Western Conference Preview: Stanley Cup finals rematch on the horizon?
While the Eastern Conference has a group of teams in different classes the Western Conference is a little more jumbled than that but still has it's top teams to examine. You have to start with the defending Western Conference Champions, Nashville Predators. They did lose Jame Neal in the expansion draft which will hurt their scoring depth but they did steal an important cog in the Penguins Stanley Cup core in center Nick Bonino. Ryan Johnasen will also be back and he's a key player for them, once they lost him in the playoffs against a much deeper center core for the Penguins they were clearly at a disadvantage. The defense is the best defense core in the league and here's hoping Pekka Rinne will be Pekka Rinne from last year and not the year before that.
The second best team in the Western Conference has to be the Anahiem Ducks. When they get into the playoffs this team is a force. Starting with centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler down the middle, they have a strong deep group of forwards. Behind Nashville's defense core, the Duck's probably have the second best defense core in the league but will be without Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen until November so watch and see if the Ducks get out to a slow start. They also added veteran backup Ryan Miller who will help them when John Gibson inevitably struggles through the year.
The third best team in the West for me is the Edmonton Oilers. I don't love their depth, and I don't love their defense core but, Connor McDavid is the most electrifying player in the league and should win his second consecutive MVP and Points race. His buddy Leon Drasitial despite what I think of his contract is a real player and a great complimentary piece. Cam Talbot showed last year he is more than ready to take a starting role, bailing out the team at times and got some Vezina love.
The fourth best team in the West have to be the Chicago Blackhawks. I wanted to pick the Blues or the Wild or even the Flames so bad but I just couldn't. The Blackhawks core is still the Blackhawks core. Last time I checked Kane and Toews are still there and Duncan Keith is still on the blue line. Honestly I'm not sure if the Blues could beat the Blackhawks in a 7 game series right now. The Hawks are relying on a lot of young guys to come in their lineup and produce. They will only go as far as their core takes them, not a bad proposition.