Monday, August 13, 2007

Pre-Season Predictions: Pacific Division

The Anaheim Ducks celebrated their first Stanley Cup win this June, and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster changes happen before training camp. They already lost Penner to the Oilers and picked up Bertuzzi from the Red Wings (though I’d rather take Penner than Bertuzzi for $4M). Schneider also decided to leave Detroit for sunny California. The big question, though, is if Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne retire. If they do, the Ducks will certainly miss them – but their play won’t really suffer. It says a lot about a team when they can lose two of their top players and still have the potential of going deep into the playoffs.

The Dallas Stars is a quiet team, at least in this part of the world, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not good. They have a lot of good players, starting with Mike Modano, but the guy I really like is Marty Turco. I felt really bad for Turco this spring in the playoff series against Vancouver because he had to prove himself by getting the Stars to the second round, but his teammates in front of him let him down. Turco played 7 outstanding games with 3 shutouts and a ridiculous GAA; I hope he doesn’t get any flack because the Stars lost in the first round. In my opinion, all of that blame lies with the forwards who couldn’t score.

I think the Stars will land themselves in the playoffs once again. I expect that they’ll find a little more success in the post-season.

The San Jose Sharks have what’s looking like a crazy good team. Rivet’s looking better in California than in Montreal, ‘Pickles’ is developing into something good, and then you have the forwards: Thornton, Michalek, Cheechoo, Marleau, and so on. If Nabokov can stay solid in net, and if Thornton can push through the playoffs with consistency, then there won’t be much slowing this ‘big’ team down.

The Los Angeles Kings have been hanging around the basement of the League standings for awhile, and I think they’re finally on the upswing. If Cammalleri, Frolov and Kopitar can keep up the good work, and the new guys (like Stuart and Nagy) can contribute, then the Kings might get closer to the playoffs this year. They definitely got a good deal when they acquired Jack Johnson in a trade – something tells me that Carolina will be smacking their heads over this one. The Kings won’t be in the playoffs this season, but they won’t be at the bottom of the League.

That’s because the Phoenix Coyotes will be bringing up the rear come April. The GM may have lost his job this year, but new guy Maloney didn’t do anything to improve the team. Their biggest free agent signing was probably David Aebischer, and that’s not a good thing considering how he finished his season in Montreal.

Jeff Mackie put it best when he wrote, “Who’s going to score goals?” When your team has only one player who scored more than 20 goals in the previous season, something is desperately wrong. Kyle Turris may be able to help the team on the scoring front, but he won’t be available for duty for at least a year. And does anyone else think it’s a little ironic that this score-less team is coached by Wayne Gretzky?

The only bright spot that I can see (and it’s really just a dim ‘light bulb moment’) is that Gretzky acknowledged this spring that the Coyotes have to start building their team through the draft. It certainly is better than loading up on veterans who can’t sign elsewhere. I guess Phoenix fans will be spending the next several years getting their biggest thrill from the Entry Draft.

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