Gut Reactions: The Northwest Division

Instead of going team-by-team, let’s stick some gut reactions into tidy divisional formats. Then at the end I’ll share wild guesses on playoff seeding and maybe a blindfolded dart throw at a Stanley Cup champion. You’re WELCOME.

1. Calgary Flames
Appetizers: Getting rid of “Mad” Mike Keenan, having three top-2 defensemen, Jarome effin’ Iginla, Olli Jokinen in a contract year, the fact that Kipper couldn’t perform much worse than he did last year.

Reach for the TUMS: Not too much beyond Iggy, have you SEEN Olli Jokinen?, Kipper could simply be on a free fall.

Weigh-in: The Flames aren’t a perfect hockey team, but they’re in the right division. Though each team brings something to the table, none of Calgary’s opponents will overload them with scoring talent.
2. Vancouver Canucks (the original gut reactions on Vancouver)
Chips and dip: They employ arguably the best goalie in the NHL, locked up the Cyborg Sedins for the mid-range future, chock full of ruggedness, still sports a splendid defense even without Ohlund.
Band-aid in the pasta: Andrew effin Raycroft, the Vancouver Olympics will make the Canucks have a crazy road schedule, the team has a general lack of monetary motivation, not a ton of high-end offense.
Verdict: As a pure team, I think Vancouver might be the best. However, the schedule is negative and their best players (Sedins + Luongo) are locked up which means they don’t have that contract year carrot dangling in front of them.

3. Minnesota Wild

Bread and butter: A nice goaltending tandem, Mikko Koivu, no longer dealing with Jacques Lemaire comb over jokes … uhhh ….
Bland, flavorless meat loaf: Do you really think they’re going to open it up? They lose Gaborik but make sure to give their trainers ample company by signing Martin Havlat.
Check: The NW Division falls off noticeably after Vancouver and Calgary (although this division always seems to revel in scrappy play).
4. Edmonton Oilers
Maple Syrup: Ales Hemsky is a diamond in the rough, young players can make a nice jump, Sheldon Souray slap shots his anger away.
Poorly digested Pecans: The Bulin Wall tends to turn into a dilapidated fence in non-contract years, Edmonton is (apparently) a godforsaken hellhole.

So…: The Oilers could scrap their way into a playoff spot, but my gut feeling is that they’ll tease for a few months and then putter their way to a golf course.

5. Colorado Avalanche
Calamari with a squeeze of lemon: Paul Stastny is quite good if arguably overpaid, they’re finally sucking it up and rebuilding after settling for mediocrity and nostalgia since the lockout, they’re not paying much for mediocre goaltending.
Rocky Mountain oysters: Their blue line is infested with crappy $3-4 million defensemen not named Kyle. The growing pains are going to hurt … can fans who’ve been spoiled since Day 1 be counted on when the team isn’t competing for a Cup for a few years?
Dessert: Keep your heads up, Avs fans. It’s time to yank that band-aid off instead of watching your skin peel back slowly.
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