The predictions I'm seeing for this year just don't make any sense to me, so I'm going to give this a shot on my own... We'll see how it shakes out at the end of the year.
1. Vancouver Canucks
It pains me to say this, but when I look at the rosters in the West, Vancouver just seems to be the strongest bottom to top this year. The weakness with this team is defense, but they have plenty of firepower to compensate and they added grit and toughness that was lacking last year.
If it weren't for injuries, Detroit would have been pushing the hawks all year last year.
The roster's aging, but it's still full of quality. Barring massive amounts of injury, I expect them to sit atop the Central by year end.
The Kings haven't really gotten better, it's the rest of the division that has fallen back. The Kings win this spot by default.
More points than LA, but less than Detroit. They lost some depth, but the core is still getting better. Look for Chicago to contend all year long.
5. San Jose
Weak defense and weak goaltending, their offense will keep them in the playoff picture.
The defense is still as good as last year, but they've added firepower (albeit in a controversial fashion). The Flames will surprise teams and analysts all year.
7. St. Louis
Halak makes the difference as this young team finally starts to feel confident, and begins to realize potential.
A late season push will allow the Preds to sneak past Colorado and Phoenix to secure the final spot in the post-season. They always seem to play best with their back against a wall.
Just misses as they are forced to rely on Bryzgalov too often due to a lack of firepower.
This young team struggles when they don't get the world class goaltending from Craig Anderson that they had last year. Expect big ups and big downs for this team as the kids experience growing pains this year.
The rookies impress, but can't pull this team into the playoffs in their first year in the bigs. Blame inconsistent goaltending and defensive lapses.
Hiller keeps them in a lot of games that they don't belong in, but ultimately it's the lack of depth that bites them.
Better coaching creates optimism for next year, but the wins are just hard to come by as the team adjusts.
A tough team to play against, they will unfortunately come out on the losing end more often than not as they struggle to keep the puck out of their own net almost as much as they struggle to put in in the opposition's. Look for player changes to finally happen next summer.
Weak goaltending and a weak system make you feel sorry for the talent on this team. Things start to get better when Crawford is fired, but unfortunately it takes Joe too long to pull the trigger, and the team is contantly distracted by off-ice issues.
Let's hear what you think.