North by Northwest

The Northwest Division is tough to predict in any season and especially difficult for 08-09.

Why?

All teams are still figuring out their rosters and there are none who are so strong that we can put them on top automatically.

My predictions for last season are here and was a pretty good estimate of the final standings. My order was Minnesota, Calgary, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton. The actual order was Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver.

Northwest 2008-09 Prediction

FIFTH: COLORADO AVALANCHE

There is some outstanding talent on the Colorado Avalanche. Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski up front, and Joe Sakic is back and hopefully healthy again. Peter Forsberg may come riding to the rescue and who knows Mats Sundin may join him after Christmas for all we know. However, their goaltending is the division’s biggest question mark and I’m not any kind of certain they’ve improved their defense. Betting against Joe Sakic at any time is a bad bet, but at his age and with his recent injury history I’m pretty comfortable picking the Avalanche to finish well out of the race for the playoffs.

FOURTH: VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The only thing more incredible than missing the playoffs with Luongo would be doing it again. New GM Mike Gillis has made some nice moves of the minor variety and has all kinds of options moving forward after this season. I don’t think they have enough depth (who are the top 4D? who are the top 6F’s?) and although they’ll be stronger than one year ago my guess is the Canucks finish outside the playoffs.

THIRD: CALGARY FLAMES

Their goalie, despite an outstanding run while a Flame, is approaching an age where many of the good-in-their-20′s stoppers begin to slide (call it the Dan Bouchard syndrome). It doesn’t mean Kipper won’t have a good year and it doesn’t mean he’s Tommy Salo, but the Flames can’t count on him like they have in the past. I like what Sutter did up front, giving the lines a logical look they haven’t had since their Stanley run. The blueline looks deep and simple (a good thing) and they have that nasty Regehr fellow plus the most famous one-dimensional player in the game (Dion DiMucci). Despite all this, the roster does look a little like it was put together with binder twine and pomade and would be my pick for the team that could collapse somewhere along the way, fire their coach and trade their UFA’s.

SECOND: EDMONTON OILERS

The big mover in this division are the Edmonton Oilers. There are two reasons: depth and skill. Edmonton has enough veterans sprinkled throughout the roster that they should be able to endure a number of injuries. They also have terrific skill, and in fact added in this area with the offseason pickups of Cole and Visnovsky. They are missing a veteran RH center and could use another veteran on the blue but this team begins the year fairly balanced in the key areas and should punish opponents with a splendid powerplay. A big step forward after Christmas by young Samwise Gagner could mean the Oilers win the division.

FIRST: MINNESOTA WILD

I’m probably the only hockey fan outside the land of 10,000 lakes who enjoys this team. They do things in a measured way even in the era of free agency. Their offseason pickups are all interesting, and they had a very nice July 1 (Zidlicky trade, signed Brunette). They have stars in Gaborik and Burns and Bouchard and Backstrom and the best supporting cast in the business. They never get outworked, their coach is just strange enough to get an edge with the refs once in awhile, and losing to the Wild will be routine once again for many teams.

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19 Responses to "North by Northwest"

  1. spOILer says:

    When we won against the Wild during last season’s stretch run, we did it with such domination and confidence that I thought the Wild will never be a problem for this Oiler team again.

    Then we went out and lost to them a couple of nights later.

    I have the NW as the Oilers finishing first and everyone else finishing in a four way tie for dead last.

    Seriously, we could see 3 points separate 1st and 5th in the Div. Gillis still has some big bullets left in his gun, but if the Nucks make no moves, they should finish last.

    If Kipper holds up:

    CGY
    MIN
    EDM
    COL
    VCR

    If not, move CGY beneath the Oil.

  2. mjsh says:

    I was at tat Minnesota game and that game gave me a lot of optimism for this year. It was a game with meaning and the Oilers totally dominated. What a wonderful experience. Now the other night against Calgary was the oposite. My concern is and was the lack of fight in the Oilers. The team has always had leadership. Does this one? On paper, I too picked the Oilers to lead the division but with Calgary a close second. I hope all the other bloggers with the “it was only a preseaon game” are right. I did hear Peter Maher say today that the Flames winning record in preseason is a signal for a good season based upon previous years.

    I do think it will be close but Oilers, Calgary, the wild, Vancouver and Colorado with at least three teams making the playoffs.

  3. relic says:

    LT: as an old tender I gotta say that’s a sweet mask.

    Atlanta Flames?

  4. Lowetide says:

    relic: Yeah. Daniel Bouchard, who I mentioned in the post.

    As an aside, Alex Plante with another assist tonight. Crazy.

  5. spOILer says:

    As good as Eberle is playing, some 16 yo has scored 3-7-10 in 5 games for the Pats.

  6. spOILer says:

    Jordan Weal, I meant to say. Leads all rooks in scoring, and his 3rd overall behind the two Hitmen forwards.

  7. Dennis says:

    The Oilers defense worries me; it has the ability to be mercurial.

  8. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I’m worried about all 3 areas. They’d help themselves tremendously with a RH veteran center and a veteran D.

  9. Coach pb9617 says:

    A big step forward after Christmas by young Samwise Gagner could mean the Oilers win the division.

    He prefers “Jesus”.

