The Western Conference is clearly the stronger of the two sides in the NHL. As powerful and deep as it is, it is quite top-heavy. Before making your NHL Future Playoff picks, we invite you to check out our predictions.
With all due respect to teams like Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Arizona and Nashville, they’ll have a tough time competing with the big boys. That means we’re likely to see the same eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. Keep this in mind before making your next NHL picks.
1. St. Louis Blues
The Blues are an excellent regular season team, and their issues don’t seem to crop up until the playoffs start. They have Jake Allen and Brian Elliott between the pipes, which is just fine given how strong their blue line is. Now they’ve added Paul Stastny to give the offense a jolt. They’ll win a lot of games in the regular season and possibly the Presidents’ Trophy.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are in a similar boat: they do great in the regular season and their goaltending woes don’t show up until playoff time. It’s hard to argue with a lineup that includes Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and now Ryan Kesler. They scored the most goals in the NHL last season and could very well do it again.
3. Colorado Avalanche
Even without Stastny and P.A. Parenteau, I expect the Avs to climb in the standings. This is a team that’s getting better by the day thanks to experience. Nathan McKinnon is a burgeoning star, Matt Duchene is great and Gabriel Landeskog is solid. The team has added plenty of veteran talent to help the youngsters develop and achieve. Dating back to the trade deadline, they’ve added Alex Tanguay, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere to a team that was already very good. They should now be a Stanley Cup contender in 2014-15.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks will undoubtedly be one of the best teams in the NHL next season. Just look at their murderer’s row of offensive weapons: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell. They added Brad Richards on the cheap in free agency, which can only help. They’ve played a lot of hockey over the last few years with numerous deep playoff runs. That means fatigue will be the only thing keeping them from a higher seed but it probably won’t make a difference come playoff time.
5. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have a loaded roster but they don’t always look too hungry in the regular season. Locking up Marian Gaborik should help their offense but it’s hard to imagine Darryl Sutter’s club over exerting themselves in the regular season – especially since home-ice advantage has meant so little to the Kings in the playoffs.
6. Dallas Stars
The Stars look like they’re a team on the rise in the West. While their defense is quite questionable, they should be one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. They were 11th in scoring already but added playmakers Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky via free agency. Along with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Erik Cole, Rich Peverly and Valerie Nichushkin. That’s enough to get them comfortably inside the top eight.
7. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are a team that is quite talented but can’t solve the postseason puzzle. With talent like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, they’re very likely still a playoff team. However, they’re losing faith in themselves and head coach Todd McClellan. Expect a dip in their point total next season.
8. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are a team that’s hard to figure out. Their goaltenders were ravaged by injuries last season, yet they still managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. Still, their lineup just doesn’t look that impressive on paper. Yes, Thomas Vanek should help but they lost Matt Moulson, so that may not be as big of a gain as some expect. This team is still likely to be first-round fodder come playoff time.