Despite a summers worth of debate over who would be signed or traded where, and not much other than the bolstering of the Wild lineup happening, this division isn’t as open and shut as it once was.
Avalanche: Does the Sophomore jinx strike last years sensational rookie and new minted team captain Gabriel Landeskog? Probably not, he worked his way to the top and didn’t coast in on skill alone. Still, if Stastny and Duchene don’t play to the level they should, this team sputters and spins its wheels all season. They’ve got a very young defense, and questionable depth up front. This team can be a Cinderella or Honey Boo Boo this season, I’m not sure anyone knows which.
Calgary: Jarome Iginla has always had bad Octobers, which is great since that month will be omitted from the season. If half of Alberta’s hockey fans get their wish the extra away from hockey will be enough to turn the clock back a few years on this aging superstar for the duration of this shortened regular season and the playoffs.
Edmonton: Justin Schultz makes a nice addition to a blueline, it would be nice if there was a mentor there to help him reach full potential. While they are likely to avoid drafting #1 overall, that isn’t saying much. For reasons that elude me they jettisoned another coach and will be forcing several youngsters to learn still another new system. They will frighten opposing defenses and frustrate hometown fans defensively.
Vancouver: I’m still not convinced after the trades at last years deadline, the non trade of Luongo, and the curious addition of Vandermeer and Barker on defense if this team has decided who it wants to be when it grows up. Between lack of identity, the goaltending drama that will plague them, and a corporate lack of mental toughness from ice to corner office, I don’t hold out any real hope this team will do anything in the post season even though they will get there pretty much just for showing up to 25 games this season.
Minnesota: The big, big, big off season spenders, and likely winners. Parise is in the fold, Suter is in the fold. They have all the talent and warm bodies they need for two or even three good lines. Like Lindy Ruff, the question has to be asked of Mike Yeo, can he successfully use a team with this much more talent? When they were healthy last season they led the West, when their roster became a succession of “Who’s he?” they crashed. Healthy this team is the playoffs.
Top Dogs: The Canucks will likely skate to another nearly meaningless division title, but willl be pursued and perhaps, just perhaps passed by the Wild.