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Rocket's Red Glare: NHL Western Conference preview

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: October 6, 2011 - 1:03 PM

Commenter Rocket is here to write about the NHL so we don't have to. Here is the other half of the NHL preview, taking a look at the Western Conference. In case you missed it, and you have 45 mintues or so, here was the East preview from last week. The NHL starts tonight! Rocket?

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The Vikings are terrible. Let’s just start the Ponder era and the NHL season now please. Here is the predicted order, from worst to first, in the Western Conference and well as a few things that will always keep Stu in last place in my heart.

 
15. Colorado Avalanche
 
Remember when this team was good and it engaged in epic playoff wars with the Detroit Red Wings? Remember when Peter Forsberg was the most dominant player in the game? Yeah, well neither does anybody else. This putrid squad hardly did enough beyond acquiring the Capitals’ former problem to make then much better. It’ll show early and often.
 
Thing About This Team That Reminds Me That I Hate Stu: Much like an avalanche, Stu is also white, noisy, and mother nature’s most clumsy assassin.
 
14. Dallas Stars
Nothing good should ever happen to Texas ever again and it appears that the Stars are attempting to do their part to make it so. Their ownership situation is a mess, their best player, Brad Richards, is now a Ranger, and the franchise’s jerseys once went from this to this. They stole our team and now they are paying the price for it. Savor this rare moment to enjoy the suffering of others, fellow Minnesota sports fans.*
 
TATTTRMTIHS: The Minnesota North Stars left for Dallas in 1993, breaking the hearts of millions in the upper Midwest. Since 1993 Stu has remained in Minnesota, breaking the hearts of at least three very lonely, self-esteemless young lasses in the St. Cloud college bars.
 
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
This typically boring team made some uncharacteristically dynamic moves this offseason, acquiring Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski to go with their one and only superstar, Rick Nash. It should make them at least more watchable, but probably not good enough in a very tough Western Conference. Regardless, this team – the Wild’s expansion brethren – are a good reminder to Minnesota fans that the last dozen years or so could have been worse.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: I’m pretty sure that Stu designed this mascot for the Blue Jackets.
 
12. St. Louis Blues
 
St. Louis is one of approximately 47 NHL teams with ownership problems. With the bizarre exception of Phoenix, each of the 47 teams has fielded a rather terrible product. This is a shame because St. Louis is an underrated hockey town. Although it would have gotten exactly what it deserved if it had ever made these jerseys a reality.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Remember when Wayne Gretzky played a total of 21 regular season and playoff games for the Blues and was ousted in the second round of the playoffs when Steve Yzerman blasted a shot past former UND and North Star goalie Jon Casey in double overtime? Stu doesn’t because he spent those two months sequestered in his parents’ basement trying to create the perfect mixtape to describe his feelings for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
 
11. Edmonton Oilers
 
This perpetually terrible team will be mostly terrible once again. But they’ll be terrible like the 1983 Twins –a team that was slightly better than the horrendous previous season and loaded with good, young talent that needed to learn how to play at the next level – and not terrible like the 2011 Twins, an overpriced collection of mostly underachievers who had a seriously disturbing tendency to look like they had given up. At the very least they’ll be fun and likable, which ought to make some of those late starts for Wild games a bit more bearable.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Whenever anyone mentions the Battle of Alberta reaching its most heated apex in the mid to late 1980s, Stu immediately thinks the speaker is referring to these guys.
 
10. Phoenix Coyotes
 
In one sense, it is very hard to root for this team. They are an ownerless, misbegotten franchise in a non-traditional market without a sustainable fan base and they have only survived in the desert for this long because of Gary Bettman’s obstinacy. Yet, in another sense they are almost impossible to root against. The players have endured and perhaps even thrived during the chaos of the last two years to make the playoffs with a roster that hasn’t looked all that impressive on paper. Unfortunately, this is the year that the Coyotes will no longer be able to get away with spitting into the wind.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu hates the new, classic design and wishes the Coyotes would go back to their old third jerseys.
 
9. Calgary Flames
 
Someday, we’re all going to look back at Jerome Iginla’s career and we’re going to wonder why we didn’t appreciate his Herculean effort more than we did. And then we’re going to look at some of the rosters that he had to play with and we’re going to figure it out. Of course, we’re also not going to be surprised when Olli Jokinen’s mustache is second on the team in scoring this year.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: For the last seventeen years, Stu has entered and finished no higher than seventh in the Calgary Stampede’s sheep riding event.
 
