While the Calgary Flames have more salary cap flexibility after losing defenceman Robyn Regehr, they haven’t done anything with it.

    They lost a good player, and unless they use that cap space to sign a younger player or strong defenseman, their aging team will probably drop in the standings this year.

11th: Colorado Avalanche

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    There’s almost nowhere to go but up for the Colorado Avalanche when it comes to the standings.

    If newly acquired goalies Jean-Sebastien Giguere and/or Semyon Varlamov do well, the Avalanche will be much improved from last season.

10th: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets signed a great center in Jeff Carter.

    He and Rick Nash will be two great players for the Jackets to work around, and they’ve got a shot to get near playoff contention this season.

    They’ll probably get close, but end up around the 10th spot in the rankings.

9th: Minnesota Wild

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    The Minnesota Wild have already made some important changes to the roster. They’ve added prior-Sharks teammates Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley to help with their offensive struggles.

    If Heatley can come back from struggling this past season, he and Setoguchi could help the Wild move up a few and battle for the seventh or eighth spot in the standings.

8th: St. Louis Blues

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    The Blues had a good chance of making the playoffs last season, but something didn’t go right.

    This year they have plenty of returning players, many of whom are young talent. Jaroslav Halak is a great goalie that will help the team improve their rankings this year.

7th: Los Angeles Kings

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    The Kings have Drew Doughty, who proved himself as one of the best defencemen in the league last year.

    Picking up a leader like Mike Richards was a great choice for a team like the Kings, who are looking to make a playoff run now, rather than later with youth. Richards is a great scorer with a defensive game. He’ll be a good guy to lead the Kings to the playoffs.

6th: Nashville Predators

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    The Predators have an extremely deep team. Shea Weber is a great defenseman and Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL.

    Nashville would not be nearly as successful without Barry Trotz.

5th: Anaheim Ducks

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    The Anaheim Ducks have a great goaltender in Jonas Hiller, and their front line is fantastic. They’ll be able to make another playoff run behind these players.

    They will need to gain some supporting players to improve their chances to get farther next season, though.

4th: Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to make another run at the Stanley Cup next season after a disappointing first round this year.

    The Hawks have great young offensive players in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Defencemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are just two more incredibly talented people on the roster.

    The top four in the Western Conference could end many different ways because of the skilled, battle-tested teams, but I see Chicago in the fourth slot.

3rd: Detroit Red Wings

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    The Red Wings always have a great team. They will look towards the playoffs again with the return of Nicklas Lidstrom.

    Their top four is solid, and new-sign Ian White will make a push to crack that top line. Regardless, the Red Wings are in for another great season.

2nd: San Jose Sharks

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    Once again, the San Jose Sharks will have one of the league's best teams. Doug Wilson is already making moves.

    Sending Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota for Brent Burns really addressed the Sharks’ major need for a defenseman. Add in the Dany Heatley-Martin Havlat trade that gave San Jose one of the better offensive forwards in the league, and the Sharks will be looking forward to yet another playoff run.

1st: Vancouver Canucks

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    The Vancouver Canucks will have almost all their main players next season. Scoring champions Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows will all be back to make another run at the Stanley Cup.

    Expect Vancouver to take no prisoners and end at the top of the standings next year.