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Greg Wyshynski

Puck Daddy's 2010-11 Western Conference staff prognostications

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Can the Chicago Blackhawks repeat as Western Conference champions after their salary-cap purge? Was Evgeni Nabokov(notes) actually holding back the San Jose Sharks from championship glory? Will the Detroit Red Wings make another run as the clock ticks down on Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and Mike Modano(notes)?

Will the Los Angeles Kings regret not overpaying for Ilya Kovalchuk(notes)?

Have the Calgary Flames found the right combination to kick-start Jarome Iginla's(notes) game and supplant the Colorado Avalanche as the second-best team in the Northwest ... assuming the Vancouver Canucks are the potential Stanley Cup champions many believe they are?

Will the Phoenix Coyotes be in a playoff spot when we finally learn if they're returning to Winnipeg or not?

So many questions ... it's time for some predictions. Puck Daddy's 2010-11 NHL Season Prognostications are here, and we're starting in the Western Conference. (The East rolls on Thursday.) Check out yours truly, Leahy, Lambert, Chesnokov, Bourne and Nicks as we make bold predictions that will undoubtedly expose our boorish hubris by season's end.

So, who wins the West?

The standings, according to a panel Andy Sutton(notes) believes is an expert panel (he's seen the replay):

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Greg Wyshynski, Editor

1. Vancouver
2. San Jose
3. Detroit
4. Chicago
5. Los Angeles
6. Calgary
7. St. Louis
8. Nashville

West Champ: Detroit

The Western Conference features five sure things and 10 teams that are either going to be blockbusters or bombs. The Calgary Flames have the benefit of good goaltending and a lousy division (outside of Vancouver). The St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators will duel until the end, but both will end up making the cut. Colorado and Phoenix will come back down to earth, while Dallas will make a strong push for the postseason.

I selected the Red Wings as champion for two reasons: First, because I forgot about a USA Today deadline for making postseason predictions and pulled Detroit out of my ass first. Second, because outside of having a rock-solid veteran team, the nostalgic kick of seeing Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano attempt to go out on top is like catnip to me.

Sean Leahy, Associate Editor

1. Vancouver
2. San Jose
3. Detroit
4. Los Angeles
5. Chicago
6. Nashville
7. Phoenix
8. Colorado

West Champ: Vancouver Canucks.

For a while, I had the L.A. Kings pegged as my Western Conference and eventual Stanley Cup champion. Even a week ago that stood. Today, that's changed. Looking up and down the Canucks' lineup, they're going to be a force to reckon with out West. The Sedins will continue to help provide points for guys like Mason Raymond(notes), Ryan Kesler(notes) and Alex Burrows. Even without veteran leader Willie Mitchell(notes) on the backend, they got deeper by bringing on Dan Hamhuis(notes) and Keith Ballard(notes). Most importantly, removing the "C" from Roberto Luongo(notes) could be the solution to clearing him between the ears.

Ryan Lambert, Columnist

1. Vancouver
2. Detroit
3. Phoenix
4. Chicago
5. San Jose
6. Nashville
7. Calgary
8. St. Louis

West Champ: Vancouver

I look at Vancouver and see a team with almost no holes. People have said its one weakness is Luongo, and if a top-five goalie is somehow a weakness these days, then I don't know what to say to that. The Canucks are deep at every position. (Ed. Note: Lambert spaced and left the Sharks out at first. Thanks to the commenters for noting that.)

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Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer

1. Detroit
2. Vancouver
3. Los Angeles
4. Chicago
5. St. Louis
6. Colorado
7. Anaheim
8. San Jose

West Champ: Detroit

This has been a strange postseason. Some teams had to dump players to get under the cap. Other teams dumped players because their positions were no longer viewed as valuable. There were teams that improved just enough to be a contender again. Others thought they had a good enough squad and only signed a tough guy (the Hurricanes also thought they had a good enough squad last year after going to the conference finals the year before, and look what happened).

The return of Jiri Hudler(notes) and a relatively short summer for the Detroit Red Wings will help the team come out as the winner in the West. Los Angeles will build on last season's success while the Sharks will realize that good goal tendering is still valued.

Justin Bourne, Columnist

1. Vancouver
2. Chicago
3. San Jose
4. Detroit
5. Los Angeles
6. St. Louis
7. Nashville
8. Phoenix

West Champ: Vancouver Canucks

I struggled with a few things while making my predictions this year. First, the Northwest: Calgary/Minnesota/Colorado/Edmonton -- that's a pretty tight race. Even though I haven't liked the Flames' personnel moves, there's still enough there to be a force. The Minnesota Wild are much improved (being healthy helps), and I thought Colorado overachieved last year. Combine all that with the Edmonton Oilers picking up a full line of young razzle-dazzle but still not quite being "there" yet, and that's how I ended up with my order (but again, it'll be tight).

In the Pacific, I'd bet a hefty amount of money on my top three, but I wouldn't gamble spare change on the Dallas/Anaheim order. I actually sort of like the Stars roster this year, so I wouldn't be too shocked to see them have a better season. I'd have them ahead if it wasn't for Anaheim's top-three forwards all being so ridiculously good that I can't talk myself into betting against them.

Erin Nicks, Columnist

1. Vancouver
2. Detroit
3. L.A.
4. San Jose
5. Chicago
6. St. Louis
7. Phoenix
8. Colorado

West Champ: Detroit

Kings fans may have been glad to see the departure of maligned LW Alex Frolov, but his replacement Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes) is virtually interchangeable in the points department (59 and 51 points versus 61 and 50 during the last two seasons, respectively). Their left side may not have greatly improved, but Kings are bound to continue upward, as they continue to groom their young and elite talent. That said, I don't see them coming out on top as champs of the conference, despite them being a "sexy" pick.

Vancouver will remain as a beast in the West (at least during the regular season), but the pressure is still there. Postseason champs? Close, but no cigar, and same goes for San Jose (Dany Heatley(notes) can't be trusted after March). Phoenix's stellar run last season was called "Cinderella " for a reason, but it will still squeak in.

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