Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 10/22/11

 

The 2011-12 NHL season is already under way, and the action on the ice is already heating up.  After a summer filled with lots of on and off ice movement, but also  much  tragedy, the hockey world looks towards a new quest toward Lord Stanley’s Cup.  It’s time to look ahead and see how everyone will fare this season.  Let’s take a look at the Northwest Division after the jump.

Last season, the Northwest made a case for being possibly the weakest in all the NHL.  The Canucks cruised to the best record in hockey, yet the rest of the division struggled all year long, with Edmonton and Colorado ending up being the two worst teams in the league.  This year sees the Canucks possibly suffering a Stanley Cup loss hangover, a couple young teams with a lot of talent (Edmonton and Colorado), a team who made some big moves (Minnesota), and a team who are going to let it ride this year (Calgary).  While this divison will be stronger than it was last year based off of talent alone, it could be a struggle to get a second team into the playoffs.  How will the three time zone wide Northwest end up? Let’s find out.

All Stats Are From 2010-11 Season

1.  Vancouver Canucks  (54-19-9)

Top Scorer:  Daniel Sedin (41-63-104)

The Canucks had a storybook season last year, right up until Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, and the subsequent rioting.  This season, the team is one year older, and the questions about if they can actually win a title are getting louder.  While they clearly are the best in their division still, the belief to win it all is dampening.  As long as the Canucks still have the Sedin twins on their roster, they will be almost impossible to beat.

Best Case Scenario:  1st  Worst Case Scenario:  6th

Players

Top Offensive:  Ryan Kesler

Top Defensive:  Alexander Edler

Breakout Offensive:  Mason Raymond

Breakout Defensive: Keith Ballard

Starting Goalie:  Roberto Luongo

2.  Minnesota Wild (39-35-8)

Top Scorers:  Martin Havlat (22-40-62), Mikko Koivu (17-45-62)

The Wild used the off season to overhaul the roster, while not poaching from the youth they’ve stockpiled recently.  The big trade of Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi and more, as well as the trade of Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley, should give the Wild goal scorers to go along with playmakers like Mikko Koivu and Pierre Marc Bouchard.  The team finally has some talent, now it has to prove that it can win and accumulate points in the regular season.  A key to those points is Niklas Backstrom.  He’s amazing in actual game play, but has struggled horribly in shootouts.  While next year is the big year for the Wild with wunderkind Mikael Granlund coming stateside, this roster should push for a playoff spot in the ultra competitive Western conference.

Best Case Scenario:  6th  Worst Case Scenario:  12th

Players

Top Offensive:  Dany Heatley

Top Defensive:  Nick Schultz

Breakout Offensive:  Brett Bulmer

Breakout Defensive: Marco Scandella

Starting Goalie:  Niklas Backstrom

 

3.  Colorado Avalanche (30-44-8)

Top Scorer:  Matt Duchene (27-40-67)

Best Case Scenario:  6th  Worst Case Scenario:  15th

Of all the teams making moves in the offseason, the trade the Avalanche made with Washington for Semyon Varlamov was a head scratcher.  They gave up a lot of high draft value for a player who had never shouldered the load of a number one netminder before.  Veteran JS Giguere gives them a backup option in case Varlamov struggles.  After struggling for a few years, Colorado has acquired some high powered young talent up front like Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, and Gabriel Landeskog.  While the team is still way too young and inexperienced at the NHL level to do much damage, they will be a very entertaining team to watch.  However, they have played better every other year in recent history.  Last year was down, perhaps the Avalanche trend upward again this year.

Players

Top Offensive:  Matt Duchene

Top Defensive:  John Michael Liles

Breakout Offensive:  Gabriel Landeskog

Breakout Defensive:  Erik Johnson

Starting Goalie:  Semyon Varlamov

 

4.  Edmonton Oilers  (25-45-12)

Top Scorer:  Jordan Eberle (19-25-43)

Best Case Scenario:  8th  Worst Case Scenario:  15th

Players

Top Offensive:  Taylor Hall

Top Defensive:  Ryan Whitney

Breakout Offensive:  Linus Omark

Breakout Defensive:  Corey Potter

Starting Goalie:  Nikolai Khabibulin

5.  Calgary Flames  (41-29-12)

Top Scorer:  Jarome Iginla (43-43-86)

Best Case Scenario:  1st  Worst Case Scenario:  6th

Players

Top Offensive:  Sidney Crosby

Top Defensive:  Kris Letang

Breakout Offensive:  James Neal

Breakout Defensive:  Zbynek Michalek

Starting Goalie:  Marc Andre Fleury

Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms.  He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long.  Look for new articles throughout the week.  He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy.  If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at bryan.vickroy@gmail.com .

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