... Part I ...
#15 ~ PHOENIX COYOTES
This is worth posting for a second time.
One of my favorite videos ever. I can't really explain it. It's unintentionally funny and sort of depressing at the same time.
#14 ~ COLORADO AVALANCHE
Take your pick between Colorado and Phoenix for worst in the West. I give the slight nod to Phoenix because Colorado's defensemen run a tad bit deeper, but then you're getting into "tallest midget" territory. There's really nothing interesting to say about this team which in a way feels like a damn shame. Who would've thought that after the wars of the late 90's that some Wings fans would consider Nashville a greater rival than the Avs?
#13 ~ NASHVILLE PREDATORS
They don't seem bad enough to be the third worst team in the conference, but they have a serious uphill climb to reach the playoffs with the forwards they have. They've got a good group of defensemen headed up by the Weber/Suter pairing, and if they can get lights-out goaltending to go with it they may yet sneak in. Never rule out the Egg Man, we always say.
#12 ~ LOS ANGELES KINGS
I've decided that I like the lineup the Kings have, so I'm going to be a closet Kings fan this year. Well actually if I just told you then I guess it's not really a "closet" type of deal. But then again you all assume that I'm a raving homosexual and I've never officially come out of the closet, so I guess that's an example of being a closet-something while, at the same time, it's not really a closet thing. But if I'm a closet Kings fan while I'm in the closet and a non-closet Wings fan when I'm out of the closet, does that make me a gay out-of-the-closet Red Wings fan? Oh dear God I think I just heard the Earth stop rotating.
#11 ~ COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
I'm thinking that they're going to be the 4th best team in the division again, which would make it extremely unlikely that the BJ's, Blues, Hawks and Wings all make the playoffs two straight years. But like so many other teams in the West, I wouldn't be surprised if they finish much higher. This conference is very, very deep (or evened out by the salary cap ... whatever).
#10 ~ DALLAS STARS
Many people last year, including me, thought that the Stars were going to be good. They weren't. They had some injuries and stuff, but mainly it was the atrocious performance of Marty Turco. Just an awful person, really. So this year, they made some marginal changes to help their defense and penalty killing, lose Zubov to Europe, and return the same bunch that produced a terrible power play last year. I don't see how they're going to go anywhere but sideways. But if Turco miraculously gets his groove back and turns last year into a distant memory, then his story single-handedly warrants the ressurection of Unsolved Mysteries.
#9 ~ ST. LOUIS BLUES
Look, if I put the Blues in the playoffs, then I've got 13 of 16 playoff teams from 2009 making it back in 2010, which just can't happen. Not that 12 out of 16 is that much better, but still.
#8 ~ EDMONTON OILERS
Every single year -- every single year I think the Oilers are going to be better than they actually are. This year is no different. By me saying they will squeak into the playoffs probably means that they'll actually finish 13th. They've got a bunch of talented forwards who probably won't put up as many points as I think, a group of talented defensemen who probably aren't as deep as I think, and a goalie who is probably a lot more average than anyone thinks. I know this, and yet I can't help myself.
#7 ~ CALGARY FLAMES
I admit that they're good, but am I the only one who wonders if the Flames might be a bit overrated?
#6 ~ MINNESOTA WILD
I keep reading about how the Wild don't have enough offense, and I disagree. They aren't going to blow anyone out of the building, but I think they'll be good enough to make the playoffs at the very least. Havlat, Koivu, Bouchard, Brunette, Nolan, and Sykora are all proven offensive commodities, and they've got some depth guys with upside too. They've also got a great set of defenders and a superb goaltending tandem. With the shackles of the Lemaire system taken off, this could be exactly like the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons regular season, when Flip Saunders came in and a great defensive team added more of a scoring dimension to their game -- except this would involve a lot more white people.
#5 ~ ANAHEIM DUCKS
This is the weakest Duck defense in some time, but they add Saku Koivu and Joffrey Lupul to a lineup that was dynamite on the power play last season and could really pump up their goal totals. Getzlaf, Neidermayer and Perry are going to pick up the elbowing slack in the absence of Pronger, and the momentum from their playoff run should all be enough to spark them to at least a 5 seed, if not a division crown.
#4 ~ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Public perception, to me anyway, seems to suggest that the Blackhawks have actually gotten better as the last few months have gone by, without having played a single game. Maybe it's due to the growing excitement that the Wings are getting old at a couple of key positions and people are rushing to predict their ever-so-slight decline, while the Hawks are right behind them, ready to take the torch and run. I'm not seeing this. Martin Havlat was really fucking good for them last year and Hossa won't be duplicating his production because of shoulder surgery. Outside of that, they have a very good all-around team that should make the division race a little bit tighter this year, but not enough to take the division yet.
#3 ~ VANCOUVER CANUCKS
They might not have a true #1 defender, but 1 through 6 (or 7 or 8) they could boast a stronger blue line than anybody else in the league. They could have the most talented goalie in the league. They might even have the best set of identical twins in the league. In a very competitive Northwest Division, I think the Canucks and their all-around balance will win out. On the other hand, I did find this line from Babcock's Death Stare to be one of my favorites of the summer:
"I have this theory that every Vancouver Canuck is overrated."
Explore that theory, Kyle. It would surely make for a good read.
#2 ~ SAN JOSE SHARKS
I give them credit for not blowing up the entire team after bowing out in the first round. They outplayed the Ducks for the most part but didn't have the extra gear that the Wings had to put them away. They weren't going to find that with a quick fix, so instead they dumped a couple salaries and traded for Dany Heatley to shake things up, which still leaves them with a very talented squad. But yet, just as it was funny that the Rangers got Gaborik (in a "don't really need to explain it" kind of way) the same goes for the Sharks getting Heatley. That by itself would make me weary of the Sharks finally having that breakthrough year, but once again they should rule the regular season.
#1 ~ DETROIT RED WINGS
Holmstrom - Datsyuk - Franzen
Cleary - Zetterberg - Bertuzzi
Leino - Filppula - Williams
Maltby - Helm - Draper
Lidstrom - Rafalski
Kronwall - Stuart
Lebda - Ericsson
Look at that team. Not just the names themselves, but the tornado shape is creates as you go down the lines. It must be some kind of sign, right? Of course it is. The Red Wings are totally going to Bill Paxton their way through the West this season like a renegade F5.
Red Wings over Oilers
Flames over Sharks
Wild over Canucks
Blackhawks over Ducks
Red Wings over Flames
Blackhawks over Wild
Red Wings over Blackhawks
STANLEY CUP FINALS
Red Wings over Bruins