Fans and players alike are gearing up for another NHL regular season, which starts on Thursday, October 7.
The Vancouver Canucks want to prove themselves this year. Last season they finished third, at the top of their conference. They will likely finish at the top of their conference again, since they have a powerhouse first line which includes the Sedin brothers and goaltender Roberto Luongo to back them up. The Canucks have a relatively older team, which gives them the edge of experience playing at the elite level of the NHL. They should improve on their finish from last year to clinch first place.
The Detroit Red Wings could finish second in the conference. Despite finishing fifth last year, they held up in the playoffs and delivered a very convincing performance. The Wings have depth and experience, and these veterans have a few new (and younger) players on their team, which should help with speed.
The Los Angeles Kings finished a respectable sixth last season, but this year they have a stronger defence, which will definitely boost their playing abilities. More importantly, there are some new forwards competing to prove themselves, including Brayden Schenn, Kyle Clifford, and Linden Vey.
They will probably finish third in the conference.
The fourth place seed is always an interesting position to be in. It’s given to the team who had the most points outside of the top three division spots. San Jose Sharks should take this place after giving up top division placement to the LA Kings. Despite finishing first last season, the Sharks are left without last season’s goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. They do have 2010 Stanley Cup goaltender Antti Niemi, but he has to adjust to an entirely new team playing in front of him, and it will likely take a while for him to settle down and get into his game.
Fifth place should go to the Calgary Flames. Clearly the team roster wasn’t working last year when general manager Darryl Sutter made a blockbuster trade with Toronto GM Brian Burke. Now that the dust is finally settling on that trade and the acquisitions have gotten used to their new team, they can move forward into the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues are definitely a team to watch this season. They were close to making the playoffs last year, only five points behind the Colorado Avalanche. This year they have former Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who heroically carried his team to the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs in May.
This will definitely make a difference to the team. Halak is one of those goalies that play either fantastically or terribly, which will result in a yo-yo effect for the team. Hopefully he has more great games than awful games and takes his team to sixth place in the Western Conference.
The Nashville Predators will take the seventh place spot, probably after a long, hard fight with the Blues and the Blackhawks. The Predators finished seventh last season, and bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. The executives were busy signing players during the off-season, in the hopes of building a stronger team for this year’s regular season. But seeing as they’re up against some tough competition, they are likely to stay in the same position they were in last year.
Finally, Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman slimmed down his payroll by trading away many of the integral parts of the Stanley Cup-winning team. Undoubtedly this will have a huge impact on the team’s performance in the upcoming season. However, the roster still contains the five core players: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, and Patrick Kane; because of this, they could nab the final playoff spot. But they will need to fight for it right down to their last game of the regular season.