Following up on my piece for the 2012-2013 Eastern Conference Preview, I will now commence with my Western Conference predictions. If you read my last article, you will notice that I have rank ordered every Western club from 1 to 15, and I have also included an overall grade for each team at each position, to go along with the complete list of departures from the teams roster, my opinion on there off-season acquisitions, and an x-factor. Hope everyone enjoys the article. Feel free to post thoughts and/or comments below or tweet me @jords82, or SabreNoise, @sabrenoise.
- Los Angeles Kings *Stanley Cup Champions
Team Grades: Offense (A-); Defense (B); Goaltending (A)
Off-Season Acquisitions: No departures or off-season acqusitions for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. A rarity for people to see in this day and age, as we have become accustomed to see teams win the Cup, only to lose players’ whose contracts don’t fit in with the team plans anymore.
X-Factor: Does this team have any sort of a kryptonite?
- Vancouver Canucks
Team Grades: Offense (B+); Defense (B+); Goaltending (A)
Departures: Pahlsson, Reinprecht, Mancari, Bitz, Salo, Rome
Off-Season Acquisitions: Lost depth in their bottom six and to their defense, but are still a top tier team who will be competitive for a long time to come.
X-Factor: Is this the year Schneider becomes the ‘Nucks’ starter?
- St. Louis Blues
Team Grades: Offense (B); Defense (B-); Goaltending (A-)
Departures: Arnott, Crombeen, Porter, Colaiacovo, Huskins, Evans
Off-Season Acquisitions: It has been a fairly quiet off-season in Missouri. Look for more of the same next year with Hitchcock behind the bench again.
X-factor: Will the players continue to buy into Ken Hitchcock’s no-nonsense, defensively-oriented system?
- Chicago Blackhawks
Team Grades: Offense (B+); Defense (B+); Goaltending (C)
Departures: Brunette, Morrison, O’Donnell, Lepisto, Huet
Off-Season Acquisitions: Moving forward with a similar roster to that of last years, goaltending still needs to be addressed if they would like to improve.
X-Factor: Is Chicago’s goaltending tandem enough to make them a serious threat again, like a few years ago?
- Minnesota Wild
Team Grades: Offense (B+); Defense (C); Goaltending (A-)
Departures: Latendresse, Christensen, Johnson, Ortmeyer, Peters, Foster
Off-Season Acquisitions: Parise, Suter, Granlund. All will make a significant difference in terms of goals for the Wild. Not only that, Parise/Suter will assert a certain level of leadership on a very young team.
X-Factor: If defense can play beyond there years, they become a serious Stanley Cup contender.
- Dallas Stars
Team Grades: Offense (B+); Defense (B-); Goaltending (B)
Departures: Ribeiro, Ott, Burish, Dvorak, Dowell, Souray, Pardy
Off-Season Acquisitions: Nieuwendyk completely re-did his roster, and has an interesting formula of youth and veterans that will not be a long term formula to become one of the top teams in the West again. But for one or two seasons, it could get the Stars back to the playoffs and possibly even further.
X-Factor: Can Jagr & Whitney continue to play at such a high level despite aging bodies?
- Colorado Avalanche
Team Grades: Offense (B+); Defense (C+); Goaltending (B-)
Departures: Mueller, McClement, Porter
Off-Season Acquisitions: After the additions of break-out forward, P-A Parenteau, and shot blocking D-man, Greg Zanon, the Avalanche maintained status quo in terms of staying just above the cap floor, and developing an influx of young talent up front. A promising future for this team that could challenge for a playoff seed if things come together.
X-Factor: Can this team get a full season out of Semyon Varlamov, where he lives up to his full potential as a bona-fide Number one goalie?
- San Jose Sharks
Team Grades: Offense (C+); Defense (A); Goaltending (C)
Departures: Moore, Winnik, Ferriero, Murray, Vandermeer, White
Off-Season Acquisitions: Upgraded an already deep D-corps with the addition of rugged blueliner, Brad Stuart, from Detroit. There core up front that they have built there team around for years have past their prime and it would be beneficial for team management to start considering a rebuild. Especially with such a solid 2013 draft class. The reality is, this team is no longer a cup contender until they start over again.
X-Factor: Can this team roll more than just their top two lines?
- Nashville Predators
Team Grades: Offense (C+); Defense (B-); Goaltending (A)
Departures: Radulov, Kostitsyn, Tootoo, Suter, Bouillon, Hillen, Lindback
Off-Season Acquisitions: Ryan Suter was a big loss for this team on Defense, but getting Weber locked up long term was admirable. Offense is suspect, but people will never question the solid goaltending of Pekka Rinne.
X-Factor: With the losses of key players, can Barry Trotz work his usual magic and find a way to bring Music City back to the playoffs?
Team Grades: Offense (C+); Defense (C); Goaltending (B-)
Departures: Hudler, Holmstrom, Bruunstrom, Conner, Lidstrom, Stuart, Janik, Conklin
Off-Season Acquisitions: With Datsyuk, Zetterberg in the line-up, Detroit will always be in the mix to qualify for the playoffs. But an aging core, coupled with the losses of legendary blueline cog, Nick Lidstrom, and solid D-man, Brad Stuart, the teams playoff streak is in jeopardy.
X-Factor: Can Detroit overcome the loss of arguably their most remarkable player in franchise history?
Team Grades: Offense (C); Defense (B+); Goaltending (B-)
Departures: Jokinen, Kostopolous, Moss, Letourneau, Ivanans, Hannan
Off-Season Acquisitions: This team didn’t do a whole lot in terms of upgrading their offense, defense. Until this team chooses a strategy for the long term, they will remain on the playoff bubble.
X-Factor: Can this team find an identity?
Team Grades: Offense (C); Defense (A-); Goaltending (B)
Departures: Blake, Hagman, Parros, Pelley, Brookbank, Visnovsky, Ellis
Off-Season Acquisitions: Fairly similar type of team to last year’s. Essentially just shuffled the deck in terms of depth on the back end, and adding youth up front.
X-Factor: Can Boudreau get the Ducks off to a better start? If so, they will likely be a playoff contender.
Team Grades: Offense (A-); Defense (C); Goaltending (C)
Departures: Green, Barker, Chorney
Off-Season Acquisitions: With three first overall picks in as many seasons, its hard to not see the Oilers becoming the hockey dynasty they were many years ago.
X-Factor: They have talent up front, but will they be consistent enough?
Team Grades: Offense (D+); Defense (B+); Goaltending (C+)
Departures: Whitney, Langkow, Pyatt, Brule, Rozsival, Aucoin
Off-Season Acquisitions: They lost a lot of scoring that they had up front, which they were sorely lacking already. Not to mention the uncertainty surrounding their longtime captain.
X-Factor: Every question surrounding the Coyotes starts and ends with Doan, including the ownership situation.
Team Grades: Offense (C-); Defense (C); Goaltending (D+)
Departures: Nash, Huselius, Boyce, Methot, Lebda, Martinek, Sanford
Off-Season Acquisitions: To say this team is pathetic is a gross understatement. If they can reach the 50 point plateau this year I will be impressed. GM Scott Howson has begun another rebuild in Columbus. Don’t expect fans in Ohio to be fleeting to games at Nationwide Arena to watch the Blue Jackets play, especially now that they have lost their franchise cornerstone, who has been a symbol of hope for fans at the start of every season.
X-Factor: Even if everything goes right, how can they not have the first overall pick at next year’s NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey?
Topics: Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche., Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, NHL, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks