Finally, after months and months of everyone involved being morons, causing 113 days, 625 games, and the biggest outdoor hockey game in history to be cancelled, hockey fans can finally say “Game On!” The NHL has a new 10-year labor agreement, and is set to start the shortened, 48 game 2013 season on Saturday, January 19. Find out what you need to know about every team in the NHL for the upcoming season, this time featuring the Northwest Division. Continue after the jump to find out where your team will finish.
After being a collection of the Vancouver Canucks and four of the bottom 5 teams in the NHL for many years, the Northwest Division has seen an influx of talent this year, which could threaten Vancouver’s dominance. Minnesota has stocked up on free agents and blue chip prospects. The Oilers have been able to let their #1 picks develop together in the AHL while the rest of the league mostly sat idly by. The Avalanche have the reigning rookie of the year. And on top of that all, the flame of Jarome Iginla as a Flame might finally be put out. The Northwest is no longer a doormat, and in the possible final year of its current configuration, will be one of the best to watch in the hyper fast 48 game season.
NORTHWEST DIVISION PREDICTIONS
1. Vancouver Canucks
LAST YEAR: 51-22-9 (111 pts)
1st Northwest, 1st West (Lost 1st Rd 4-1)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Henrik Sedin (14-67-81)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Roberto Luongo (2.41 GAA, .919 SV, 5 SO)
While it wasn’t the riot inducing heartbreak of the year prior, last season’s Canucks were snake bitten again in the playoffs, getting knocked off by the eventual champion Kings. All offseason, Vancouver has been dogged by the Roberto Luongo trade rumors. Currently, he is a Canuck. In the future, who knows? Vancouver has all the talent, if healthy, to take another stab at winning a Stanley Cup. But the window, and talent divide between the rest of the division, is closing fast. Henrik and Daniel Sedin will have to carry the load to start the year with Ryan Kesler injured to start the season. If the starting job is really Corey Schneider’s to lose, he will need a strong start before the rabid Vancouver fans switch their allegiance back to Bobby Lou.
2013 Leading Scorer: Henrik Sedin
2013 Breakout Player: Jordan Schroeder
2. Minnesota Wild
LAST YEAR: 35-36-11 (81 pts)
4th Northwest, 12th West (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Dany Heatley (24-29-53)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Niklas Backstrom (2.43 GAA, .919 SV, 4 SO)
The Wild led the NHL just before Christmas last year, then lost Pierre Marc Bouchard to a concussion and a game to the Winnipeg Jets. The season proceeded to fall apart, as did the players, literally. Minnesota dressed more than 50 different skaters last year, and couldn’t account for the lack of depth in the farm system. Then Minnesota set off fireworks on the Fourth of July by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. On top of that, the coming of Finnish Baby Jesus, Mikael Granlund, is finally here, giving Wild fans their superstar prospect savior that has been missing since day one. If the talent can gel, and find ways to score more than last season (which shouldn’t be hard), Minnesota should be back in the playoffs, and starting a new era in the State of Hockey.
2013 Leading Scorer: Mikko Koivu
2013 Breakout Player: Jared Spurgeon
3. Edmonton Oilers
LAST YEAR: 32-40-10 (74 pts)
5th Northwest, 14th West (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Jordan Eberle (34-42-76)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk (2.67 GAA, .914 SV, 2 SO)
If the already played AHL season were included in the standings, the Oilers would probably have clinched the Presidents Trophy already. Having Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Justin Schultz all playing for Oklahoma City helped build team chemistry, and will have the young talent primed to go when the season gets going. Unfortunately, not much was done to shore up the back end for Edmonton. Schultz, the big time prospect from America’s current college hockey factory (Wisconsin), spurned the Ducks this summer to get the free agent treatment, and signed with the Oilers. If all goes well, the Oilers will be back into the playoffs finally. If not, Edmonton will probably make the new draft lottery rules work and nab the top pick again.
2013 Leading Scorer: Jordan Eberle
2013 Breakout Player: Justin Schultz
4. Colorado Avalanche
LAST YEAR: 41-35-6 (88 pts)
3rd Northwest, 11th West (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Ryan O’Reilly (18-37-55)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov (2.59 GAA, .913 SV, 4 SO)
For a young team with little NHL experience, the Avalanche hung around for awhile before injuries and inexperience caught up. One player who didn’t seem to hit a wall was Gabriel Landeskog, who won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Colorado currently has its leading scorer from last season, Ryan O’Reilly, unsigned and still playing in the KHL. If they can’t agree to a contract soon, the loss of offense, and potential disruption, could avalanche the Avalanche early in the season. Pun possibly intended.
2013 Leading Scorer: Gabriel Landeskog
2013 Breakout Player: Tyson Barrie
5. Calgary Flames
LAST YEAR: 37-29-16 (90 pts)
2nd Northwest, 9th West (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Jarome Iginla (32-35-67)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Miikka Kiprusoff (2.35 GAA, .921 SV, 4 SO)
The Flames did absolutely nothing in the offseason, in a division where every other team around them has made significant strides upward. They will continue to rely on Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, and Miika Kiprusoff, for good or bad. With Iginla a free agent at year’s end, this could be the last year on the plains of Alberta for Jarome. The Iginla saga will continue to play out all year until a resolution is found, which might make for good distraction as the rest of the division slowly pulls away from Calgary.
2013 Leading Scorer: Jarome Iginla
2013 Breakout Player: Ben Street
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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