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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

NHL Western Conference Preview


Photo courtesy of Fred Ortlip via

The San Jose Sharks, a Western Conference team, tried to keep the streak of four straight Western Conference teams winning the Stanley Cup, before the Penguins brought it back east last spring. A team from the West is certainly capable of winning this year, as teams like the Sharks, Stars, and Predators all open as early season favorites to go deep in the playoffs next spring.


Central Division:


Nashville Predators

The Predators made a good run last year in the playoffs before losing seven games to the San Jose Sharks in the second round. They traded captain Defenseman Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadians for P.K. Subban. Subban will have some large shoes to fill, but he is very capable of stepping in and making an immediate impact. Forward Filip Forsberg  was signed to a new six-year deal this summer, and offensive stars like James Neal and Ryan Johansen also return for the upcoming year. The defense remains solid as well with players like Roman Josi supporting Subban. Pekka Rinne remains one of the top goalies in the league, as evident in his starting role for the Finland National team. The Predators’ run last year should give them confidence going into the year, and they should be a contender come playoff time.


Dallas Stars

The Stars were defeated in the second round in game seven by the St. Louis Blues last year, but this is the year for them to take that huge leap forward and be true contenders for the playoff title. RW Jamie Benn and Center Tyler Seguin remain two of the most dynamic offensive players in the game, and they have a strong supporting cast which includes the likes of Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp. The defense remains solid and youngster John Klingberg will be expected to follow up on his great 2015-2016 season. The biggest question for the Stars is their goaltending, as it was their Achilles’ heel in their game seven loss to the Blues last May. Both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen will be expected to have bounce back years, and the Stars hope one of them will take charge and become the team’s No. 1 goalie for good.


St. Louis Blues

The Blues finally made it out of the first round after defeating the Blackhawks in seven games. They then defeated the Stars in game seven on the second round before being ousted by the Sharks in the conference final. The Blues lost captain David Backes and key depth player Troy Brouwer who was a huge contributor in the playoffs. The Blues still have some great players up front with Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny, and Alexander Steen. The defense returns everyone from last year, and new captain Alex Pietrangelo will be expected to have a huge year in his new role. The Blues traded away goalie Brian Elliott in the offseason, so the goalie job now belongs to Jake Allen, who split time with Elliott throughout last season. Overall, the Blues lost some key leadership in players like Backes and Brouwer, but they should still be able to truly contend for the cup come this spring.


Chicago Blackhawks

The salary cap again took a bite out of the Chicago Blackhawks’ core as it had to say goodbye to players like Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, who were vital to the club for five years. LW Andrew Ladd also left via free agency, and their only big acquisition in the market this summer was the signing of defenseman Brian Campbell, who already has played in Chicago. Fans wonder whether their core group of players, which seems to have shrunk tremendously over the past two years, will still be able to carry the team to the playoffs. With a solid defense led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Trevor van Riemsdyk along with an offense fueled by Center Patrick Kane, Artemi Pananrin, and Captain Jonathan Toews, there is no reason to doubt the Blackhawks this year, as they should easily make the playoffs once again.


Minnesota Wild

The Wild’s postseason run once again ended shortly last spring, and although they remain a solid team, they did not make any key moves this past summer to try and get them over the hump. Eric Staal will be expected to have a bounce back year after struggling mightily last year with both the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers. They have some solid players up front in Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Mikael Granlund, while Ryan Suter leads a defense filled with depth. Devan Dubnyk will be expected to have another quality year to complement Suter. Overall, the Wild are a good hockey team which should make the playoffs, but there is no reason to believe that their playoff run will last more than two weeks or so.


Colorado Avalanche

With strong offensive players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Nathan MacKinnon, it is a shock that the Avalanche took a step back, especially in the past few years after making the playoffs in 2014. The Avs parted ways with head coach Patrick Roy in the offseason, and Jared Bednar, who possesses no NHL coaching experience, will take over on the bench. The defense is led by Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson, but their depth remains questionable. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been good in the past, but has struggled at times in recent years. Overall, the Avalanche didn’t improve much in the offseason, and with a new coach at the helm this year, the Avs are still a year or two out from being a playoff contender.


