There are easier things to do than making the playoffs in the Western Conference. Last season, the St. Louis Blues
, Calgary Flames
, Anaheim Ducks
and Dallas Stars
all failed to qualify in the West. Had they played in the Eastern Conference, they would have.
Of the teams that did qualify, seven of the eight earned at least 100 points. The talent hasn't dropped off in the offseason, either and this season's battle for Best of the West should be as balanced and competitive as ever.
Here's a look at which teams will compete for supremacy and which might reverse their fortunes come the 2010-11 season:
After ending a 49-year drought by winning the Stanley Cup last spring, the Blackhawks will have a target on their backs, game in and game out. But while the Hawks lost some pieces in the offseason, the duo of Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
returns and will be complemented with skilled forwards Marian Hossa
and Patrick Sharp
, while Norris Trophy hopeful Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
solidify the defense.
Detroit Red Wings:
Goalie Jimmy Howard
had a rookie season to remember; with another year under his belt, the Wings will have no trouble in goal. Up front, Pavel Datsyuk
and Henrik Zetterberg
hope for bounce-back seasons. What's more, the Red Wings will still have one of the formidable defensive units led by Nicklas Lidstrom
and Brian Rafalski
San Jose Sharks:
The Sharks owned the best record in the Western Conference for the second consecutive season and with Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
, Dany Heatley
and Dan Boyle
, a threepeat is within reach, though an appearance in the Final is the expectation in San Jose. Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi
should help bring that mentality to the locker room and ice, as he replaces Evgeni Nabokov
After relinquishing his captaincy, Roberto Luongo
can concentrate his efforts solely on stopping the puck, while Henrik and Daniel Sedin
continue to put up points at a rapid pace. Mason Raymond
, Mikael Samuelsson
and Alexandre Burrows
give the Canucks a deep, balanced attack. Vancouver.
St. Louis Blues:
The Blues missed the playoffs by five points last season, but there's a young core that includes David Perron
, T.J. Oshie
, David Backes
and Erik Johnson
that can help the team make a push in 2010-11 -- especially if newcomer Jaroslav Halak
plays up to his playoff performance in goal.
There's no room to go but up when you finish at the bottom of the standings like the Oilers did last season, but the No. 1 selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Taylor Hall
, will join Edmonton's future with Jordan Eberle
and Magnus Paajarvi
-- and the three can quickly reverse fortunes for a young, hungry team.
For more coverage to help guide you through to the regular season, be sure to check out the EA Sports NHL 11 Season Preview show here on NHL.com.