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O'Callahan: Shift in the Northwest

by Seamus O'Callahan / Dallas Stars

Seamus O'Callahan reviews:

Southeast Division
Atlantic Division
Northeast Division
Central Division
Northwest Division
Pacific Division
The Northwest Division has been one of the most competitive in the entire league for the last few years. While that should continue, the overall strength of the division will take a hit in 2008-09, as I project Colorado and Vancouver to drop a notch or two in overall quality.

The Calgary Flames will make up for it though, as I can see them challenging for a top-two seed in the West. Edmonton will be an interesting team, and Minnesota will be, well, Minnesota.

Here’s a look at the Northwest Division and how it stacks up six weeks into free agency:

Calgary Flames
Additions: F Mike Cammalleri (trade w LA), Todd Bertuzzi, F Curtis Glenncross, F Rene Bourque, F Andre Roy.
Subtractions: Alex Tanguay, Kristian Huselius, Owen Nolan, Mark Smith, Stephan Yelle, Curtis Joseph
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: GM Darryl Sutter was a busy man, shaking things up and changing the landscape in Calgary. I really like the acquisition he made in Cammalleri, but will losing Alex Tanguay be a shot to the offense? The Flames have one of the best captains in the league with Jarome Iginla and plenty of leadership. I expect this Calgary team to play well as a unit and be one of the biggest surprises in the league and roll to a division crown.

Colorado Avalanche
Additions: G Andrew Raycroft, F Darcy Tucker, D Daniel Tjarnqvist, F Matt Hendricks, F Brian Willsie.
Subtractions: Not sure yet, but Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic were both unsigned UFA’s at press time, D Jeff Finger, Jose Theodore.
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: Any team that loses Forsberg and Sakic will take a drop. But it remains to be seen what they will do. It would be hard to imagine Sakic signing anywhere but Colorado, but is he done? Adam Foote was re-signed as well as John-Michael Liles, but look for the Avs to drop out of the playoff picture possibly if Super Joe retires. Yes, he’s that good of a leader. (I also expect him to play).

Edmonton Oilers
Additions: F Ryan Potulny (trade w Philly), D Lubomir Visnovsky (trade w LA), F Gilbert Brule (trade with Columbus), F Eric Cole (trade w Carolina), F Jason Strudwick.
Subtractions: Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Raffi Torres, Joni Pitkanen, Geoff Sanderson, Marty Reasoner.
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: I guess since the Oilers were having trouble luring UFA’s to sign there, they decided to make things happen via the trade route. This will either be a very improved team or a disaster. I like the additions of Cole and Visnovsky but losing Stoll hurts. But will the two buy in and want to play there? The Oilers also have some good young players and will probably be a decent team if they can gel. Goaltending will play a large role in their fate though.

Minnesota Wild
Additions: Owen Nolan, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, Marc-Andre Bergeron (trade w Anaheim), F Corey Locke (trade w Montreal).
Subtractions: Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra, Keith Carney, Mark Parrish, Petteri Nummelin, Sean Hill, Wes Walz, Shawn Belle.
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: The Wild will miss Rolson’s offense and leadership, and I still can’t figure out why Demitra didn’t put up some good numbers in Minny. But bringing back Andrew Brunette helps and Antti Miettinen might be able to help them given some new scenery. The Wild will once again be one of the league’s best at defense but can they score enough goals to win the division again? Calgary will have something to say about that.

Vancouver Canucks
Additions: Steve Bernier (trade w Buffalo), Nolan Baumgartner, Pavol Demitra, Jason Krog, Ryan Johnson.
Subtractions: Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden, Brad Isbister, Aaron Miller, Brendan Morrison.
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: Vancouver might be a major mess this season. This is a year of transition for the Canucks, and you have to wonder what the future of the Sedin twins is. Are they good enough to anchor a team or are they simply important cogs in the wheel? Any team that had Roberto Luongo is going to be good, but Pavol Demitra and some others are going to have to help and score goals. I see the Canucks not making the top 8 in the west and watching the playoffs from home again.

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