  10. Doogie2K says:

    @LT: I left a link to a post on tonight’s game in the Eberle thread. Next time, I will learn to read all the comment threads before doing so. ;)

    @Predictions: I stand by MIN, EDM, CGY, COL, VAN. It’s really hard to put Colorado below Calgary, because I really like their forwards (except for Tyler Arnason, the prick), but their G took a huge step back from Contract Year Theodore to Post-Contract Year Raycroft. Also, I have a bet going with some guys in LA that Calgary won’t win the division, or I’ll send them a picture of me eating my own email, so Kipper’d better not get any funny ideas. I know people on the U of C wrestling team, you know.

  11. NBOilerFan says:

    I’ll through my divisional picks into the hat…

    MIN
    CGY
    EDM
    VAN
    COL

  12. Steve says:

    My picks are the same as LT’s, but with Colorado and Vancouver inverted. I don’t care if you’ve got Patrick Roy (or, say, Roberto Luongo) in net, if we’re wondering “who are their top 4D?” and “who are their top 6F?”, that’s a bad, bad team.

  13. Sean says:

    LT dont worry about the 3C, Howson is going to trade us Peca at the deadline anyways.

    Minnesota still at #1? They have no fw depth and Gaborik is an injury case.

  14. HBomb says:

    LT dont worry about the 3C, Howson is going to trade us Peca at the deadline anyways.

    Give me Kyle McLaren now and Mike Peca at the deadline, and I like this team’s chances of doing SERIOUS damage in the 2nd season….

  15. doritogrande says:

    As much as I hate to say it, Vancouver’s not as bad as everyone’s thinking. Top-4 D? Ohlund-Salo Bieksa-Mitchell. That’s better than ours, by a good margin. They’ll always be able to score with the sedin sisters, and they’ve got a rookie coming out of Manitoba who’s gone all Andrew Cogliano on the pre-season. With the aforementioned Jesus Luongo, they’re too damn good to be ignored, especially once Gillis uses his cap-space to land a Kovalchuk. Don’t laugh, it could (and should) happen.

    Minnesota’s got everything they need to still take top spot. LT, you’re wrong about being the only guy that likes the North Stars. I’ve found watching their games entertaining in a Kasparov kind of way. It’s methodical in the way they gameplan to take their opponents’ top players out of their comfort zone. Brent Burns is something special too.

    I haven’t seen anything I like from the Visnovsky acquisition yet, and the Gilbert/Grebeshkov pairing has shit the bed. It’s pre-season, but they’ve got too many bad habits that will cost them. Our depth is good, but we’re not playing 15 forwards a night. We’re only as good as the 12 we put out there each night. Goaltending could put us anywhere from 2nd to 4th in the division.

    My predicted order of placings:
    Minnesota
    Vancouver
    Calgary
    Edmonton
    Colorado

    IMO, we’re going to be fighting Chicago and Phoenix for the 8th spot. One gets in, the others don’t.

  16. Dennis says:

    I guess here’s as good a place as any to put this but MacT gave 78 his lineup spot today and basically said it’s Brule-Schremp-Goon for the last two spots.

    I guess the ruffian will get the 14th spot so it’s Brule or Schremp for the last spot.

    Of course that gives us 24 bodies considering 14 forwards-7 D- 3 goalies come to 24 but the Oilers must have some kind of plan for JDD.

  17. NBOilerFan says:

    Here is as good a place as any as well… I remember Asiaoil suggested a while back teh notion of trying to acquire Malholtra for the 3rd-C spot.

    Spectre posted the following;

    “COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace reports of scouts from ” Vancouver, New Jersey, the Rangers, Ottawa, Florida, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Detroit” attending last night’s Blue Jackets-Sabres game. He speculates they might be there to take a look at defensemen Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and Marc Methot and also noted that forward Manny Malholtra played on the top line last night suggesting the Jackets might’ve been showcasing him.

    Here is the actual quite from Michael Arace;
    “Now, this is just me talking: The Jackets are set at forward – in fact, there’s a surplus, if you like the depth that Andrew Murray, Jiri Novotny, Derek Dorsett, Adam Pineault, Tommy Sestito, et al, provide.

    Could it be that, under these circumstances, Manny Malhotra ($1.5 million) is a luxury on their fourth line? Manny played on the top line with Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius against the Sabres. Perhaps they were showcasing Malhotra. Then again, is there another team that’s going to take his contract? Just some food for thought.”

  18. Alice says:

    LT, I love the manic-depressive shift you took between the blog:
    //The big mover in this division are the Edmonton Oilers. There are two reasons: depth and skill//
    and the Comments: //I’m worried about all 3 areas//

    fact is these guys are a giant question mark for everyone right now, they look better on paper with pickups and injury returns, but so far that hasn’t translated to the game. Add the road mission to start the season and you could make a good case for anywhere from 3rd to 13th. They certainly haven’t shown their hand too soon.

  19. Ender says:

    Their goalie, despite an outstanding run while a Flame, is approaching an age where many of the good-in-their-20′s stoppers begin to slide (call it the Dan Bouchard syndrome).

    I looked at that unscientifically a few weeks ago. He won’t be bad, but I really doubt there will be rebound.

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