Winnipeg Jets

The Jets surprised everyone when they got the second pick in the NHL Draft lottery this past summer and chose Patrik Laine, who will be expected to make a substantial impact in his first year. The biggest problem with the Jets is their lack of depth on both sides of the ice, as after losing key players like Blake Wheeler on offense and Dustin Byfuglien on defense, the team doesn’t have a strong supporting cast. Connor Hellebuyck is expected to be the Jets starter in net, and the young goalie should continue to improve this season. Overall, the Jets have a star in the making with Patrik Laine, and it should cause Jets fans to be excited. However, the Jets just still aren’t ready to compete.


Pacific Division:


San Jose Sharks

The Sharks made a great run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and there is no reason to believe they can’t do it again. With young forwards such as Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, along with veterans Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau just to name a few, this team remains very dangerous. Brent Burns leads a solid group on defense along with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and goalies Paul Martin and Martin Jones should continue to improve after an absolutely stellar campaign last year in both the regular season and playoffs. Overall, this team gained some much needed experience in last year’s run, and with Thornton and Marleau not getting any younger, now is the time to win the Stanley Cup for this franchise.


Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have been a top team in the NHL for the past few years, but have fallen short in the playoffs. With players like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry getting older every year, they are slowly losing their chances of winning. The Ducks to have a strong team with players like Ryan Kesler, Antoine Vermette, and Jakob Silfverberg accompanying Getzlaf and Perry. The defense remains solid with Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen leading the charge, and the starting goalie job is now all John Gibson’s, and he has proven to be a huge piece for this team in the past. With a new coach in Randy Carlyle, the Ducks should be a playoff team again, but is their roster good enough to make a deep run with a core that is getting older and older?


Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were dealt a huge blow when star goalie Jonathan Quick was placed on injured reserve. The Kings are already missing forward Marian Gaborik for the first few weeks of the season due to injury, but players like Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli should be able to shadow the loss. The defense remains strong with Drew Doughty, along with Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Tom Gilbert. The loss of Quick definitely hurts, and goalies Peter Budaj and Jeff Zatkoff are likely to split play time during his absence. Regardless, if the Kings play like they have in years past, they will right the ship during his absence and should be a playoff team once again.


Edmonton Oilers 

The Oilers traded away star forward Taylor Hall over the offseason, but brought in Defenseman Adam Larsson to help strengthen the defense. They signed forward Milan Lucic, who will be a presence both on and off the ice for the Oilers. Center Connor McDavid is now the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years old, and he will look to build on his stellar rookie season that was spotty due to an injury he suffered at the beginning of the year. The defense continues to improve with the addition of Larsson and Cam Talbot will be called upon to give the Oilers a solid No. 1 goalie who they can rely on. Edmonton made some good moves this summer both on and off the ice, and should contend for a bit down the stretch. Even if they don’t, there is a lot to be excited about in Edmonton for years to come.


Calgary Flames

The Flames inked star forward Johnny Gaudreau to a new deal just before the season started, and he joins young forwards Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett up front along with veterans Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg. This year’s first round pick for the Flames, Matthew Tkachuk, also made the team, and he should have a positive impact on the team as well. Mark Giordano anchors the defense along with Dennis Wideman and Dougie Hamilton, while Brian Elliott is the new starting goalie for the Flames after being traded from the Blues. Things are definitely looking up for Calgary after resigning Gaudreau, and if Elliott has a solid year in net, the Flames will definitely put up a fight


Arizona Coyotes

Max Domi and Antony Duclair had great seasons last year for the Coyotes, and will be at the helm of an offense which also features Dylan Strome, Captain Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, and Jamie McGinn. Oliver Ekman-Larsson remains a top defenseman in the NHL, and he should get some help on the back end from defensive youngster Jakob Chychrun, who was drafted this past year in the first round. The biggest problem for the Coyotes remains their goaltending, as Mike Smith, who has been excellent at times in the past, has been too inconsistent over the past few years for this team to compete. If Smith is able to have a strong year in net, this team can continue to improve, and has the natural talent to make a run towards a playoff spot.


Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks added Winger Loui Eriksson this offseason from the Bruins, and while he might provide a much needed spark to the offense, the Canucks are in the rebuilding phase. The Sedin twins are getting older, and can’t carry as much of the load as they used to. Alex Burrows also seems to be on the decline after an underwhelming season last year. The defense definitely has a ton of holes in it, and with Goalie Ryan Miller’s age a question, the Canucks just aren’t that well-rounded of a team this year, and they will once again struggle mightily throughout the season.


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