Edmonton still sucks. Any team that boasts Horcoff as their highest paid player hasn't got a chance.
Phoenix lost their best player, and only reason they actually have a playoff appearance in recent history when Bryzgalov went to Philly. They'll likely be fighting with the Oiler's for one of the first 2 draft picks in 2012.
Colorado isn't there yet. They've replaced Anderson with Varlamov, not really a big upgrade, if one at all. They brought in some talent at the end of last season, but they are still too young and need really big years from some young players. I agree here with whoever it was that said they could be a dark horse, but I think that's a stretch.
Don't see Dallas making the playoffs this year. They don't look like a better team than they were last season, and they finished on the outside looking in.
Minnesota is about to see some great goal scoring from the pairing of Koivu and Heatley, but they'll also be subject to Heatley's attitude. Nothing to see here.
Calgary still isn't scaring anyone, Kiprusoff will have to be much better now as his best crease clearing dman has been shipped out, chances are they finish 2nd in the division and challenge for 8th in the conference simply by playing 18 games against Edmonton, Colorado, and Minnesota.....damn, wasn't it not too long ago that the NW was the toughest division in the NHL.....
St. Louis is loaded with young talent, no superstars, but a good chunk of skaters that would crack the top 6 on most teams. They do have a shallow, or at least fairly inexperienced, blueline. Yes their is some toughness there, and if Halak has a strong year the Blue's could be tough to score on (for everyone, not just us
), but I don't think you'll see them loading up the stats column courtesy of defensemen. It'll be between them and the Flames for our first round match-up.
Anaheim has the best line in hockey, but they couldalso be the most penalized top 3 as well. If Hiller goes down again they are screwed, if he doesn't then they are a one and a half line team with mediocre support from the blueline. Probably going to finish in 7th.
Nashville will challenge for a bottom seed again. Rinne will have a great year, but they aren't going to be lighting the lamp one helluvalot, so when he gives up more than 2, the Preds will be hard pressed to put points up in the W column, this is probably Weber's last season in Nasvhille.
Chicago is about the same team they were last year, however Crawford's increased experience will only have been beneficial to him and this could mean that the Hawk's are a more credible threat again. With the NHL's increased police presence under Commissioner Shanahan, and a scrutinizing media focused on goons and fighting (thanks to this past summer), Quenneville may have to re-think his ink when it comes to getting things done on the ice in a down and dirty fashion. Chicago is the big question-mark this year in the west, why so many talking heads are picking them to end up at the big dance again come June is a mystery.
Columbus is going to push both Chicago and Detroit this year, probably passing the former and challenging the latter. Some key additions and some real pressure to make a post-season appearance means make or break time for a franchise that has been losing money for a while. Much of their success rests on Nash's ability to be a contributor at both ends of the ice and less of a prima donna, and adding Carter's 40 goals can only take pressure of of Nash and help him do that.
San Jose is on the way out as a top seed IMO. Thornton has learned what it takes to be a performer in the playoffs, but he's aging, he's a bit slower, and he has been hurt a couple times now as wear and tear have begun to take their toll. They got better in the post-season by dumping Heatley and picking up Havlat, who is a strong playoff performer, but his health is always a factor for consideration. Burns is a boon to their backend, but I still think he's overrated. Niemi is no slouch, but he's about as consistent as Luongo was against Boston. Chances are they will finish 2nd in their division and 4th or 5th in the West.
If Quick finds his game in LA, the King's could upset the Sharks and walk away with the Pacific crown quite easily.
Detroit is still Detroit, just a bit older and a little more depleted.
The Canucks? Well they're the new Red Wings.