NHL Western Conference 2015-16: Puck Daddy’s predictions

The Eastern Conference prognostications are in; now it’s time to predict how the Western Conference will finish in the 2015-16 NHL season, with “predict” of course meaning “throw rhetorical darts in the hopes that at least one of these teams makes us look semi-intelligent.”

Will the Blues rule the Central again? Can the Flames, Jets and Canucks surprise again? According to our panel, maybe and mostly no!

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Your esteemed panel: Greg Wyshynski, NHL editor, Puck Daddy; Sean Leahy, editor, Puck Daddy; Jen Neale, editor, Puck Daddy; Josh Cooper, editor, Puck Daddy; Ryan Lambert, lead columnist, Puck Daddy; Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, fantasy columnist, Puck Daddy; Sam McCaig, NHL editor/columnist, Yahoo Sports.

Also, check out our predictions for this season’s NHL Awards and some predictions on trends and players like Connor McDavid.

Read previews for all 30 NHL teams this season here.

OK, now it's time for the West!

Greg Wyshynski, Editor, Puck Daddy 

Guess we should start with the obvious: No, I don’t have the Minnesota Wild making the playoffs. 

Which, incidentally, was disheartening when I saw four NHL.com writers selecting them to win the division. But someone in the Central is taking a step back, and my faith in Devan Dubnyk is a little shakier than yours apparently. (Also not a huge fan of what they have up the middle, and that’s where you win or lose in this conference.) 

The Blues capture the Central, and then will probably fail in the postseason. I really like the Stars taking the leap this season, with the influx of veteran talent augmenting Seguin and (a hopefully healthy) Benn.

Over in the Pacific, the California teams all make the cut, as the Sharks (under Peter DeBoer, whose best seasons are his earliest) and the Kings (just too talented, with a kick in the rear from Lucic) return to form. Meanwhile, the Flames maintain their form, avoiding the swoon other poor possession playoff teams suffered thanks to a blue line neither the Leafs or the Avalanche had during their collapses.

Sean Leahy, Editor, Puck Daddy

Central Division

Pacific Division

St. Louis Blues

Anaheim Ducks

Chicago Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings

Dallas Stars

Calgary Flames

Nashville Predators

San Jose Sharks

Winnipeg Jets

Vancouver Canucks

Minnesota Wild

Edmonton Oilers

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

This will finally be the season where the Stars are able to live up to the hype. GM Jim Nill has rebuilt that team into one of the most exciting to watch on a regular basis. The offensive talent is great, as we know, and they should be competent enough defensively and in net to get back into the postseason.

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Another hearty welcome back to the playoffs is in order for the Sharks. This season almost has a "last chance saloon" vibe to it for their veteran core. And we all know how successful Peter DeBoer is in his first seasons behind the bench for new teams.

Jen Neale, Editor, Puck Daddy

Central Division

Pacific Division

Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks

Chicago Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings

St. Louis Blues

Calgary Flames

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

Nashville Predators

Edmonton Oilers

Winnipeg Jets

Vancouver Canucks

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

Unless there is some sort of glitch in the matrix for a second straight year, the Sharks and Kings make their triumphant return to the post-season. Calgary is expected to regress but I believe they’re better than they were last year.

Chicago, still good despite “the distraction” and player losses. St. Louis, will be good in the regular season, but expect Hitchcock to be fired if they’re not - or even if they are and don’t win it all. Dallas is legitimately scary and have hedged their goaltending worries by bringing in Antti Niemi. 

And you're right, I do hate your favorite team.

Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn (14) acknowledges the fans' cheers after scoring his third goal of the game, as he sits next to Patrik Nemeth during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators, Saturday, April, 11, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)
Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn (14) acknowledges the fans' cheers after scoring his third goal of the game, as he sits next to Patrik Nemeth during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators, Saturday, April, 11, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)

Josh Cooper, Editor, Puck Daddy

Central Division

Pacific Division

Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks

St. Louis Blues

Los Angeles Kings

Nashville Predators

San Jose Sharks

Minnesota Wild

Edmonton Oilers

Chicago Blackhawks

Calgary Flames

Winnipeg Jets

Vancouver Canucks

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

The entire California trio will return to the playoffs a year after the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings missed the postseason in 2014-15. Both teams made solid moves in the offseason to make them competitive again. 

I don’t love the rest of the division for this year as far as playoff teams. The Flames should regress, even with the moves they made thanks to a system that doesn’t accentuate puck possession. Losing Jordan Eberle early in the season will hurt the Oilers and stem their summer momentum of landing Connor McDavid in the draft.

The Blackhawks will see a regular season drop-off thanks to having to jettison a lot of their core Stanley Cup pieces, though they should still be dangerous come playoff time.

The Dallas Stars should see benefits of their two-goaltender system as they win the Central Division.

Ryan Lambert, Columnist, Puck Daddy

Central Division

Pacific Division

Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks

Chicago Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings

St. Louis Blues

San Jose Sharks

Minnesota Wild

Vancouver Canucks

Nashville Predators

Edmonton Oilers

Winnipeg Jets

Calgary Flames

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

The Central is still a knife fight, and the Pacific is still a tire fire.

I’m not even confident that San Jose, with that goaltending situation, is necessarily better than Winnipeg, but there are plenty of free points to be had in the Pacific, and they unfortunately still let three teams per division get in.

Again, who cares? This is Anaheim’s conference to lose. 

Calgary’s better but a regression in percentages in the high-leverage situations where they shot like 20 percent last year is going to cost them far more points than most people are figuring on. Edmonton takes a huge step forward even with a lengthy no-Eberle period. Vancouver misses because it’s bad, etc.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Columnist, Puck Daddy

Central Division

Pacific Division

Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks

Minnesota Wild

Calgary Flames

Chicago Blackhawks

Edmonton Oilers

St. Louis Blues

Los Angeles Kings

Winnipeg Jets

San Jose Sharks

Nashville Predators

Vancouver Canucks

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

This one is interesting because the Central Division is so powerful that Nashville will actually have more points than Calgary or Edmonton yet the Preds won't get into the postseason because the Pacific needs three teams to represent.

Furthermore, I have the Avalanche finishing ahead of the Oilers but again - they can't get in because the Pacific needs three teams. So a team finishing 10th in the conference - the Oilers - will get into the playoffs. Go figure. But that's the Pacific this year - a weak division other than the Ducks. Vancouver will be the team to take the biggest step back, while the Oilers are the most improved.

Sam McCaig, NHL Editor, Yahoo Sports

Central Division

Pacific Division

St. Louis Blues

Anaheim Ducks

Chicago Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings

Dallas Stars

Calgary Flames

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

Nashville Predators

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

Edmonton Oilers

Colorado Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes

The top seven teams in the West appear to be shoo-ins for the playoffs. The Central Division is stacked, and we like five teams – the Blues, Blackhawks, Stars, Wild and Predators – to join the Ducks and Kings from the Pacific, and we’ll go with the Flames as the third Pacific team to make it in. 

The Jets and Avs – i.e. the “worst” teams in the Central Division – are both legitimate threats to crack the top eight in the West if one of the favorites falters, and the Sharks and perhaps the Canucks have a chance, too. Edmonton might be able to score but the Oilers need to prove they can keep the puck out of the net; the Coyotes are the odds-on favorite to be drafting first overall next June.

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