NHL: Western Conference Preview
Yesterday I broke down the NHL’s Eastern Conference for the 2018–19 season and today I’ll break down the Western Conference. Once again I’ve broken the teams into four different categories and I’ll take my shot again at who belongs in each category.
The Jets are pretty deep straight down the lineup and will be a force this season. They’re going to score a lot of goals and they’re not going to give many of them up. Winnipeg fans have waited a long time for fun hockey. They got a taste of it last season and they’ll get more this season. Expect the Jets to go real deep in the playoffs next spring.
The Predators will be battling it out with the Jets for the top seed in the Western Conference. Their depth is slightly worse than the Jets, but that’s not a knock on the Preds. Everybody has been talking about the defense in San Jose, which means they’re sleeping on the Predators deadly top-4 that includes Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. I ultimately think they’ll fall to Winnipeg in the playoffs again. However, a long playoff run wouldn’t surprise me.
San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson is going to add tons of offensive to an already gifted offensive team. Being led by Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Karlsson, and Brent Burns the Sharks should be able to take care of the Pacific Division. The toughest test for San Jose this season will be Nashville or Winnipeg in the Western Conference final.
The Second Tier
St. Louis Blues
Led by Vladimir Tarasenko on offense and Alex Pietrangelo on defense, the Blues will win a lot of games this season. The additions of Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, and Patrick Maroon on offense should pay off for them. The Blueshave what it takes to get by the clubs listed above, but they’ll have to bring their best every game if they want to beat teams like the Predators, Jets, and Sharks.
Vegas Golden Knights
I didn’t buy into Vegas last season and they proved me wrong. Well, here I go again not buying into them. They’re good, I’ll admit that. However, I think last season was a bit of a fluke. They’ll make the playoffs and maybe win a series, but the Cinderella story isn’t happening this season.
Los Angeles Kings
From Anze Kopitar to Drew Doughty to Jonathan Quick, the Kings have the depth needed to contend. Recent seasons they’ve lacked success, which is why I’ve placed them in this category. They’ve got the talent and depth to go for a deep run, now I just need to see it happen like it did in 2012 & 2014.
I don’t really know what to say about the Ducks. They’re good, but they’re not good enough. They aren’t getting any younger and there are teams ahead of them that are just flat out better than them. They’ll undoubtedly make the playoffs, but I can’t see them going very far.
The Flames are hoping to bounce back after a sluggish season last year. The additions of James Neal, Noah Hanifin, Derek Ryan, and Austin Czarnik should help the club. I personally feel that they’ll make the playoffs this season. However, like much of the other clubs in this category, I don’t think they’ve got they talent needed to get by the real contenders in the west.
Over the last five years the Stars have had lots of talent and never do anything with it. I expect much of them same from them this season. They may make the playoffs, but they’ll be bounced early.
See above. The Wild will compete, make the playoffs, and take another early exit.
We know the talent that the Blackhawks possess. If they stay healthy they should be back in the playoff picture. If Corey Crawford returns to form they’ll have a much better season than last season. However, with the emergence of the Predators and Jets in the Central, the days of the Blackhawks running things out west are over.
The Avs are a wild card. Two years ago they were historically bad. Last season they made the playoffs. It’s tough to figure out which Avalanche team will show up during the 2018–19 campaign. They possess the talent to make the playoffs. Now it’s all about them using that talent.
Based on the past I should just eliminate the Oilers from contention right now. However, when you’ve got Connor McDavid leading your offense you’re a threat to score a lot of goals. The defense and goaltending remain a question mark. If Cam Talbot bounces back and the defense cleans things up, the Oilers have a legitimate shot a getting back to the playoffs.
The Coyotes are young and will be a fun team to watch. Antti Raanta leads the way in net and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to captain a young team with loads of talent. The desert dogs will see some ups and downs this season, but they’re not too far away from being a club that will be a threat.
The See You Next Year
I’ve been ready to write off the Canucks for some time now. Despite the talented youth and terrific play of a guy like Elias Pettersson in the preseason, I still see them as a team that won’t go anywhere this season. Though they’re not that far off from being a good hockey team again.
Kevin Maggiore (@kevin_maggiore)