September 29 2009 02:21PM
It's that time of year.
Here's where I pretend to be a reputable pundit and offer my thoughts and predictions on what will happen in the Northwest Division this year.
Here is how I see the Northwest Division shaping up this year.
Strengths - Goaltending; Balance; Deep defence; Coaching
Weaknesses - Still lack another true Top 6 forward.
Intangibles - Sergei Shirokov could have a breakout year. The entire third line (Wellwood, Bernier, Raymond) looks much better already. Will Burrows and Kesler be able to build on their respective successful years last season? Will the Canucks score enough?
Bottom Line - Canucks will take the NW Division crown again this year, and finish third in the Western Conference.
Strengths - Defence; League's best captain; Coaching; Balance
Weaknesses - Lack of secondary scoring
Intangibles - Miikka Kiprusoff at this stage of his career. If he has started his decline, and his play starts to wane, Calgary may be in trouble in net.
Bottom Line - Flames will battle the Canucks for the top spot, but will finish in the division, and fifth in the conference.
Strengths - Youth; Speed; Veteran coaching
Weaknesses - Points from the defence; Lack of top-end forward talent; Goaltending
Intangibles - How will Comrie do in his return to the Oilers? I am not sold on Khabibulin, and then they have Drouin-Deslauriers as their backup.
Bottom Line - Oilers will be fighting and clawing for the eighth and final playoffs. I am still on the fence if they will make it or not. Right now, I have the Oilers and Stars in 8 and 9 interchangebly
Strengths - Goaltending; Top 4 defencemen
Weaknesses - Lack of secondary scoring; Lack of additional Top 6 forwards; New coach & management
Intangibles - A new coach and management will test this team which has always struggled to score goals. Will Martin Havlat stay healthy?
Bottom Line - Too much change and not enough goals leaves the Wild out of the playoffs again this year, finishing fourth in the division and 11th in the conference.
Strengths - Youth; Top line
Weaknesses - Aging D with no offensive output; Lack of experience on F; Lack of secondary scoring; goaltending
Intangibles - How will the Avs do without their venerable captain, who has retired. Who will lead this team?
Bottom line - The Avalanche are officially in rebuilding mode. They will get beat badly and often this year. Colorado will finish last in the Northwest division and 14th in the Western Conference