Who will reign supreme in the Western Conference? Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent J.J. Regan give you their predictions for the Western Conference this season.
1. San Jose
2. Los Angeles
Wild Card 1: St. Louis
Wild Card 2: Anaheim
The blockbuster trade that stunned the hockey world this summer will continue to dominate the Western Conference discussion this winter as dynamic D-man P.K. Subban helps turn the Predators into legit Stanley Cup contenders.
The Blackhawks, meantime, continued to shed talent due to salary cap constrictions, but the Patrick Kane-anchored core will keep them in the conversation for tops in the conference.
In the Pacific, I suspect San Jose and Los Angeles will duke it out, with the Sharks also in the mix for first place in the conference. The Sharks have talent and depth and veteran leadership. The Kings? They have new leadership (Anze Kopitar now wears the ‘C’), a top D-man (Drew Doughty) and one of the league’s most reliable goalies (Jonathan Quick).
My surprise in the West is Calgary, where new netminder Brian Elliott and newly paid Johnny Gaudreau will make Coach Glen Gulutzan’s first year behind the bench a memorable one.
3. St. Louis
1. San Jose
3. Los Angeles
Wild Card 1: Dallas
Wild Card 2: Minnesota
This is the year the Nashville Predators take the next step to being Stanley Cup contenders. The only question surrounding them is whether Pekka Rinne will be able to handle the load or if he is past his prime. It will be interesting to see what happens in St. Louis with the coach in waiting situation. Let’s not forget, Brian Elliott is gone. It’s now the Jake Allen show for the Blues. San Jose is a team past its prime, but coach Pete DeBoer has shown he is truly adept at managing that group of veterans to get the maximum out of his team. Calgary is absolutely on the rise and is poised to make a big jump in the standings and reach the playoffs. The final wild card spot will come down to Minnesota and Anaheim. The Ducks are the better team, but Bruce Boudreau always finds a way to get the most out of his team in the regular season. Bringing Randy Carlyle back to Anaheim is destined for disaster. Maybe not this year, but the team is certainly on the decline.
Check back Thursday for Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup predictions.
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