I'm a homer, I will not even try defending myself when accused of it, but I have to seriously wonder if the Flames aren't projected first by default! Not to say they will be so good they can compare to the Detroit and San Jose's of the world...or even Chicago in my opinion (except in net). My Friends and I discussed this and some interesting N.W. division questions came up in regards to this:
Q: The sophomore oilers will come back better, that has to be expected, so why wouldn't Edmonton be considered just as much a threat?
A: Of Course they will be better! But by better Gagne getting 70 points and Cogs getting 60 won't win anyone a Stanley Cup, the Oilers look better this year and to me seem like the only real threat to the Flames. The addition of Khabibulin is the biggest deal breaker here. Which one shows up? If it's the bulin wall of the past few year then that could be trouble for them but if the bulin of last year is what they are getting then he's a touch goalie to beat.
Q:What is the biggest difference then between Edmonton and Calgary?
A: Obviously the defense. This was actually a strong point for Edmonton last year but it is still not at the caliber of the Flames D.
Q: What's wrong with Vancouver?
A: Well they have the best goalie in the league and two very consistent high end players in the sisters but aside from that it drops off. Where the oilers have a group of guys I would project for around the 60 point mark, the Canucks have a group around the 50 point mark (hodgson, burrows, demitra, kesler..). The biggest thing is they didn't get better in the off season, Sundin is gone, Ohlund is gone (iggy's mortal enemy) and they really did not get much going. I would hardly say Mikael Samuelsson is a big time addition.
Q: When it comes to coaching doesn't Quinn have an edge over Sutter given that he also has Renney with him?
A: Maybe. Sutter is the guy who coached the Devils to a very good campaign without the services of Brodeur for most of the season. Quinn has also been out of the game for a spell hence why Renney is even there, it will be interesting to see how long these two guys can keep from getting into some kind of philosophical disagreement.
Q: With the Wild gearing up for more offense are they a threat?
A: Any team that wants to go all out is a threat, you can't discount Havlat or Koivu but one has to wonder if all this open play won't wreak havoc with Backstrom like it did to Calgary in Kipper. Will Backstrom have a "just signed a massive contract!" year and be sub par? We'll see. I have a hard time seeing Nolan breaking by Regher...or bouwmeester...or dion...or anyone.
Q: Are the Avs really that bad?
A: Sadly yes. Aside from a few points of light they will have a long climb back to the top...
Q: So why Calgary?
A: Well with better coaching, a plan for the power play, a Defense that may be the best in the league, a defense first mind set to compliment it and scoring depth it's hard to say where they are weak. They did get better with Sutter and Bouwmeester coming in, Ollie here for an entire year will be a huge help. The other N.W. teams just didn't get any better and in some cases like Vancouver, probably got worse.