NHL: My Western Conference Picks

The NHL season starts off today. Here is my Western Conference ranking/picks.

CENTRAL
1. Chicago Blackhawks*
2. St. Louis Blues*
3. Minnesota Wild*
4. Nashville Predators
5. Dallas Stars
6. Colorado Avalanche
7. Winnipeg Jets

Comment: Reigning cup-champs Chicago Blackhawks has to be touted as the favorite in the Central Division after keeping the core of the team intact along with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading the offensive. St. Louis Blues will put up a fight for the division title, the team is a machine that has a lot of offensive depth and of the better defensive lineups in the league. Minnesota should be capable of grabbing the third spot, especially if Ryan Suter keeps the level of play he showed during the second half of last season but if Pekka Rinne bounces back, Nashville could be in the race as well. Dallas, Colorado and Winnipeg are teams on the rise, but a few pieces are missing before they will be in contention (in Colorados case 3 or 4 D-men).

PACIFIC
1. Los Angeles Kings*
2. San Jose Sharks*
3. Anaheim Ducks*
4. Phoenix Coyotes**
5. Vancouver Canucks**
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Calgary Flames

Comment: Los Angeles squad is the pretty much the same as the one winning the cup in 2011/2012 and is looking a cut above the other ones in the Pacific Division if key players such as Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar performs. With both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on the last year of their contracts, it feels like the last shot for Sharks to make it with this group of players, will probably be a good regular-season team and then crash out in the first round of the playoffs. The Ducks overachieved in the shortened lockout season and the loss of Bobby Ryan will be felt in the short term, but the Duckies are still good enough up front to secure a playoff spot. Phoenix finally have new owners, and there is a feeling of optimism in the Valley of the sun. Mike Ribeiro is a great pickup for the Coyotes and will get the power play going. The defensive core of the team is one of the better in the league with future Norris contender Oliver Ekman-Larsson leading the way. The Canucks have a new coach and a new system and I’m not sure that Tortorella will be a success in Vancouver. Another question mark is secondary scoring, but the Sedin twins are good enough to lead the Canucks to the final wild card spot. Edmonton are an exciting team, but I still think they are a year away from being a playoff team. They will not be far off though. Calgary will be in the bottom of the division (and probably the whole league) and all they can hope for is that the young kids get seasoned and that they win the draft lottery.

* Playoff teams

** Wild card

Western Conference Final: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Stanley Cup Final: Los Angeles Kings

Sebastian Norén

Sebastian Norén

Sebastian Norén is a 29-year-old sports-fanatic from Gothenburg, Sweden. Seb Emigrated to the United States in 2006 to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist. After a couple of years at Santa Barbara City College, Sebastian moved to Phoenix to attend Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where he graduated in late 2011. Sebastian has been covering the Phoenix Coyotes for Swedish sports site SvenskaFans.com since 2011 and also hosts the site’s weekly NHL podcast. Besides hockey, Sebastian is a lover of UFC, soccer, football and basketball. Follow Sebastian on Twitter @SebNoren

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