The Northwest Division will be interesting to watch this upcoming season. A number of these typically good teams may find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time if their offseason moves all play out as they seem to indicate. Colorado and Minnesota both seem to be fading fast, while Calgary and Vancouver are tough to read all around.
The Edmonton Oilers, on the other hand, made some solid offseason pickups in Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky. Combined with much of the core that took them to the Cup only a few seasons back, Cole and the young talent that the Oilers have drafted over the past couple of years should give the Oilers the offensive firepower they have been lacking in past seasons.
The Minnesota Wild could be a team in trouble when the puck drops this season. The loss of Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston won’t help the Wild, and there weren’t any real great offensive pickups in the offseason that will fill the offensive void left by their departures. Niklas Backstrom and a passable defense will keep them competitive, but in a stacked Western Conference, they will be hard pressed to make the playoffs.
The Calgary Flames are a team, as stated before, that is very tough to read. With star power up front, and a fearsome blueline headlined by Dion Phaneuf in front of Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames seem to have what they need to be successful. It remains to be seen if they can take the final step towards another deep playoff run.
The Vancouver Canucks has been one of the league’s most underachieving squads in the past few seasons. While Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison are both heavy losses, the pickup of Pavol Demitra will help ease the pain. Roberto Luongo should be solid in net, but it may not be enough to push the Canucks over the top.
The Colorado Avalanche could end up being a very strong team or a very weak one, depending mostly on the play of their goaltenders, Andrew Raycroft and Peter Budaj. A solid but aging offense and a sharp young defensive corps will look to rebound after an injury-plagued ’07-08 season.
Northwest Division Standings Prediction: Edmonton Calgary Vancouver Colorado Minnesota