Western Conference Naughty List
Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Wild – The Wild squeaked into the playoffs, edging the Columbus Blue Jackets for the last and final spot and the privilege of meeting the NHL’s top team and eventual Stanley Cup champion. After securing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the prior off-season, much more was expected of this club. A -5 goal differential and the sub-par play of starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom was partially to blame. Not much has made the Wild a better team this summer either. Acquiring Matt Cooke to replace Eric Nystrom on the bottom lines should not be considered an upgrade in the least and the trade of sparkplug Cal Clutterbuck to the Islanders brings the question mark that is Nino Niederreiter and what he could become. Keith Ballard is a nice signing for the blueline but he along with the other 2 new additions will do nothing to erase the departures of Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, Clutterbuck, Justin Falk, Pierre Marc Bouchard and Tom Gilbert.
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver Canucks – Wow, what a tumultuous off-season for general manager Mike Gillis and in my opinion, horrible could best be used to describe it. From a lineup perspective, the losses of Max Lapierre and Keith Ballard could be offset and the Canucks still have plenty of talent up and down the lineup with the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler. Its in goal where the problems start and end for Vancouver. Alienating Roberto Luongo during the season and working very publicly to trade him, then turning around at the draft and dealing Cory Schneider instead to the Devils for the chance to draft Bo Horvat with the 9th overall pick. Luongo’s only comment post-deal was that he would have to evaluate the situation as he did not know how to react at that moment. Not good news for the mental makeup of your #1 keeper heading into the season, who knows he was just played like a fiddle by management. Potentially losing Mason Raymond will also be felt as the only additions to the squad are Brad Richardson, Yannick Weber and Mike Santorelli. And don’t even get me started on the hiring of ex-Rangers bench boss John Tortorella. We could be here for days.
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado Avalanche – Last place in the Western conference and a win at the draft lottery earned the Avalanche the chance to draft superstar Nathan McKinnon as the 1st overall pick in June. That is all fine and well and he will certainly add to an impressive lineup of forwards in the mountains…..but one important question remains ; just who is going to keep the puck out of the net? With no other significant additions to speak of and Milan Hedjuk and Greg Zanon leaving, Colorado is left with a very overrated Erik Johnson and not much else on defense to speak of. Are aging JS Giguere and Semyon Varlamov really going to be able to withstand the barrage of opponent shots that are going to be fired their way night in and night out? It really does not matter at the end of the day if you score 5 goals when you are allowing 6. And a team that was 27th in goals against during the shortened 2013 season did nothing to address its most serious deficiency.
So what do you think? Agree or disagree with my opinion of who was naughty and who was nice in the Western Conference this year? Leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you. As always, thanks for reading EyesOnIsles.