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Top 10 contenders for Stanley Cup Top 10 contenders for Stanley Cup /nhl/lists/top-stanley-cup-contenders-100113 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/10/01/100113-NHL-Blackhawks-Shaw-PI-HF_20131001180839436_136_102.JPG
Biggest choke jobs in sports Infamous chokers gallery /nhl/lists/Infamous-sports-chokers http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/09/26/New-Zealand-sailing-fan_20130926040909882_136_102.JPG
Who has the FOXiest fans? Take a look at the FOXiest fans in hockey. /nhl/lists/FOXiest-female-hockey-NHL-fans-092612 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/03/08/030813-3-NHL-foxiest-kings-OB-G_20130308185330431_136_102.JPG
Stanley Cup Final expert picks Stanley Cup Final expert picks: Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Boston Bruins in an Original Six Series. Who will win? /nhl/lists/stanley-cup-expert-predictions-chicago-blackhawks-boston-bruins-061113 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/06/11/PI_20130611222922662_136_102.JPG
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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055166 Fight for the top spot Fight+for+the+top+spot NHL

It's that time of year again when everything is put on the line and prognostications are made for the upcoming season.

In keeping with a THN tradition, we have already debated the merits of each organization, and after much back-and-forth, settled on our rankings from 1-15 in each conference.
 

Here's the West.

— The Hockey News

 

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055228 Vancouver Canucks Vancouver+Canucks NHL

Why: After a franchise-best regular season in 2009-10, the Canucks and their fans are riding high. Henrik Sedin won the Art Ross and Hart, and that was without his brother in the lineup for 19 games; imagine what damage the two can do if they stay healthy for 82 games. While the Sedins lead on offense and Selke nominee Ryan Kesler provides a sturdy defensive presence on the second line, the Canucks overhauled the blueline corps. Willie Mitchell was lost to free agency, while Keith Ballard was brought in via trade and Dan Hamhuis via free agency; rumors of Kevin Bieksa being on the trade block won’t go away. What stung Vancouver last season was a lack of toughness and leadership on the depth lines, so Manny Malhotra was brought in to solve that dilemma. In net, Roberto Luongo has gained a lot of detractors for his postseason play, but he still puts up good numbers and can bring  this team to the top.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055169 San Jose Sharks San+Jose+Sharks NHL

Why: The biggest loss to the Sharks was the departure of goalie Evgeni Nabokov to the Kontinental League. The move was expected as the team needed a bit of fresh air and a little change. Surprisingly, Antero Niittymaki was signed as Nabokov’s replacement. A backup or tandem goalie for the duration of his NHL career, Niittymaki has shown flashes of being a No. 1 goalie, but a lack of consistency is his main flaw. Nevertheless, the Sharks still have a formidable offense led by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, while Joe Pavelski is ready to assume a larger, more productive role. The loss of Rob Blake to retirement will sting the blueline a little, but the Sharks expect to see more out of youngsters Jason Demers and Derek Joslin. Expectations have settled down a little, but the Sharks are still a force in the West.

— The Hockey News

- Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2010/09/15/2_20100915223101_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2010/09/15/2_20100915223101_70_70.JPG
NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055186 Detroit Red Wings Detroit+Red+Wings NHL

Why: A model of consistency, the Red Wings still put up more than 100 points in what many considered a down year for the team. Pavel Datsyuk had his lowest point total since before the lockout, and the team was hurt by injuries to Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula. In the offseason, the Wings aimed at adding more depth to their staunch defense corps by acquiring Ruslan Salei and also brought in hometown boy Mike Modano to add experience to the forward unit. Jiri Hudler, a 23-goal, 57-point scorer two years ago, came back after spending a year in the KHL. Age seems to always be a concern with the Wings, but it never seems to slow them down. Goaltending is the other annual concern, but after posting 37 wins, a 2.26 GAA and .924 SP, Jimmy Howard is calming those waters. With the turnover in Chicago, Detroit is poised to take the Central crown back and are still serious Cup contenders.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055185 Chicago Blackhawks Chicago+Blackhawks NHL

