Scouting reports on NHL Western Conference teams for 2014-15. Listed in order of predicted finish.
1. St. Louis
Coach: Ken Hitchcock (fourth season with St. Louis).
Record: 52-23-7, 111 points, 3d in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Western Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Wicked talent on back end in Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Carl Gunnarsson. Paul Stastny was an excellent July 1 pickup.
Coach: Joel Quenneville (seventh season with Chicago).
Record: 46-21-15, 107 points, 5th in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Western Conference final.
Notable: The Blackhawks know how to turn it up in the playoffs. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith will lead the charge. Brandon Saad could join that group this year. They’ll be playing in June.
Coach: Lindy Ruff (second season with Dallas).
Record: 40-31-11, 91 points, 8th in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Anaheim in Western Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin form one of the league’s best duos. Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky will be complementary offensive weapons. The Stars will put up Xbox-like offensive numbers.
4. Nashville (wild card)
Coach: Peter Laviolette (first season with Nashville).
Record: 38-32-12, 88 points, 10th in West.
Notable: A healthy Pekka Rinne will make a big difference. Defenseman Shea Weber is in his prime. Laviolette will squeeze some offense out of his roster.
5. Colorado (wild card)
Coach: Patrick Roy (second season with Colorado).
Record: 52-22-8, 112 points, 2d in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Minnesota in Western Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Tons of talent up front in Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, and Gabriel Landeskog. Unlikely that Semyon Varlamov can equal his puck-stopping prowess from last year, though.
Coach: Mike Yeo (fourth season with Minnesota).
Record: 43-27-12, 98 points, 7th in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Western Conference semifinals.
Notable: No stability in goal. Not enough defensive help to assume some of Ryan Suter’s minutes. Big money to Thomas Vanek, who lost his way in Montreal.
Coach: Paul Maurice (second season with Winnipeg).
Record: 37-35-10, 84 points, 11th in West.
Notable: Slipshod goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec unravels all the good that Jacob Trouba, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, and Dustin Byfuglien will do. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will feel the heat.
Coach: Bruce Boudreau (fourth season with Anaheim).
Record: 54-20-8, 116 points, 1st in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Western Conference semifinals.
Notable: Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler will run over every team they face. John Gibson projects to be an ace in goal. But will the Ducks, who always excel in the regular season, find another gear in the playoffs?
2. Los Angeles
Coach: Darryl Sutter (fourth season with Los Angeles).
Record: 46-28-8, 100 points, 6th in West.
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup
Notable: Sharp GM, smart coach, depth at every position. Hungry for another Cup. The model franchise.
3. San Jose
Coach: Todd McLellan (seventh season with San Jose).
Record: 51-22-9, 111 points, 4th in West.
Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Western Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Joe Thornton’s captaincy is gone. Brent Burns is back on defense. John Scott is in. It was a bizarre summer. Yet the Sharks still have enough talent to contend.
Coach: Willie Desjardins (first season with Vancouver).
Record: 36-35-11, 83 points, 12th in West.
Notable: Rookie GM Jim Benning, formerly of the Bruins, got first-year coach Willie Desjardins the goalie he needed in Ryan Miller. The Canucks also have veteran leaders in Henrik and Daniel Sedin. But Benning will need several more years to build up his roster.
Coach: Dave Tippett (sixth season with Phoenix).
Record: 37-30-15, 89 points, 9th in West.
Notable: Tippett, one of the league’s best coaches, has pace-pushers on defense in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Too bad the forwards aren’t at their level.
Coach: Dallas Eakins (second season with Edmonton).
Record: 29-44-9, 67 points, 14th in West.
Notable: By the time Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins grow their first NHL playoff beards, they’ll be gray. What a waste of good talent.
Coach: Bob Hartley (third season with Calgary).
Record: 35-40-7, 77 points, 13th in West.
Notable: Mark Giordano is a superstar on defense. None of his teammates, however, qualify for a similar description. Very thin on high-end talent.
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