With Los Angeles still in celebration mode after the Kings' Stanley Cup victory, our capper is eager to share his personal early Western Conference power rankings, and the corresponding early betting odds for each team’s chances to advance the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (7-2)
This is a franchise since 2010 that’s won 2 Stanley Cups, and advanced to the Conference Finals 3-times. They fell short of a chance to defend their title by losing Game 7 in overtime to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Conference Finals. With a roster that will stay pretty much intact, and what’s arguably the best coaching staff in the NHL, this is a team that won’t be going away anytime soon.
2. Los Angeles Kings (5-1)
This club has won the Stanley Cup in 2 of the past 3 seasons, and advanced to the Conference Finals in 3 consecutive years. Their run to capturing the 2014 Stanley Cup was one of the most epic in nature of any that was witnessed in professional sports history. There’s been just one repeat champion since 1998, and just two since 1992. History is against the Kings returning to the pinnacle.
3. Colorado Avalanche (7-1)
What can be said about the job that rookie head coach Patrick Roy did with this young and unproven club? Their overachieving regular season didn’t carry into the playoffs where they were upset in the first round by the Minnesota Wild. However, this is a young team that’s on the rise, and will continue to be a major player next season.
4. San Jose Sharks (6-1)
You have to wonder what Sharks players were thinking when seeing the Los Angeles Kings grind their way to winning the 2014 Stanley Cup. After all, that was the same Kings team that they possessed a 3-0 series lead against in the opening round of the playoffs, and then proceeded to be the 4th team in the history of the NHL to lose a series after winning the first 3-games. Resiliency and character will be under the psychological profile analysis in the upcoming season.
5. Minnesota Wild (7-1)
As I mentioned in my previous article titled “2015 Stanley Cup Future Odds”, the Wild are one of my sleeper teams. If they’re able to address the goaltending dilemma whether inside or outside the organization, then watch out for the Wild in the upcoming campaign.
6. Anaheim Ducks (6-1)
The Ducks accumulated the most points in the Western Conference during the regular season and seemed primed to make a deep postseason run. That plight came to an abrupt end in the Conference Semifinals when they lost in 7-games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
7. St. Louis Blues (5-1)
It’s hard for me to take the Blues seriously until they can translate regular season success to postseason triumphs. The acquisition of goaltender Ryan Miller from the Sabres at the trade deadline failed miserably, and in an all too familiar theme, they were eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs once again.
8. Winnipeg Jets (25-1)
I didn’t think the Jets were far from a legitimate playoff team a season ago. With a couple of roster additions and subtractions they will have an excellent chance to finally get over the hump.
9. Dallas Stars (15-1)
Lindy Ruff did a tremendous job in his first season behind the bench for the Dallas Stars as they qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. Tyler Seguin was terrific after coming over in an offseason trade from Boston, and resembled the player who was so highly coveted coming out of the OHL junior ranks. I look for this team to make some more strides in the season ahead.
10. Phoenix Coyotes (25-1)
It’s hard for me to get excited about the prospects of this team, despite them being very competitive last season. Obviously, the fan base seems to share my lack of excitement in this regards, as the Coyotes draw crowds that appear to have just friends and family in attendance on a regular basis.
11. Vancouver Canucks (25-1)
How did that move of firing former head coach Alain Vigneault, and replacing him with former Rangers bench boss John Tortorella turn out? Need I say more? This is an organization that looks to be in disarray, and their key players lack the intestinal fortitude to get this turned around quickly.
12. Calgary Flames (50-1)
The Flames definitely improved their play throughout the 2nd half of last season. Whether or not they can continue that momentum into next season remains to be seen. I still believe that they’re a few players away from being a playoff contender, and unfortunately this is an organization that doesn’t exactly have the reputation of spending money to improve the product on the ice.
13. Nashville Predators (50-1)
The Predators will embark on their first season in franchise history without Barry Trotz as their head coach. This is a team that will be in a tough transitional period, especially during the first half of next season. I don’t expect much here and wouldn't recommend choosing for your next hockey pick.
14. Edmonton Oilers (25-1)
Quite frankly I’m just tired of making excuses for the Oilers. If a roster’s potential won Stanley Cups, then the Oilers franchise would’ve returned to their heydays over the past 2 seasons. This is a team full of underachieving former first-round draft choices that’s going nowhere fast.