Why: The team with the most summer turnover, Chicago GM Stan Bowman did well in trading, given the position he was in. Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, John Madden, Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd and Adam Burish were among the players moved out, but none are recognized as integral for regular-season success. With the core collection of skill still in the lineup, the Blackhawks filled in the holes with Fernando Pisani and Viktor Stalberg and have room to promote prospects such as Jack Skille. Chicago’s defense far and away allowed the fewest shots on goal per game, and with the blueline looking much the same it should help Marty Turco adjust to his new team. The loss of Antti Niemi isn’t a good thing, but Turco, though he has struggled the past couple of seasons, is a veteran capable of doing the job. And just in case he isn’t, Corey Crawford is itching and ready for his opportunity.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055167 Los Angeles Kings Los+Angeles+Kings NHL

Why: The Kings weren’t nearly as active in the offseason as many thought they would be. After initially losing out on the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, the Kings signed Alexei Ponikarovsky instead for second-line scoring. If any other team lost out on Kovalchuk and watched Alexander Frolov leave via free agency they might be a popular pick to step back, but the Kings are anything but. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown will continue their ascension up front, while Drew Doughty will take another step towards a Norris Trophy. In net, Jonathan Quick will be challenged by Jonathan Bernier, who is fresh off carrying the Manchester Monarchs to the semifinal of the Calder Cup. A young team with tremendous upside, the Kings learned through a first round playoff exit last season and have too many pieces in place to not improve.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055168 St. Louis Blues St.+Louis+Blues NHL

Why: The Blues will be back in 2010-11 after falling off a little. The young team will be looking for continued improvement from its defense corps, led by Erik Johnson. Alex Pietrangelo is expected to make the team full time and will add more offense and size to the line. Andy McDonald’s 57 points led the team, but the Blues got points from just about everyone and had the 17th best offense despite the seemingly low numbers. Of course, the big offseason news in Missouri was the arrival of Jaroslav Halak. If the 25-year-old plays anything like he did during Montreal’s playoff run, the Blues will be a major hurdle in the West. And considering Halak has a career .919 SP, his postseason play wasn’t an aberration.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055191 Phoenix Coyotes Phoenix+Coyotes NHL

Why: The Phoenix Coyotes struggled mightily to score in 2009-10, but were the most defensively disciplined team going. Shane Doan led the team in scoring (amongst those who spent all season in the desert) with a mere 55 points. Ilya Bryzgalov had the season of his career, and if not for the flawless display from Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, would have won the Vezina Trophy. Not much has changed in this year’s edition, either. Ray Whitney was brought in via free agency as a replacement for Lee Stempniak, a late-season addition who immediately hit a hot streak. The loss of speedster Matthew Lombardi makes way for 2007 third overall pick Kyle Turris, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson could take the place of Zbynek Michalek. Because the Coyotes exceeded expectations so greatly last season, they’re bound for a step back...but they’re still a playoff team.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055189 Calgary Flames Calgary+Flames NHL

Why: A contentious pick for sure, considering the perception the team has fallen off the map, but it’s hard to pick a team with such a strong defense and backed up by such a stellar goalie to miss the postseason. The only thing the Flames failed to do successfully last season was score goals and generate offense; they had the fifth-lowest GAA and allowed the seventh fewest shots against per game. The re-acquisitions of underperforming Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay may be a sign of desperation, but the fact is they will help improve an anemic offense that was near the bottom of the league to begin with.

— The Hockey News 

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055187 Colorado Avalanche Colorado+Avalanche NHL

Why: The young Avs didn’t make any franchise-altering moves, but lost shot-block specialist Brett Clark to free agency. Colorado is relying on the same players it did last year when the team surprised everyone with a playoff appearance: Matt Duchene, THN cover boy Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Peter Mueller and more brought this team along last year and will be counted on to do the same. Craig Anderson had a terrific 2009-10, but in this volatile goalie age can he live up to expectations he didn’t have a year ago? After we saw another young team — the St. Louis Blues — burst onto the playoff scene only to fall back a little the year after, we’re anticipating much of the same from the Avalanche.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055188 Nashville Predators Nashville+Predators NHL

Why: Proficient at piecing together rosters on a dime, the Nashville Predators and GM David Poile were cutting cost again this summer. Captain Jason Arnott was traded back to New Jersey, defenseman Dan Hamhuis was traded to Philadelphia and Dan Ellis was lost to free agency. In their place come speedster Matthew Lombardi, who has settled in as a 45- to 55-point man, the underwhelming potential of Sergei Kostitsyn and young defenseman Ryan Parent, who couldn’t find a permanent role with the Flyers. You can never underestimate the Predators, but this edition will find the Western Conference a tough trek.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055170 Anaheim Ducks Anaheim+Ducks NHL

