2009-10 NHL Preview: Northwest Division
Total Pro Sports – With the start of the 2009-10 NHL Season upon us it’s time to take a look and see how each team stacks up. As per the norm, each preview will be broken down by division in order of how we think the team will finish.
Lets take a look at the Northwest Division for the 2009-10 NHL Preview.
1. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks surprised most people last season by winning the Northwest division. Unfortunately they ran into a younger and hungrier team in Chicago and were eliminated in the 2nd round.
Bringing back Daniel and Henrik Sedin was a great move as they’ve established themselves as true 1st line players in the NHL. Another great move was the signing of another Swede…Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson will provide the Canucks with a solid 2nd line winger who’s also capable of playing on the 1st line with the Sedin Twins. Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows will look to build off of career seasons and once healthy Pavol Demitra will look to start where he left off last season. Rookie Sergei Shirokov will be an interesting player to watch as he’s had a great camp and will be starting off on the 1st line with Daniel and Henrik.
Despite the loss of Mattias Ohlund, Vancouver is still pretty solid on defence. Kevin Bieksa will be looking for another 40+ point and 80+ penalty minute season and Alexander Edler will look to build off of a successful sophomore season. Willie Mitchell and Shane O’Brien will use their toughness to help keep the puck out of the net and Sami Salo provides both solid defence and a booming shot from the point. Although he’s currently injured, Mathieu Schneider was a solid addition and will really help the power play.
Roberto Luongo, who would have reached his 2nd career 40+ win season if it weren’t for being injured, should have another great season, especially in the first half as he’ll want to show Hockey Canada that he’s worthy of being the starter for the Olympics which are in Vancouver. Andrew Raycroft has looked solid in preseason but time will tell how long that lasts.
2. Calgary Flames
2008-09 was a disappointing season for Calgary as they weren’t able to win the division and had an early exit from the playoffs.
Not filling the spot of the departed Mike Cammalleri will really come back to haunt the Flames this year. Jarome Iginla is a great player and Olli Jokinen is an underrated centre and has had a solid preseason. However, the offence dips off from there. Daymond Langkow is a decent 2nd line centre, but he unfortunately doesn’t have any real 2nd line wingers to play with. Unless players like Nigel Dawes, David Moss and Fredrik Sjostrom vastly overachieve this season Calgary will have real difficulty scoring this year.
Defence is Calgary’s bright spot and what a bright spot it is. Acquiring Jay Bouwmeester was a great move and should really help their power play. Dion Phaneuf will look to rebound after a so-so 2008-09 season and Robyn Regehr will keep players honest when coming into the Flames’ zone. Both Cory Sarich and Mark Giordano are tough defencemen capable of putting up 20 or so points.
Miikka Kiprusoff will probably see less work this season as he had his 3rd career 40+ win season last year while playing in a staggering 76 games. Curtis McElhinney on the other hand had a terrible 2008-09 season posting just one win in 14 games played with a .889 SAV% and 3.59 GAA.
3. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers made an impressive late run for the playoffs last season but fell a few points short. The positive is that this is still a young team and should improve for the 2009-10 season.
Up front Edmonton has a fair amount of speed and skill. Shawn Horcoff will look to up his point total from last year and prove that he’s a #1 centre. Ales Hemsky is in the same boat as the still fairly young winger looks to improve on his 66 points from last season. Mike Comrie was a solid signing as he’ll look good centering the 2nd line and Dustin Penner should have a career year with a potential increase in ice time. Some of the young core players like Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner will look to have rebound seasons and play a big part in the team’s secondary scoring.
On defence the Oilers look pretty solid. Sheldon Souray will look to duplicate his terrific 2008-09 season totals and Lubomir Visnovsky should total 40+ points if he stays healthy. Steve Staios is as solid as a rock and Tom Gilbert should be able to put up 40+ points again. Denis Grebeshkov finally showed why the Kings took him 18th overall in the 2002 draft and Ladislav Smid will continue to progress as he learns how to use his large 6’3 frame to his advantage.
Despite the loss of Dwayne Roloson, the Oilers are still solid in net as they brought in 2004 Cup winner Nikolai Khabibulin. Jeff Deslauriers had a solid 2008-09 season and is a very capable backup.
4. Minnesota Wild
Well, the Minnesota Wild sure made me look stupid last year. Not only did they finish 3rd in the division, I said they’d win it, but they failed to make the playoffs.
Now that the Jacques Lemaire chains have been freed, look for this forward group to surprise some people and put a few pucks in the net. Have always been a Pierre-Marc Bouchard fan and expect a rebound season out of him. Both Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora are great fits for the newly designed Wild as they’re fast skilled wingers capable of 60+ points. Mikko Koivu should have another great season and I look for him to crack the 70+ point mark.
On defence the Wild have a solid top 3, after that it gets a bit dicey. Marek Zidlicky continued his offensive ways and will be good for another 40+ point season. Brent Burns will rebound after a disappointing 2008-09 season that saw him play in 59 games. Nick Schultz is the last of the trio and will be looked upon to play solid in his own end like usual and chip in the odd point here and there. Out of the bottom 6 guys, Jaime Sifers is intriguing. He played well when called upon in Toronto last season and is a real hard-nosed no none-sense type of defender.
In net Minny is rock solid with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, quite possibly the best tandem in the NHL this year.
5. Colorado Avalanche
No real surprise obtaining a top 3 pick last year. They do have some nice pieces in place but still have a long way to go.
One of the big reasons why the Avs faired poorly last season was because of Paul Stastny. Stastny managed just 36 points in an injury plagued season that saw him play in just 45 games. Wojtek Wolski, another young skilled forward the Avs are dependent on, also had a disappointing season scoring just 14 goals and 28 assists for 41 points. 3rd overall pick Matt Duchene will be a great NHL player but how much impact he has in his first year is questionable as he doesn’t have a lot to work with.
On defence Colorado looks alright. They don’t have a true #1 defenceman yet, but as a group they should be able to do a decent job. Despite his age, Adam Foote is still fairly effective in his own end and Ruslan Salei is an underrated physical defender. John-Michael Liles leads the offensive attack from the blue line and will be getting some help this year from Kyle Quincey. Tom Preissing is another solid addition and Scott Hannan will continue his punishing ways in defending the Avs territory.
Colorado still remains weak between the pipes. Craig Anderson is an upgrade over what we saw from Andrew Raycroft last year but if you’re pushing for the playoffs he isn’t your #1. Peter Budaj is a reliable backup, but like Anderson, not great option as a starter.