HELL OF THE WEST: Western Conference Preview

So yesterday I regaled you with my thoughts on the Eastern Conference. Today I'm doing the West. We will, of course, drill down into the Blackhawks and possibly the other Central Division foes next week before the season starts. But for now, here's a quick thumbnail on everyone...

15. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS - Worst record in the NHL, didn't get the first overall pick, traded away their best player, first round pick out for the rest of the season. Everything's coming up roses in the Buckeye State.

Best Case Scenario - 7-10 teams in the Western Conference are involved in fiery bus crashes.
Worst Case Scenario - Edmonton gets the #1 overall pick again.

they traded FOR Erik Johnson. Unfuckingbelievable.

Best Case Scenario - Their youth can give them some extra jump once the games start stacking up.
Worst Case Scenario - With Erik Johnson, the sky is the limit.

13. CALGARY FLAMES - Better than porn.

Best Case Scenario - They can somehow get other teams' amnesty buyouts.
Worst Case Scenario - Jay Feaster buys out Lee Stepniak and Tim Jackman - two of the very few Flames that don't have no movement clauses.

12. ANAHEIM DUCKS - How soon can John Gibson be ready to take the net?

Best Case Scenario - The Ducks can move the very unhappy Bobby Ryan for someone of real value.
Worst Case Scenario - Bruce Boudreau turns to new assistant coach Scott Niedermeyer and asks, "Scotty, can you lace 'em up tonight?"

11. PHOENIX COYOTES - They may finish last in the league in scoring and ticket sales. At least they'll always have the Spring of 2012.

Best Case Scenario -
Mike Smith plays at a Vezina-worthy level, and gets 10 shutouts.
Worst Case Scenario - Those 10 games will be scoreless ties.

10. DALLAS STARS - Loading up on old farts might hurt in this ultra-compressed season.

Best Case Scenario - The warm weather rejuvenates Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr to the point where they score goals as if they were young again.
Worst Case Scenario - They remember that when they were young the first time was 20 years ago.

- Highest paid defenseman in hockey? Check. Highest paid goalie in hockey? Check. Playoff team? Uhhhhh...

Best Case Scenario - Hockey Star Mike Fisher gets three goals in a game, and somebody throws a handbag on the ice. C'mon, guys...you owe us this one for watching all that trap shit.
Worst Case Scenario - They need Hockey Star Mike Fisher to get three goals in a game.

8. EDMONTON OILERS - OK, at some point all these draft picks have to transform into a good team, right?

Best Case Scenario - Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov ride their fine play in the AHL and World Juniors into a hot streak out of the gate, and Nikolai Khabibulin gives his usual stellar contract-year performance.
Worst Case Scenario - Khabibulin gets just a little too goddamn tires of all the three-on-nones.

7. DETROIT RED WINGS - This is their transition year.

Best Case Scenario - Jimmy Howard turns in a stellar performance, since their best defenseman is now Niklas Kronwall.
Worst Case Scenario - Red Wing fans buy all the fucking train whistles from Predator fans.

6. MINNESOTA WILD - Two new superstars. Two ginormous contracts.

Best Case Scenario - Zach Parise and Ryan Suter mesh quickly with their new teammates.
Worst Case Scenario - They let Dany Heatley give them a ride home.

5. SAN JOSE SHARKS - The window is closing.

Best Case Scenario - The Sharks' veteran core pulls it together for one last run at glory, finally clearing the hurdles to reach the Promised Land.
Worst Case Scenario - Somebody leaves a picture of Jeremy Roenick where Patrick Marleau can see it.

4. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS - Everybody is healthy, there's no excuses.

Best Case Scenario - The Blackhawks, sensing the team may be broken up next year in order to fit under the new salary cap constraints, pull together for a season reminiscent of their 2010 Stanley Cup win.
Worst Case Scenario - They have more trips to the Quiet Room than they have power play goals.

3. ST. LOUIS BLUES - Slak should do this one.

Best Case Scenario -
The Blues continue to buy into Ken Hitchcock's system, and they once again get superior goaltending.
Worst Case Scenario - Brian Elliot watches some tape of a shitty goaltender, only to learn that it's Brian Elliot, two years ago.

2. LOS ANGELES KINGS - Will the porn star with the huge cans be behind the bench again? No, not Darryl Sutter, the other one.

Best Case Scenario - The Kings use the long layoff to avoid a Cup hangover, and pick up where they left off.
Worst Case Scenario - They get tired of people in Los Angeles getting them confused with the Sacramento Kings, and being asked when they're moving to Seattke.

Get another President's Trophy banner ready.

Best Case Scenario - They ride Strombone and Schneider as a tandem to a stellar regular season and a deep run into the postseason.
Worst case Scenario - Twitter Luongo is awesome. On-ice Luongo is still a basket case. Oh, and they have Jim Vandermeer and Cam Barker in camp. If either of those guys get any ice time, that means they're boned.

As I said, we'll get deeper into the Hawks next week. But this at least shows you where my head is at.


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