Northwest Division Preview


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.

Vancouver Canucks

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.

Calgary Flames

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.

Edmonton Oilers

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

Minnesota Wild

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.

Colorado Avalanche

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

  • lj

    Edmonton Oilers

    Weaknesses – Points from the defence; Lack of top-end forward talent; Goaltending

    Souray – 81 GP 53 pts
    Gilbert – 82 GP 45 pts
    Grebeshkov 72 gp 39 pts
    The Visnovsky 50 gp 31 pts

    so Obvious our weakness is points form Defensemen… sigh

  • lj

    @ Hemmertime:
    With a different coach and a different system, I don't see the Oilers D contributing nearly as much offensively as they did last year.
    Souray will get his 50 pts again (largely on the PP), but I foresee drop-off for Gilbert and Grebeshkov specifically. I think they both overachieved offensively last year.

    @ freeze:
    I agree that the EDM D is a bit lacking in responsible defensive mindedness, but:
    1. Quinn should bring a much better focus to responsible play.
    2. EDM won't be nearly as bad as MIN or COL. MIN lost a lot of depth at D, and COL has one of the oldest D groups in the league.

  • lj

    @ Cam Davie:
    Gilbert had 7 pts in 8 pre-season games. I could see Grebeshkov dropping off some but a healthy Vis is another 40-50+ points.

    At least you recognize Kiprusoff isnt a top 10 goalie in the NHL anymore and CGY only had 5 players. But Vancouver may take the division solely due to lack of competition with CGY and EDM failing. If VAN does take the division I am betting the fourth and fifth place teams have more points than them.

  • lj

    Cam Davie wrote:

    Souray will get his 50 pts again (largely on the PP), but I foresee drop-off for Gilbert and Grebeshkov specifically. I think they both overachieved offensively last year.

    You do understand that Gilbert racked up 33 points in his rookie year, and then progressed to 45, while playing half the year on the 2nd PP unit? How do you "foresee" a drop-off? And even if both players drop 5-10 points, and Visnovsky score 45-50, the Oil still have the top scoring D in the NW.

    If you think that points from the D is a weakness in the Oilers, what does that say about the rest of the NW?

  • lj

    @ ScubaSteve:
    As I stated, given a new coaching staff and a new system, I think that the Oilers offensive output will see a drop-off from last year. In my opinion, Gilbert and Grebeshkov will get around 35 points each.
    When point production from your defence drops, you have to consider it a weakness over last year.

    Now, with all that said, given how strongly everyone feels about this, I'm sure I will be proven wrong.

  • lj

    @ Cam Davie:

    Still not sure how that counts as a weakness, the Oil have a lot of weaknesses, but that's not one.

    Also, you have Goaltending as a weakness in Colorado, by the same logic (compared to last year), that would be a strength, as Anderson is an upgrade on the 3rd stringers they have starting last year.

    In Calgary, "balance" is a strength? Do they have more balance this year than last? If not, you have to consider that a weakness.

    It seems that you applied different criteria as to what constitutes a strength or weakness for each team.

  • lj

    Alright all.

    I admit it. I was wrong to list "Points from Defence" as a weakness for the Oilers. And the logic that went with it.

    There are too many folks on here replying accordingly to tell me politely that I'm an ass. πŸ™‚

    Point taken. You've kept me in check.

    Thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll come back and read more. If it means lambasting me, I'll take it.