5. Phoenix Coyotes-The Coyotes have made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. But they did so more on the strength of their defense and goaltending. But they lost key players D Ed Jovanovski and G Ilya Bryzgalov this past offseason. And the Coyotes now are looking to Mike Smith to fill Bryzgalov's shoes between the pipes. Not exactly the best guy for the job. You have to give coach Dave Tippett a lot of credit for what he did the past few years there. But the run ends this year.
4. Dallas Stars-With Brad Richards, the Stars were a team that was contending for a playoff spot. Without Richards, this is a team that won't be anywhere near the postseason. Yes, the Stars still have Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribero. But they lack a good supporting cast and solid goaltending. Kari Lehtonen has posted poor GAA and Save Percentages, and will be too heavily relied on this year. Don't expect much from the Stars this year, as they finish towards the bottom of the Western Conference.
3. Anaheim Ducks-Anaheim boasts one of the best lines in all of hockey, with Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and reigning MVP Corey Perry as their number one line. Its a line that put up nearly 250 points last year, and will be expected to do the same again. Teemu Selanne and his 80 points also return to the Ducks this year. The main concern for Anaheim is on the defensive side. They ranked 20th in defense last year, and made no big acquisitions to help correct that deficiency. They also don't know what to expect from their net minder Jonas Hiller, who suffered Vertigo symptoms last year. Despite those issues, the Ducks still make the postseason, but will see a first round exit.
2. Los Angeles Kings-On the day before the NHL Draft in June, the Kings made a huge offseason splash, by trading for Flyers C Mike Richards. It made this team a real contender in the western conference. They were a horrible offensive team last year, but thanks to their great defense, they were able to make it into the playoffs for a second straight year. Richards and Simon Gagne will help add some more scoring depth to the Kings. And this team is now instantly a top 4 team in the West. So hopefully, they can make an appearance in the second round of the playoffs.
1. San Jose Sharks-The past two years have seen San Jose make it to the Western Conference Finals. But both times, they didn't even come close to the Campbell Trophy. So, a change was needed. And they turned to the Wild for some needed change. The Sharks first acquired D-Man Brent Burns from MIN, then eventually traded sniper Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. The Sharks have brought in those new faces to help bring a new result to San Jose. There is literally no weakness on this team, and they should be making another deep run in the playoffs come next April. But can they put the past behind them and finally make it into the Cup finals?
Tomorrow's post looks at the Central Division