In my previous blog we took a look at the Eastern Conference teams that finished 9-15 in the standings and missed the post season. Now lets switch gears and look at the teams who missed out on the 06/07 playoffs in the Western Conference and what they have done to improve and take a playoff spot away from a team that made it last year.
#9) Colorado Avalanche
Looking at the teams who finished 9-15 in the West. The Avs were the only team of the 7 that were even close to a playoff birth. They finished with a 43-29-10 record and 95 points. Missing the Stanley Cup Tournament by 1 point and would have had the 8th spot if ending in a tie in points with the Calgary Flames due to the fact they had 1 more win then the Flames. Here is a look at what they have done....
Players added: LW Ryan Smyth, D Scott Hannan
Colorado was able to re-sign Tyler Arnason, F Scott Parker, F Marek Svatos and F Frank Rycroft.
With the Avs already being a team that was so close. The addition's of Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan can only improve their chances at playing for Lord Stanley in the 07/08 Playoffs.
#10) St Louis Blues
The St Louis Blues went into the 06/07 season knowing that they are a re-building team. This is an unusal feeling among Blues fans because up until recently They had not missed the playoffs in quite sometime. They ended the season with a 34-35-13 record and 81 points. They started putting together their new squad by signing D Jay Mckee to a 4 year 16 million dollar deal last year to help build there dismal defense. Lets see what they have done so far this off season to help with their chances at moving up in the standings....
Players added: LW Paul Kariya, LW Keith Tkachuk and in a trade with the Bruins, they acquired G Hannu Toivonen.
The Blues re-signed Buffalo native RW Lee Stempniak to a 3 year deal and D Barret Jackman to a 1 year deal.
Bringing in a star like Paul Kariya will only help the young guys on this team perform to the best of their abilities. Will it be enough to make a playoff push? only time will tell but I feel they are atleast a top 6 forward away from being able to reach the top 8.
#11) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team that I have never been able to get a grip on. Ever since their franchise began, they have yet to make any type of push towards a playoff spot. Rick Nash is one of the games greatest young stars who just cant seem to catch a break with this team. The Blue Jackets finished with a record of 33-42-7 with 73 points. Will their new GM be able to help propel this team into a playoff spot? Lets take a look.....
Players added: F Kris Beech, D Jan Hejda, C Jiri Novotny and D Sheldon Brookbank
The Jackets were able to keep the services of C Alexander Svitov and D Ole-Kristian Tollefsen both to two year deals.
Unless the Blue Jackets have some major deals made within the next month, I still see this team not being able to compete with the top teams in the West. Kris Beech is a nice pick up but is he going to be able to take this team to the next level? They have question marks at every position In my opinion and I dont see them getting any better. I hope I'm wrong.
#12) Edmonton Oilers
After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 05/06, The Edmonton Oilers took a step back in 06/07 as they lost guys like Chris Pronger and Mike Peca to just name a couple. There were times the Oilers looked almost unbeatable this past season but just couldnt over come the injuries and roster subtractions and ended the campaign with a 32-43-7 record with 71 points. The off season has been an interesting one for Kevin Lowe and here is what has taken place...
Players added: D Sheldon Souray, F Dustin Penner, D Joni Pitkanen, LW Geoff Sanderson, D Richard Tarnstrom and goaltender Mathieu Garon.
The Oilers were able to re-sign D Matt Greene and LW Raffi Torres.
Kevin Lowe has had a busy off season. The offer sheets to Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner have been the talk of the summer. Some have agreed, some have not. As a Sabre fan, most would think that I am against what Lowe has done. That couldnt be any further from the truth. Lowe has done nothing wrong, He is doing what he has to do to try to make his team better. Was the Vanek offer insane? most would agree with that but he played with in the rules and though Vanek's agent wanted to wait for the best offer that could be made, The Sabres had the chance to prevent this from taking place. I applaud Kevin Lowe for treating this as it is...A Business. That being said, the moves the Oilers have made have improved this team greatly. They will make a push north in the standings no doubt about it.
#13) Chicago Blackhawks
At the end of the NHL season the last few years, I always thought that the Blackhawks could not go anywhere but up. Though every year it basically stays the same in the windy city. Another year of disappointment with a 31-42-9 record and only 71 points. Are the Blackhawks ready to make their roster a respectable one? This is what has been done so far....
Players added: C Yanic Perreault, F Sergei Samsonov, D Andrei Zyuzin, C Robert Lang and most important #1 overall pick Patrick Kane
The fans of Chicago should be elated with the #1 overall selection of Patrick Kane. Will he be in the starting line up? my guess is by mid season or sooner he will be in the starting lineup. The trades and signings that have taken place will improve this team. They have a great goaltender in place which is why I am surprised they arent any better then before they acquired the ex Tampa Bay netminder. However, I still think they are a year or two away from being able to make a playoff run. We shall see.....
#14) Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings finished the 06/07 season with a record of 27-41-14 and 68 points. A dismal year without question as question marks still remain for who will be their #1 goaltender. This past season is one to forget and with the list of additions I am about to give you, Kings fans will be able to forget that this past season ever took place....
Players added: LW Ladislav Nagy, C Kyle Calder, D Brad Stuart, C Michal Handzus and D Tom Preissing.
The Kings have been able to keep D Lubomir Vishnovsky to a 5 year 28.25 million dollar deal along with D Jaroslav Modry to a 1 year contract.
The players the Kings have brought in and the players they were able to keep will improve this Kings roster by far. They added some scoring and a couple D-men who can help decrease the 283 goals allowed by the Kings last season. (2nd most to the Phoenix Coyotes) As stated above, Their biggest question is goaltending. There have been rumors about Raycroft and Emery but nothing has come of it. The Kings have their goalie of the future in Labarbra but is he ready to take this team to higher places? Not yet. Bring in a #1 Goaltender and this team will no longer be rebuilding as they will be the most improved team in the West, compared to what they had last season.
#16) Phoenix Coyotes
One would think that having the best player in the world as your head coach could only make your team better right? That statement is far from the truth. The Coyotes were dreadful once again finishing with a 31-46-5 record and 67 points. Will the 07/08 Coyotes be any different? Here is what has taken place thus far....
Players added: G David Aebischer and F Mike York
Phoenix was able to retain D Brendan Bell.
This team to me is much like Columbus, has question marks everywhere. It can be another long season for Coyotes fans. I know the off season isnt over and moves can still be made but something just isnt clicking.
I hope you all enjoyed the last two blogs, taking a look at the Eastern and Western Conference teams who were unable to make a playoff apperance. Please comment back and tell me who you feel is ready to be a playoff team? I know injuries and other deals make an impact but this is what we have in front of us right now.
I look forward to your comments and feed back.
Thanks so much!!!