NHL Western Conference preview

The LA Kings will be looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Robert Gauthier/LA Times//AP
The LA Kings will be looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Teams listed in their predicted order of finish:

1. St. Louis Blues

Coach: Ken Hitchcock (second season).

Record: 49-22-11, 109 points, second in West.


Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in second round.

Get Breaking Sports Alerts in your inbox:
Be the first to know the latest sports news as it happens.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Notable: The Blues are Bruins West. Sound in goal with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Alex Pietrangelo could push for the Norris Trophy shortly. Four-line depth up front, led by David Backes, St. Louis’s version of Patrice Bergeron. Even an ex-Bruin in Vladimir Sobotka.

2. Los Angeles Kings

Coach: Darryl Sutter (second season).

Record: 40-27-15, 95 points, eighth in West.

Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup.


Notable: The Cup hangover shouldn’t be an issue because of the lockout. The majority of the roster is returning. Might take some time for Jonathan Quick to find his puck-stopping rhythm because of offseason back surgery. Anze Kopitar will not be ready to start because of a knee injury.

3. Vancouver Canucks

Coach: Alain Vigneault (seventh season).

Record: 51-22-9, 111 points, first in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in first round.

Notable: Marblehead’s Cory Schneider replaces Roberto Luongo as the top dog in goal. Schneider has the talent to be a No. 1. Canucks will need Schneider to be sharp early. Vancouver will be without second-liners Ryan Kesler and David Booth to start. Lots of pressure on Henrik and Daniel Sedin to carry the offensive load.

4. Phoenix Coyotes


Coach: Dave Tippett (fourth season).

Record: 42-27-13, 97 points, third in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in conference finals.

Notable: Mike Smith submitted a career season (38-18-10, 2.21 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) last season. Smith is aided by Tippett’s defense-first system. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle will see lots of ice time on the blue line. Shane Doan is one of the league’s best leaders.

5. Minnesota Wild

Coach: Mike Yeo (second season).

Record: 35-36-11, 81 points, 12th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: Hard not to improve when you bring in the heavy artillery. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, signed to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts, give the Wild instant top-tier talent. Mikko Koivu is a solid two-way center. There isn’t much defensive depth, so Niklas Backstrom better be sharp in goal.

6. Edmonton Oilers

Coach: Ralph Krueger (first season).

Record: 32-40-10, 74 points, 14th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: The Oilers may finally see their reward for previous rotten seasons. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had been skating regular shifts in Oklahoma City. Justin Schultz, a free agent out of the University of Wisconsin, may have been the AHL’s best defenseman. As always, goaltending will be the difference. Devan Dubnyk has potential, but has yet to establish himself as a consistent goalie.

7. Detroit Red Wings

Coach: Mike Babcock (eighth season).

Record: 48-28-6, 102 points, fifth in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Nashville in first round.

Notable: Impossible to replace Nicklas Lidstrom, one of best defensemen ever. The Wings also lost ex-Bruin Brad Stuart. Niklas Kronwall will have to assume more ice time as a top-pairing D-man. Loads of skill and experience up front in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary, and Johan Franzen.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

Coach: Joel Quenneville (fifth season).

Record: 45-26-11, 101 points, sixth in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Phoenix in first round.

Notable: The Blackhawks have varsity skill up front in Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. Same on the back end with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Not so in goal. Corey Crawford has never been a go-to goalie. Who’s to say things will change this season?

9. Nashville Predators

Coach: Barry Trotz (14th season).

Record: 48-26-8, 104 points, fourth in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Phoenix in second round.

Notable: The Predators lost Ryan Suter to free agency, and nearly said goodbye to Shea Weber via a Philadelphia offer sheet, which they had no choice but to match. With Suter gone, Weber and Pekka Rinne will have to be even sharper. As usual, Nashville has no game-changing forwards.

10. Anaheim Ducks

Coach: Bruce Boudreau (second season).

Record: 34-36-12, 80 points, 13th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: The Ducks have star power in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Teemu Selanne. But that top-tier skill hasn’t translated to wins. GM Bob Murray signed some defensive help in Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen via free agency. The Ducks will need more from young D-man Cam Fowler. Jonas Hiller is a workhorse, but might need some help.

11. Dallas Stars

Coach: Glen Gulutzan (second season).

Record: 42-35-5, 89 points, 10th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: Ex-Bruin Michael Ryder ripped up the offense with a career-high 35 goals last season. Dallas will need similar production from the right wing, especially if the Stars don’t bring Jamie Benn into the fold soon. Graybeard signings Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr could blow up if they don’t knock the rust off their legs.

12. San Jose Sharks

Coach: Todd McLellan (fourth season).

Record: 43-29-10, 96 points, seventh in West.

Playoffs: Lost to St. Louis in first round.

Notable: Puzzling why this much star power — Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle — falls short of expectations each year. This could be McLellan’s last crack at the helm. Antti Niemi has a ring from Chicago, but hasn’t looked like a Cup-capable goalie with the Sharks.

13. Colorado Avalanche

Coach: Joe Sacco (fourth season).

Record: 41-35-6, 88 points, 11th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: Only 20 years old, Gabriel Landeskog will serve as captain. Landeskog is one of the franchise’s building blocks, but it will take several more years for Colorado to draft and develop a stronger supporting cast. Hard to see GM Greg Sherman lasting for much longer if the tough times continue.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets

Coach: Todd Richards (second season).

Record: 29-46-7, 65 points, 15th in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: First, the Blue Jackets send captain Rick Nash to the Rangers. Then Columbus loses the 2013 All-Star Game because of the lockout. The Blue Jackets have prospects in Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, and John Moore. They liked what Jack Johnson brought last season. But too many questions in goal between Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason.

15. Calgary Flames

Coach: Bob Hartley (first season).

Record: 37-29-16, 90 points, ninth in West.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Notable: The yearly question of trading Jarome Iginla might finally come into play this season. The aging right wing is entering the final season of his contract. The Flames have committed far too much payroll to Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Mike Cammalleri for such little results. GM Jay Feaster must be patient with this rebuild.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.