Why: While Anaheim scored the seventh-most goals in the league last season, they still allowed more than they got and were second-worst in shots against per game. The retirement of Scott Niedermayer will exacerbate those stats, though the acquisitions of Toni Lydman and Andy Sutton were the Ducks’ best attempt to address the issue. Teemu Selanne returns for at least one more season with the expectation the Ducks will be in the postseason, but nothing about the offseason gives us any reason to believe the team will be better defensively. Jonas Hiller is a good goalie with the potential to have a great season, but the West is deep with playoff-caliber teams, and Anaheim just isn’t one of them yet.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055190 Dallas Stars Dallas+Stars NHL

Why: It was an official changing of the guard in Dallas this summer, with mainstays Mike Modano and Marty Turco leaving via free agency for Detroit and Chicago, respectively, and Jere Lehtinen still unsigned. Offense isn’t the problem in Big D as Brad Richards seems to have found his former assist-happy self and the next wave of scorers — Loui Eriksson, James Neal and Jamie Benn — are improving and settling into a groove. The major obstacle here is the defense, where Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen have to step up, and goaltending, where Kari Lehtonen needs to figure out a way to get through a season healthy.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055171 Minnesota Wild Minnesota+Wild NHL

Why: A new era behind the bench was supposed to usher in more offense, but the Wild scored at the same rate in 2009-10 as they did the season before. The offseason acquisitions of John Madden, Eric Nystrom and Matt Cullen were made with an eye toward the defensive end. With Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu counted on as the offensive leaders, it looks like the same old NHL story in Minnesota.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055193 Columbus Blue Jackets Columbus+Blue+Jackets NHL

Why: The rookie sensation from 2008-09, Steve Mason, slid off considerably in 2009-10, and the Blue Jackets franchise went from playoff team to lottery hopeful. The Jackets are still in desperate need of a legitimate first-line center to set up Rick Nash and his goal-scoring prowess, and they also need someone to move the puck from the blueline. There are a lot of good young pieces in place, but in the extremely difficult Western Conference, there is no room for error.

— The Hockey News

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NHL 142 43 Hockey News Western Conference predictions 12055192 Edmonton Oilers Edmonton+Oilers NHL

Why: How much impact will the arrival of Taylor Hall have? Not enough to get the lowly Oilers out of the basement. New coach Tom Renney has a daunting task ahead of him to bring the fractured franchise back to respectability. Can Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano figure it out? Can Ales Hemsky click once again with Dustin Penner? There are still many questions to be answered before the Oilers are ready to strike.

— The Hockey News

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http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/10/01/100113-NHL-Blackhawks-Shaw-PI-HF_20131001180839436_136_102.JPG Top 10 contenders for Stanley Cup Top 10 contenders for Stanley Cup Top 10 contenders for Stanley Cup Nothing comes easy in hockey, nothing. The road to winning the Stanley Cup is filled with obstacles, and this year the defending champs have these nine teams coming after them. Oct 1, 2013 6:49 PM ET 1 6 /nhl/lists/top-stanley-cup-contenders-100113
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http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/03/08/030813-3-NHL-foxiest-kings-OB-G_20130308185330431_136_102.JPG Who has the FOXiest fans? Take a look at the FOXiest fans in hockey. Take a look at the FOXiest fans in hockey. It's game time for the NHL's FOXiest fans. Jul 17, 2013 11:30 AM ET 1 6 /nhl/lists/FOXiest-female-hockey-NHL-fans-092612
http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/06/11/PI_20130611222922662_136_102.JPG Stanley Cup Final expert picks Stanley Cup Final expert picks: Chicago Black... Stanley Cup Final expert picks: Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Boston Bruins in an Original Six Series. Who will win? Our simulator told you who the numbers say will win the Cup. But if getting the expert's take is more your thing, we've got you covered, too. Jun 12, 2013 12:03 AM ET 1 6 /nhl/lists/stanley-cup-expert-predictions-chicago-blackhawks-boston-bruins-061113