5. Edmonton Oilers-The best crop of young prospects can be found in Edmonton. Problem is, that’s all they have going for them at the moment. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and #1 overall pick (2011 Draft) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lead the young prospects of Edmonton as they try and pry their way out of the NHL’s basement. But, they will not do so this year. The young guys will be major contributors to the team this year, but, their inexperience will be their undoing. Also, the Oilers defense and goaltending will once again be one of the league’s worse. Look for Edmonton to be in the hunt for the worst record in the NHL once again this year.
4. Colorado Avalanche-Coming in a close second to the Oilers in the NHL’s basement, was the Colorado Avalanche. The team has some nice young offensive forwards (Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, and the #2 overall pick in the 2011 draft Gabriel Landeskog), and should put up some good offensive numbers. But why the Avs failed last year, was the fact they had poor defense and goaltending. The Avs traded for Washington G Semyon Varlamov (Giving up a #1 and #2 pick for him), to help fix that problem. The thing is, Varlamov has never played a full season yet. So giving up that much for him is a big time gamble, in my opinion. As for the Avs going into this season, they will do better than last year, but not well enough to contend for a playoff spot.
3. Minnesota Wild-Full team breakdown will be in tomorrow's post.
2. Calgary Flames-Last December, the Flames were playing like one of the worst teams in the NHL. But then, their GM Darryl Sutter was fired, and the team suddenly took off. They finished the season on a 27-11-9 tear, and finished just 2 points out of a playoff spot. This team is solid offensively (led by RW Jarome Iginla), and have a very solid presence in goal with Mikka Kiprusoff. However, their defense is average at best. They will need top blue liners Matt Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester to step up and now lead the defense, after Robyn Regehr was dealt to Buffalo this summer. I really can't explain why I believe in Calgary to finish second. It's really just a gut feeling. They somehow always find a way to get it done. And as long as they have Iginla, they should be good.
1. Vancouver Canucks-It’s hard to believe that the Canucks did not win the Cup last year. They simply were the complete package. They had the #1 ranked offense, #1 ranked defense, and arguably the #1 goalie in the NHL. But they were just simply outplayed in Game 7 against Boston. Not many changes for Vancouver heading in to this season. The only notable losses for the Canucks this summer were D Christian Erhoff and LW Raffi Torres. So essentially, they are bringing back the same team for 2011-12. And they should be just fine. This is still one of, if not the best team in the league. Look for Vancouver to compete for the West’s and NHL’s best record this season and make another deep run in the playoffs.