A Northwest nosedive
The Northwest Division has recently been one of the more difficult divisions to play in. Five teams with solid fan bases and stable ownership groups willing to spend, clubs that often fight it out until the final week of the regular season to see who comes out on top.
It's been a pretty contentious battle since the lockout:
- Last season, three Northwest teams made the playoffs, and the two non-playoff clubs finished ninth and 11th
- In 2006-07, three made the playoffs, Colorado finished ninth and Edmonton was 12th
- And in 2005-06, Vancouver and Minnesota missed the playoffs and were ninth and 11th
That could soon change given this summer's activity:
|Calgary||Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Bourque, Giordano, |
|Tanguay, Huselius, Nolan, Hale, Yelle, Joseph, Smith, Godard|
|Colorado||Tucker, Raycroft, Willsie, Tjarnqvist||Sakic (?), Theodore, Brunette, Sauer, Forsberg, Finger|
|Edmonton||Cole, Visnovsky, Brule, Strudwick||Pitkanen, Stoll, Torres, Greene, Reasoner, Sanderson|
|Minnesota||Zidlicky, Brunette, |
Miettinen, Nolan, Bergeron, Weller
|Rolston, Demitra, Radivojevic, Carney, Fedoruk, Nummelin, Hill, Simon|
|Vancouver||Demitra, Bernier, Wellwood, R. Johnson, Hordichuk, Davison||Naslund, Morrison, Miller, Linden, Ritchie, Weaver, Isbister|
At first glance, Edmonton's the only team that's noticeably improved, with Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky as the key additions.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, have dropped Andrew Brunette and two top six defencemen while replacing Jose Theodore with Andrew Raycroft. Calgary and Vancouver appear to have downgraded up front, and Minnesota lost two veteran forwards.
That said, it's never quite as simple as taking account of players in and out and forecasting where teams will fit in. Last season, for instance, the Canadiens added only Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski yet jumped from 10th in the Eastern Conference to first. The Predators lost a handful of key contributers and stayed a playoff team.
The Wild won the Northwest last year by a nose, and by adding Marek Zidlicky likely remain the favourites — but it's anything but a slam dunk. Injuries, as always, will play a major role, and all five teams need their youth to step up.
But if Vancouver signs Mats Sundin, it's once again a four-horse race (with Colorado's goaltending letting them down).
It's just a weaker field this time around.