 
(above: probably not Stu but nonetheless a reasonable approximation)
 
8. Minnesota Wild
 
For the first time in franchise history, the Wild has a full line that can scare you. In the past the team has had one player that capable of regularly changing a game when his groin was cooperative. When the top of the lineup card reads Heatley-Koivu-Setoguchi you have to be impressed. Just don’t bother to look at the rest of the roster. One good line can get you into the playoffs, just not much farther.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: The only time Stu has been to the Xcel Energy Center? For this concert.
 
7. Chicago Blackhawks
 
Two years ago, Chicago assembled a team that it knew only had a one year run in it before the salary cap would make it impossible to keep everyone together. They won the Cup and then promptly dismantled the machine while keeping the most important of the important parts. Last year, they snuck into the playoffs despite their depleted roster. The high-end talent is great on this team, but there isn’t enough left on the rest of the roster to make things much better than last year.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu has never once been troubled by the fact that this movie – supposedly set in Chicago – featured one particularly baffling wardrobe choice.
 
6. Los Angeles Kings
 
This has been the “young, talented, exciting team poised to have a breakout season this year” for about the last three years now. While they do have a lot of good young talent as well as the Drew Doughty contract mess finished, maybe they will finally have that breakout season the pundits have been predicting. Then again, this might be one of those “if a tree falls in the forest…” situations. Even if they have a really great season will anybody notice in the incredibly loaded Western Conference?
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Since1982 Stu has been writing hate mail to Marcel Dionne under the mistaken impression that he is the mime who trapped Stu in an invisible box when Stu was twelve while slowly pulling himself further and further from the scene with an invisible rope.
 
5. Anaheim Ducks
 
Corey Perry was the league MVP last year because he went on a tear in the final quarter of the season to reach the 50 goal plateau. Teemu Selanne remains active and productive despite the fact that he began his NHL career with the original Winnipeg Jets. They managed a second half surge basically without their standout goaltender Jonas Hiller.  A full season out of Hiller will mean good things for this talented group.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu’s lone visit to Anaheim was in November of 2002 in a sad and failed attempt to assassinate the Rally Monkey.
 
4. Detroit Red Wings
 
The hockey world has been wondering just when this team is going to get old and finally lose its luster for at least a half a decade. And yet, this perennial Cup contender has remained strong, winning four of the last thirteen Cups, most recently in 2008. But they’ve got to start slowing down sooner or later, and the somewhat surprising retirement of Brian Rafalski is a step in the wrong direction. This year we finally see a little rust on this still powerful machine.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu once engaged in series of disgusting acts that he mistakenly thought was called a “Gordie Howe hat trick” during a particularly “experimental phase” in college.
 
3. Nashville Predators
 
I am almost positive that I once wrote in a previous post that logic dictates that I should hate this team and that still holds true. It is a relic of Gary Bettman’s octomom phase when the league birthed several teams with ugly uniforms in non-traditional markets. Not to mention the fact that the coach, some would say, looks like a cartoon villain. But they’ve won my respect over the last couple of years and this is the season that this team vaults over the Red Wings. Besides, would you bet against a team that has a defenseman that can shoot a puck completely through the net?
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu was permanently banned from the Country Music Hall of Fame for two similar and equally shameful acts that he performed on a wax statue of Patsy Cline and a fellow tourist that looked like the unholy mixing of Buck Owens and Jordin Tootoo.
 
2. Vancouver Canucks
 
Perhaps the single most intriguing player in the NHL this year is going to be Roberto Luongo. His up-and-down performance in the playoffs did nothing to remove the can’t-win-the-big-one label from this otherwise world-class goalie. If things start off slowly then it could get real ugly real quick. Fortunately for Vancouver, they play in the weakest division in the NHL and the totality of their ridiculous level of talent should once again leave them with a very high seed.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: This memorable image led to a mercifully short period of time when Stu would knock women into the street and try to make out with them.
 
1. San Jose Sharks
 
Brent Burns is a terrific addition and Dany Heatley might be addition by subtraction. The new blood just might be what transforms this perpetual early playoff failure. Last year they broke through into the conference finals. This year, get used to the ugliest jerseys in the game today because they are poised to make a deep playoff run.
 
TATTTRMTIHS: Stu is a [redacted].
 
*And let’s all heave a collective relived sigh at the fact that Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team as well, because heaven knows those lummoxes would do to the Stanley Cup.

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