Season Preview: Ranking The Western Conference Forwards
Yesterday, I ranked the Eastern Conference teams in terms of their forwards. Today, I look at the West.
Surprised? Don’t be. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are a nucleus that can keep this team in contention for years to come. Naturally, with all the off-season moves, depth is a greater issue than it was last year.
The best first line in hockey (Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley) can stay together, now that the team has found Joe Pavelski to anchor the second line. Nice grit, but little offensive depth on the 3rd or 4th lines. An effective Logan Couture would go a long way towards establishing the bottom-half of the Sharks forward roster.
Henrik Sedin had more assists last year than he had points in any previous year. Hard to believe he’ll produce at the same pace this year. Manny Malholtra and Raffi Torres really help the third-line. Still lacking some depth though – if the Sedins and Ryan Kesler take an offensive step back, I’m not sure who is capable of picking up the slack.
Young, fast, and physical, with good depth up the middle (Anze Kopitar might become the best centre in the Western Conference as early as this year). With their aggressive style of play though, hard to see how this collection of forwards can stay healthy for 82 games. Winger depth isn’t great.
Not as fast as they once were, but this group remains talented and well-disposed to execute the team’s puck-possession game plan. Experienced, but lacking the grit required for a long post-season run. Can Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula form an effective second-line? The Wings sure hope so, as they’d like to play Henrik Zetterberg and Pavol Datsyuk together more often this year.
One of the fastest groups of forwards in the league, with a lot of young scoring depth. Could really use some high-quality sandpaper for the 3rd and 4th lines. And while Brandon Yip, David Jones And T.J. Galiardi seem like they’re poised to be 25-goal scorers, doesn’t this whole group reek of sophomore slump?
A terrific top-line (Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry), but the offensive dam is starting to spring a bunch of holes. Not the quickest or most disciplined bunch either. Two bets I’d stay away from this year: Brett Favre playing an entire NFL regular season, and Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne combining for 50 goals between them.
Weak down the middle, the Oilers do feature some promise on the wings. It’s an awfully young group supporting Ales Hemsky though, and one that’ll be inconsistent this year. Size and defensive play are also in short supply. After three straight 40-point seasons, it’s make or break time for Sam Gagner. This team desperately needs a 1C, or at the very least someone to take quality offensive minutes away from Shawn Horcoff.
Not a very deep group, but the top-6 is solid and can play at both ends of the ice. Nice to see Brad Richards back producing, but beyond him the centre position is weak. 3rd and 4th lines aren’t very talented either. How’s that Fabian Brunnstrom thing working out, Stars fans?
A pretty pedestrian collection of forwards without much imagination. And Jarome Iginla’s a year older. One of the slower sets of forwards as well, although it has some grit. A lot of pressure on Mikael Backlund to show some offensive flash this year.
Like Colorado, this group has killer speed, but the Coyotes’ offensive talent just isn’t nearly as deep. It’s not very physical or consistent mix either. Is this the year we find out if Viktor Tikhonov, Mikael Boedker, Kyle
Turris, Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski can turn potential into results? None of them look like sure things anymore.
Solid two-way group that has decent size, but the Blues really could use some more offense. The bottom-6 is a goal desert. Patrik Berglund looks ready to take the next step though.
An eclectic mix of size and grit personified in Mikko Koivu, who has all the skills and strengths of Ryan Kesler without the notoriety. Pluggers fill-out the 3rd and 4th lines. A health Pierre-Marc Bouchard would really stabilize the offense, but that might be too much to ask.
A hard-working, gritty group that can play a strong two-way game. Very little offensive talent though. A healthy Steve Sullivan would be a major help, but it’s far more likely Colin Wilson takes a step towards being a franchise 1C.
Hard to believe a team with Rick Nash on it can be graded so low, but this team is lacking at centre, doesn’t defend very well and needs an upgrade on the 3rd, 4th lines. Jakub Voracek ended last year strong – they need another producer up front desperately.