The 2011-2012 NHL Western Conference Season

By Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: October 25, 2011

OAKLAND,CA., (BASN) Part III The Fight for The Western Conference in 2011-2012

Central

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Detroit Red Wings

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Northwest

Calgary Flames

Colorado Avalanche

Edmonton Oilers

Minnesota Wild

Vancouver Canucks

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Dallas Stars

Los Angeles Kings

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

The Vancouver Canucks have to prove themselves all over again and this time it will be very difficult. The Western Conference has improved since last season. The city of Vancouver still has not gotten over the nightmare of the civil disturbance after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This is the 2nd time violence erupted in the city after a Stanley Cup Final. The New York Rangers defeated Vancouver in 1995. The third time could be the charm for the Sedin twins and goalie Roberto Loungo.

The San Jose Sharks started the off season by trading the farm and starting all over again. This is the third make over in 9 years and if the Sharks don’t win the cup there could be major management changes in 2013-14.

Antti Neimi and Thomas Greiss will share net-minding duties this year. They have free agent Colin White from the New Jersey Devils, so the Shark defense should be better. The Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau Line could be called the power line but the number two line of Clowe, Cuture, and Wingels has to step up this year. Watch the young star named Brad Winchester this year he has natural hockey moves already.

The Chicago Blackhawks are going to try to forget last year’s season. They let one of their best players go to Atlanta and never got the scoring punch all season long. The Patrick line of Kane and Sharp have to produce more scores. The Hossa line has to improve from last year in order for the Hawks to move on to 2nd round. Goal Brother goalie Ray Emery could be the Hawks secret weapon.

The Red Army-Detroit Red Wings – this might be the last time the Red Wings play in the Western Conference with the definite realignment of teams in 2012-13 season. The Wings have not missed the playoffs since the mid 90′s and should do it again this year with veteran goalie Jimmy Howard in net. The Wings system works for the Franzen, Datsyuk and Zetterburg line. This team practices patience, and passing, wearing their opponent down. By the third period the goalie door is wide open for Red Wing shots.

The Dallas Stars also could be playing their last season in the Western Conference. This team will look different with the retirement of all star Mike Madano the American born scoring leader. The Stars also hired a new coach to begin their new era with Glen Gulatzan.

The Stars leadership role will transfer to right winger Brenden Morrow and defensemen Trevor Daley. Kari Lehtonen will have to stand tall in net this year because Stars struggled on defense last year.

The Los Angeles Kings will also look very different this year as they shipped goal brother Wayne Simmonds to the east and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings get fiery Mike Richards and Simone Gagne in return. In net the great Jonathan Quick who has improved with each passing year. Quick has already played in back to back shutouts early in this season. This will allow the Kings defense to play more aggressive because they know they have Quick in net behind them. Anze Kopitar will be the leader of the Black and white claded Kings.

Right winger and old man Teemu Salanne will play another year setting records for the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks 2nd line is much better then their first with Salanne, Saku Koivu, and Andrew Gorden. The Ducks love to bounce opponents off the boards which put them into a short handed position. Goaltender Jonas Hiller has to stop goals in penalty kill time in order for Anaheim to make playoffs again this year. Age may have caught up on Anaheim this year.

The Calgary Flames are still looking for a center to play with all star Goal Brother Jarome Iginla. David Moss, Olli Jokinin, and Roman Horak still cannot get the job done. Goalie Miikki Kiprusoff might have to have an all star season to get the goal deprived Flames into the playoffs this year.

The Phoenix Coyotes survived last year’s circus and made noise in the playoffs last year. The League made the team solvent and kept them in Arizona so they will play this year without any financial worries. They were the surprise team in the Western Conference. Other teams are very much aware of them this year. Shane Doan and Ray Whitney should fire up this team. Jason LaBarbera might take the lead role in goal bypassing Mike Smith in net. LaBarbera played well at the end of last season so the goalie position may be up for grabs this season.

The Minnesota Wild will have a new look thanks to the San Jose Sharks Dany Heatly and Devin Setoguchi will be wearing forest green this year. The Wild also hired a new head coach Mike Yeo. Mr. Yeo comes from the Pittsburgh Penguin family and will teach this young team about team offense with a purpose

Heatly and Setoguchi will add scoring power to this new Wild offense philosophy. The 2nd line has to produce more goals to relive the pressure on the first line Bouchard, Koivu, and Letendresse. These three have to storm the nets this year. This is still a vanilla team and Heatly and Setoguchi should add some spice this year.

The Columbus Blue Jackets might make some noise this year if they get off to a good start. So far it has not been good news they are 0-6. They have the ex Philadelphia Flyer Jeff Carter to raise the hopes of the Jackets in 2011-12. Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger must carry this team if they are going to make playoff this year.

The Colorado Avalanche will be starting anew with veterian goalie Jean Sabastien Giguere in net. The Anahiem Ducks could no longer get Giggie with it and sent him to the Rocky Mountians. The Avalance will miss the old guard and future Hall of Fame stars, Adam Foote, Peter Forsburg, and Joe Sakic.

Right winger Milan Hejduk will lead this year’s version of the Colorado Avalanche.

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod