10/06/2011 05:54 PM
Western Conference - O/U Picks
October 6, 2011
The puck drops this week for the 2011-12 NHL season! But before the fun begins, a quick update on how the season is shaping up, and selected predictions on the best “over/under” season points totals posted at various sports books in Las Vegas.
Let the division-by-division preview commence. Posted point totals ( ) being offered in Las Vegas for the season are included ...
Chicago Blackhawks (102 ½)...The Hawks lost an awful lot from their Cup-winning side of 2009-2010, so last year’s backslide was not totally unexpected. But after a year of retooling, expect another run at the Cup this season, with the additions of winger Michael Frolik from the Panthers and rugged defender Steve Montador from the Sabres looking like useful upgrades to go along with the veteran core of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Only concerns are in goal, where second-year Corey Crawford must prove his encouraging rookie season was no fluke. “Over” at United Center.
Detroit Red Wings (104 ½)... How long can the veteran core continue to keep the Wings afloat? Twenty straight playoff appearances speak to the consistent excellence of the franchise, but the desperation which the club used to coax 41-year-old defender Niklas Lidstrom to put off retirement for one more year suggest some concerns. The lines paced by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zettterberg remain potent enough to get the Wings back to the playoffs, and young wing Justin Abdelkader is a star on the rise, but not sure Detroit is a top-shelf Cup contender this year unless Jimmy Howard steps it up in goal. “Under” at Joe Louis Arena.
Nashville Predators (92 ½)...Slow and steady, the Mitt Romneys of the NHL, the Preds enter 2011-12 off of their first-ever playoff success (beat Anaheim in 6 games in last spring’s first round). Stability reflected in the fact that GM David Poile and coach Barry "The Vampire" Trotz have held those positions since the franchise was formed, and there is now real star power at Preds game with Carrie Underwood a regular spectator to watch hubby Mike Fisher score goals. Defenseman Ryan Suter and Shea Ward are among the league’s best, and any team with giant Pekka Rinne in goal is going to be tough. The Trotz system that mucks up action at center ice will frustrate enough foes to get Nashville back to the postseason. “Over” at Bridgestone Arena.
St. Louis Blues (91 ½)...Can it be more than 40 years since the Plagers, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, and Red Berenson made the Blues the rage of the first wave of expansion teams in the late ‘60s? Another sale of the franchise casts more questions upon the operation, but winger Chris Stewart showed lots of upside after being acquired from Colorado midway last season. Still, better work is needed from GK Jaroslav Halak to get the Blues back to the playoffs and perhaps save the job of coach Davis Payne. No call at Scottrade Center.
Columbus Blue Jackets (85 ½)...They’ve never had much of a power play in Columbus since the Blue Jackets were formed n 2000, but there’s hope that offseason addition center Jeff Carter can perhaps alleviate some of those woes. Adding defender James Wisniewski and winger Vinny Prospal look to be other useful upgrades, but we still have big questions about GK Steve Mason. No call at Nationwide Arena.
Vancouver Canucks (106 ½)...It was kind of a traumatic way to end last season, first collapsing in the Cup finals vs. Boston, losing Game Seven at home after blowing a 2-0 series lead, then watching your city go up in flames after the humiliation on the ice. Unnerving to say the least. The Canucks were still the best NHL team for much of last year and retain much of the nucleus that got the franchise to the Finals for the first time since 1994. The core of that bunch, led by the Sedin twins, remains, so don’t expect much dropoff. No call at GM Place.
Calgary Flames (90 ½)...After Christmas, the Flames were one of the league’s best teams last season (27-11-9), although they were wretched the first two-plus months of the campaign. There is enough firepower at coach Brent Sutter’s disposal, especially if veteran Jarome Iginla rediscovers his best goal-scoring form, but not sure the Flames can play the type of defense Sutter demands. Expected quality and depth in goal with Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson makes Calgary a team to watch. “Over” at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Minnesota Wild (82 ½)... GM Chuck Fletcher didn’t sit on his hands in the offseason, jettisoning coach Todd Richards and promoting coach Mike Yeo from minor league affiliate Houston. Then he made a couple of bold personnel moves, adding sniper Devin Setoguchui and former 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley from the Sharks to inject some life into a pedestrian offense. If the changes work, the Wild can exceed last year’s 86 points. “Over” at St. Paul’s Xcel Center.
Edmonton Oilers (77 ½)...Perhaps this will be the year the rebuild process in Edmonton begins to deliver some results; then again, maybe it won't. Youth has been complemented by some veteran skill (Eric Belanger to help the worst face-off team in the NHL) and toughness (Danny Hordichuk and Ben Eager). But unless GK Nikolai Khabibuiln rebounds in a big way from a disappointing 2010-11, hard to see the Oilers improving more than 15 points from last year’s league-worst total of 62. “Under” at Rexall Place.
Colorado Avalanche (75 ½)... After allowing an NHL-high 288 goals last term, GM Greg Sherman knew where the Avs needed upgrades--defense and goaltending. So he went about seeking to improve both areas in the offseason. Size was added on the blue line with Jan Hejda and Shane O’Brien, while former Ducks star Jean-Sebastian Giguere is the new number one keeper. If the upgrades deliver, the Avs could be better than expected. “Over” at Pepsi Center.
San Jose Sharks (103 ½)...Tired of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals doorstep, only to continually be turned away, Sharks GM Doug Wilson tweaked the formula in the offseason, sending out Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, adding a rugged defender in Brett Burns and perhaps an upgrade over Heatley on the wing in Martin Havlat. The clock is ticking, however, on forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, and defender Dan Boyle, all on the other side of 30. “Over” at HP Pavilion.
Los Angeles Kings (102 ½)...This might be the year GM Dean Lombardi’s well-constructed rebuild plans finally come to fruition. Getting star defender Drew Doughty to end his contact squabbles was a big plus, but keeping center Anze Kopitar and wings Justin Williams and newly-added Simon Gagne healthy for the long haul are question marks. At least GK Jonathan Quick looks like the Kings’ best netminder since Rogie Vachon, or Kelly Hrudey for those partial to the Gretzky years. No call at Staples Center.
Anaheim Ducks (95 ½)...Plenty of firepower at coach Randy Carlyle’s disposal with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaff, and Bobby Ryan forming one of the most-potent lines in the league. But not sure about GK Jonas Hiller and his worrisome vertigo systems that could force backup Dan Ellis into first-string status at any time. No call at Honda Center.
Phoenix Coyotes (87 ½)...Thanks to the city of Glendale stepping in to bail out the team on a short-term basis, it was Atlanta, and not Phoenix, that moved to Winnipeg in the offseason. Given a reprieve in the desert, the Coyotes still don’t have much money to spend upon reinforcements, and watching GK Ilya Bryzgalov leave for Philadelphia puts a big question mark in goal with ex-King Jason LaBarbera and ex-Lightning Mike Smith now manning the nets. A dropoff from last year’s 99 points looks inevitable, but we’re not sure how far. No call at Jobing.com Arena.
Dallas Stars (87 ½)...The franchise has emerged from bankruptcy with new ownership, but the loss of star center Brad Richards to the Rangers hardly helps the on-ice product. “Under” at American Airlines Center.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: