Welcome to today’s entry in Blackhawk Down Low’s divisional previews. Up today? The hilarious Northwest division. We’ll talk about the one NHL team and four AHL teams that make up this division.
Subtractions: Robyn Regher, Ales Kotalik, Adam Pardy, Steve Staios, Tim Erixson
Additions: Chris Butler, Paul Byron
Okay, go ahead and start laughing at GM Jay Feaster. I’ll wait.
Alright, so the Flames just missed out on the playoffs last year, which in and of itself is a small miracle. The corpse of this organization and been pinned to Jerome Iginla’s coattails for years and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. You’d think that you’d be able to get some kind of decent return for Robyn Regher, who is a damn fine shutdown defensemen, but apparently not. Regher & Ales Kotalik were sent to Buffalo and Calgary received in return Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Yep. No clue who won that trade. (HINT TO JAY FEASTER IF YOU’RE READING THIS: Buffalo won the trade.) Then Feaster let Pardy & Staios walk, which wouldn’t be a big deal if they got more than garbage for Regher. Feaster also couldn’t come to an agreement with highly touted prospect defensemen Tim Erixson, whose rights got traded to the Rangers in the 11th hour for a draft pick next year, which Feaster will undoubtedly use to draft a defensemen, fail to come to terms, and trade his rights away. Oh, but LOOK AT THIS SHINY EXTENSION FOR ALEX TANGUAY AND ANTON BABCHUK. Tanguay will be nice to play with Iginla, but then you’ll have nothing beyond them. And Babchuk + more blueline crap = a blueline full of crap.
So basically, the Calgary Iginlas have no blueline, an elite [but constantly exhausted] goaltender and Jerome Iginla. If they were in the East, I’d tell them to say hello to the Jets as they passed them in the standings, but alas, they’re in the ultra-competitive West. The Flames’ lack of defense and complete lack of depth will cause them to miss the playoffs again, even with Jerome Iginla putting up solid numbers despite the atrocities that are carted out as his linemates. The Flames will finish in third in the Northwest and 10th in the conference.
Subtractions: Brian Elliott (although this could be considered an addition), Peter Budaj, Adam Foote, John-Michael Liles, Tomas Fleischmann
Additions: Semyon Varlamov, Jean-Sebastien Gigure, Chuck Kobasew, Jan Hejda, Shane O’Brien
Okay, see how with the Flames above, they got rid of people and either replaced it with smelly garbage or with nothing at all? The Avs did the opposite. They dumped Brian Elliott & Peter Budaj from their nets (the net’s twine thanks you, it was starting to get sunburned from the goal lamp) and replaced them with the two-headed duo of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Gigure. John-Michael Liles leaving the blueline will hurt, but replacing him & Adam Foote with Jan Hejda and Shane O’Brien is probably around a break-even at the worst. If SOB can take what will be increased playing time in Colorado and flourish, he could be a great addition. Don’t forget that Erik Johnson is also patrolling the blueline as well. Then mid-season acquisition Tomas Fleishmann split for Dale Tallon’s swimming pool full of money in Florida, but the Avs added Chuck Kobasew as a replacement.
Colorado finished in 14th in the West last year, due mostly to Craig Anderson deciding he would spend the first half of the season failing to stop pucks in a successful audition to win Ottawa’s starting goalie gig. The injury bug also bit down on the Avs pretty hard, most notably taking down Matt Duchene for a long stretch after he hurt his hand. I expect the goaltending to be much better and more consistent this season for the Avs as Varlamov & Gigure will trade off stretches as the #1 netminder, and assuming the injury bug doesn’t strike again, Colorado will see last season was a bump in the road. The Avalanche will finish second in the conference, and just miss the playoffs, finishing 9th in the West.
Subtractions: Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer, Colin Fraser
Additions: Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Andy Sutton
Oh, you poor Edmonton Oilers. Almost everyone that left or came to your team this offseason is hilarious. Dustin “MOAR TIM HORTON’S” Penner, Colin “Your First in my Face” Fraser, Ryan “Old Man Winter” Smyth, Ben “HAR HAR BOOBS” Eager, Cam “Good Thing Patrik Stefan Exists Or I’d Be A Top 3 Draft Bust” Barker, and of course, Andy “I’m an Expert” Sutton. The most hilarious thing was the palpable excitement around the return of Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth. Granted, it will be great for the kiddos to have a grizzled veteran presence like Smyth around, but he won’t actually help them win many games. This isn’t like a Teemu Selanne victory lap in Anaheim, where he could still score 30 goals. Eric Belanger will be another good veteran presence for the younger guys, but again, won’t help to win many games.
It seems like Edmonton is already chalking this up to another learning and development year, which is fine. Oilers fans will have to watch their young team struggle against a powerful conference again, where the Oilers will again finish last in the division and conference.
Subtractions: Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Jose Theodore, Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Cam Barker, Chuck Kobasew
Additions: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Darrell Powe, Jeff Taffe, Mike Lundin
The Minnesota Wild, with a long and proud history of missing the playoffs, look to continue that trend this year after losing Burns, Havlat, Kobasew, and others. Granted, they were able to get Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi back in return, but the loss of Burns, Brunette, Kobasew, Havlat, and Madden will sting, especially defensively. Darrell Powe will help that, but he can’t make up for what Brunette & Madden both brought to the table. However, with the prospects and draft picks that the Wild have picked up, they’re built for success in the future. Just don’t expect much out of Dany Heatley once the playoffs come around, that’s what Marty Havlat is...oh...oops.
The Wild finished third in the division and 12th in the conference. Improvements for the future have been made, but at the sacrifice of the ability to win now. Look for the Wild to slide to 4th in the division and 14th in the conference.
(Side Note: I’ve now decided that I hate the Wild. They so negligible, I couldn’t even make any good jokes at their expense.)
Subtractions: Christian Erhoff, Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, Alex Bolduc
Additions: Marco Sturm, Owen Nolan (in camp on a tryout)
Vancouver. You riotous, self-fellating, finger-pointing, finger-biting, drama queen, diving, complaining, crybaby, holier-than-thou, manifest destiny, joke of an amateur hour of an organization. You deserved everything that came to you (hockey-wise, not the riots, your local businesses didn’t deserve that) last season. I hope the first game you come back to the United Center, someone on the glass gets a blown up picture of Patrick Sharp’s Game 7 OT power play one-timer that missed making you chumps history by 3 inches to remind you how closely you came to being eliminated by a injury-riddled, exhausted and mentally fried Blackhawks squad. You made Ben Fucking Smith look like the second coming of Mario Lemieux. You made Michael Frolik -- MICHAEL FROLIK -- the guy that the Florida Panthers didn’t want, look like Mike Ribiero on the breakaway against Corey Schneider. You continually whined about everything possible from the supposed mistreatment of your fans in Boston (and their subsequent bravery, according to your official Twitter account, like they braved the streets in Kandahar) to the NHL not doing enough to prevent a riot in your own city. You hide your ‘franchise’ goalie behind curtains and tell the media “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” so that he doesn’t have to answer tough questions like “how the hell could you let some of those shots in?”
You know who I feel most sorry for in this situation? Your fans. You have some of the most passionate and steadfast fans in the NHL. Hell, some of them even laugh at our jokes about them and take it in stride. But your Mickey Mouse organization has let them down. You have all the talent in the world on your roster, but you give them a sense of entitlement, that they DESERVE the Cup rather than telling them to EARN it. Maybe if instead of diving to draw a penalty and not converting on the power play (like you did throughout the entire Cup Final), you stay on your feet, fight through the adversity and you score. Maybe you inspire your teammates to do the same.
Maybe instead of biting an opponent’s finger for facewashing you, you challenge them face-to-face, drop the gloves, and beat it out like men. Or maybe you even just let it go and laugh about it and make him pay on the scoreboard.
Everything about this organization irritates me. It is an unhealthy hatred that raises my blood pressure, elevates my heart rate, and makes me want to kick puppies. If this team could finish in last every year, I’d love it, but oh man, would I miss the Hawks making your collective lives a living hell every playoff.
But enough about that, let’s preview this team.
Christain Erhoff: You want 10 years? Peace out. Everyone but Buffalo is laughing at that. Raffi Torres: Enjoy Phoenix. That is until you wind up in Quebec City. Tambellini, Glass & Bolduc: Whatever. Who are you? Marco Sturm: Yeah, because THAT’S what missing from your championship dreams. Owen Nolan: LOL.
Blah, blah, blah, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy as the league’s top regular season team, nearly choked as chronicled above to the Hawks, and then lost to the Bruins in the Final. The Canucks will again take advantage of a garbage division to race out to an insurmountable lead and win the division and conference again. That said, I’ll enjoy watching them blow it in the playoffs again. Suck eggs, you dirtbags.
Oh, and one last thing. OWEN. NOLAN. LOL.