NHL 2011-12 preview: Predicting the conferences

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Updated: October 5, 2011 - 8:03 PM

Michael Russo takes a look at how the NHL's Western and Eastern Conferences will shake out this season.

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San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, center, crashed the net against Phoenix in the preseason. Burns, traded to the Sharks on draft night, will try to get San Jose over the hump in the Western Conference playoffs.

Photo: Ross D. Franklin, AP

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WESTERN CONFERENCE RANKINGS

(predicted order of finish)

1. SAN JOSE SHARKS

2010-11: 48-25-9 (105 points)

After going to the conference finals the past two seasons, the Sharks will bank on Brent Burns and Martin Havlat to get them over the hump.

2. VANCOUVER CANUCKS

2010-11: 54-19-9 (117 points)

Coughing up a Cup will make this team even more motivated, but it must survive the first month without Ryan Kesler.

3. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

2010-11: 44-29-9 (97 points)

Awesome core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith is complemented by veteran additions Andrew Brunette and Jamal Mayers.

4. LOS ANGELES KINGS

2010-11: 46-30-6 (98 points)

Anze Kopitar-Mike Richards punch can match up with any centers in the league, and suddenly-svelte Dustin Penner is motivated.

5. DETROIT RED WINGS

2010-11: 47-25-10 (104 points)

Plenty of holes and aging, but when you boast Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom, you'll be just fine.

6. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

2010-11: 44-27-11 (99 points)

Star goalie in Pekka Rinne, star defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and a superstar coach in Barry Trotz.

7. ST. LOUIS BLUES

2010-11: 38-33-11 (87 points)

Been fooled by underachieving bunch for two years, so why not three? Look for Chris Stewart to have a monster year with David Backes.

8. ANAHEIM DUCKS

2010-11: 47-30-5 (99 points)

This is a one-line team, but that one line is Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry. And goalie Jonas Hiller appears recovered from vertigo.

9. DALLAS STARS

2010-11: 42-29-11 (95 points)

Offensive threats with Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow; blue line, goaltending questionable.

10. MINNESOTA WILD

2010-11: 39-35-8

(86 points)

Healthy Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be huge if Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi light lamp, but blue line could cause distress.

11. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

2010-11: 34-35-13 (81 points)

Rick Nash finally has a center next to him in Jeff Carter, and Fedor Tyutin is a star on the back end, but it all comes down to goalie Steve Mason.

12. PHOENIX COYOTES

2010-11: 43-26-13 (99 points)

Don't bet against coach Dave Tippett, but the goaltending switch of Ilya Bryzgalov for Mike Smith makes us skittish.

13. COLORADO AVALANCHE

2010-11: 30-44-8 (68 points)

This young, talented team is on the rise, but it is not mature enough yet to gain 30 points and make the playoffs.

14. CALGARY FLAMES

2010-11: 41-29-12 (94 points)

GM Jay Feaster inherited an aging lineup with a shallow prospects corps. Even Jarome Iginla can't keep this team from falling off map.

15. EDMONTON OILERS

2010-11: 25-45-12 (62 points)

Scintillating crop of forwards with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi; worst blue line on face of the Earth.

EASTERN CONFERENCE RANKINGS

(predicted order of finish)

1. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

2010-11: 49-25-8 (106 points)

Undefeated preseason without Sid the Kid. But Crosby should be back soon, and Evgeni Malkin clearly is back from major knee surgery.

2. WASHINGTON CAPITALS

2010-11: 48-23-11 (107 points)

Alex Ovechkin is beyond motivated. Agent's misstep in overpricing free-agent goalie Tomas Vokoun enabled him to fall into the Caps' laps.

3. BOSTON BRUINS

2010-11: 46-25-11 (103 points)

As deep a team as there is in the NHL. Can Tim Thomas even come close to duplicating an all-world season that lifted the B's to a Cup?

4. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

2010-11: 46-25-11 (103 points)

Steven Stamkos is a top-three NHL player, and the rest have taken to Guy Boucher's system. Will GM Steve Yzerman replace soon-to-be 42-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson?

5. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

2010-11: 47-23-12 (106 points)

Booted Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to change culture; handed reins to Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.

6. NEW YORK RANGERS

2010-11: 44-33-5 (93 points)

Marian Gaborik finally has a center in Brad Richards. Now, can Gabby rebound from an atrocious 2010-11 season?

7. CAROLINA HURRICANES

2010-11: 40-31-11 (91 points)

Eric Staal and Cam Ward still might be the faces of the franchise, but make no mistake, this team belongs to Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter.

8. BUFFALO SABRES

2010-11: 43-29-10 (96 points)

New owner Terry Pegula threw the money around, giving Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino big bucks to complement a solid core.

9. WINNIPEG JETS

2010: 34-36-12 (80 points)

Tremendous first half last season was followed by a second-half swoon and an eventual move out of Atlanta. Stacked with rising kids.

10. MONTREAL CANADIENS

2010-11: 44-30-8 (96 points)

Had lots of trouble scoring last season (except against the Wild), but big addition Erik Cole hasn't succeeded anywhere but Carolina.

11. NEW YORK ISLANDERS

2010-11: 30-39-13 (73 points)

They're big time on the rise with John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson. Slight problem: Goaltending is still kind of important in the NHL.

12. NEW JERSEY DEVILS

2010-11: 38-39-5 (81 points)

Travis Zajac injury will hurt, but Zach Parise and gang exploded in the second half. Of course, that could have been the Jacques Lemaire factor.

13. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

2010-11: 37-34-11 (85 points)

After failing to land Brad Richards, the No. 1 center brought in to play alongside Phil Kessel was, gulp, Tim Connolly. Good luck with that.

14. FLORIDA PANTHERS

2010-11: 30-40-12 (72 points)

Executed an offseason overhaul like no other, but it wouldn't be a season without Florida missing the playoffs.

15. OTTAWA SENATORS

2010-11: 32-40-10 (74 points)

From Stanley Cup finalists to favorites for first overall pick in five long years, this team is rebuilding big-time.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 108 FINAL
Orlando 93
Sacramento 99 FINAL
Indiana 94
Toronto 120 FINAL
Washington 116
Houston 101 FINAL
Detroit 114
Philadelphia 85 FINAL
Atlanta 91
Cleveland 106 FINAL
Minnesota 90
Oklahoma City 74 FINAL
Memphis 85
Portland 88 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
LA Clippers 105 FINAL
San Antonio 85
Charlotte 104 FINAL
Denver 86
Phoenix 53 3rd Qtr 11:13
Golden State 52
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 1 FINAL
Detroit 4
Arizona 2 FINAL
Ottawa 7
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Boston 3
Florida 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Carolina 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Toronto 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 1
Dallas 5 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Columbus 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Edmonton 2 3rd Prd
Calgary 0
Chicago 0 2nd Prd 8:37
San Jose 1
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 69 FINAL
Binghamton 76
Green Bay 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
Coll of Charleston 68 FINAL
Delaware 71
Villanova 68 FINAL
DePaul 55
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
TCU 66 FINAL
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 57 FINAL
Kansas 68
Boston Univ 86 FINAL
Lehigh 89
Illinois State 48 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 72 FINAL
Marquette 68
LSU 67 FINAL
Miss State 73
Mount St Marys 77 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 64 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Virginia Tech 70 FINAL
Wake Forest 73
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 43 FINAL
Georgia State 74
Loyola-Maryland 77 FINAL
Army 71
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 71
Bethune-Cookman 61 FINAL
Florida A&M 44
Valparaiso 70 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 65
UAB 65 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 57
Idaho State 69 FINAL
North Dakota 80
Evansville 65 FINAL
Drake 70
Rutgers 64 FINAL
Indiana 72
Ball State 73 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 79
Southern U 65 FINAL
Alcorn State 56
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Drexel 85
Coastal Carolina 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 66
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Howard 64
William & Mary 84 FINAL
James Madison 65
North Carolina 68 FINAL
Louisville 78
Coppin State 82 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 92
Ole Miss 67 FINAL
Missouri 47
Wichita State 54 FINAL
Northern Iowa 70
Loyola Marymount 76 FINAL
Pacific 71
Winthrop 66 FINAL
Radford 73
George Washington 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 59
Bryant 71 FINAL
Robert Morris 68
Long Island 64 FINAL
St Francis-NY 81
Fair-Dickinson 63 FINAL
St Francis-PA 68
Massachusetts 60 FINAL
Saint Louis 56
Georgia 50 FINAL
South Carolina 67
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Wagner 86
SIU Edwardsville 54 FINAL
Eastern Ill 57
Ohio 69 FINAL
Central Mich 74
Eastern Ky 66 FINAL
Morehead State 57
Incarnate Word 69 FINAL
Nicholls 58
Campbell 63 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 70
Vanderbilt 58 FINAL
Texas A&M 69
Western Carolina 78 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 73
Detroit 74 FINAL
Milwaukee 78
Idaho 95 FINAL
Eastern Wash 98
Marshall 57 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 81
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Houston Baptist 52 FINAL
Sam Houston St 63
Louisiana 72 FINAL
Texas State 63
Denver 39 FINAL
South Dakota St 69
Oral Roberts 73 FINAL
South Dakota 72
South Alabama 61 FINAL
ULM 67
Texas 60 FINAL
Baylor 83
Citadel 73 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Fresno State 57 FINAL
Colorado State 80
Yale 65 FINAL
Cornell 57
Ark-Pine Bluff 65 FINAL
Grambling St 53
Nebraska 42 FINAL
Minnesota 60
Purdue 68 FINAL
Northwestern 60
Alabama A&M 63 FINAL
Prairie View 89
Dartmouth 53 FINAL
Princeton 64
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
St Marys-CA 62
Delaware State 74 FINAL
SC State 78
Western Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Miss 62
Nevada 55 FINAL
Wyoming 63
Hampton 60 FINAL
Norfolk State 63
NC A&T 62 FINAL
Savannah State 59
Akron 69 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
Colgate 71 FINAL
Bucknell 69
FIU 78 FINAL
Charlotte 70
Brown 65 FINAL
Columbia 86
George Mason 53 FINAL
Duquesne 62
NC Central 59 FINAL
East Tenn St 61
Saint Peters 61 FINAL
Iona 68
Alabama 55 FINAL
Kentucky 70
Char Southern 74 FINAL
Liberty 62
Hawaii 50 FINAL
Long Beach State 65
New Orleans 61 FINAL
McNeese State 68
Lafayette 74 FINAL
Navy 65
Elon 61 FINAL
Northeastern 80
Fla Atlantic 57 FINAL
Old Dominion 68
Harvard 63 FINAL
Penn 38
La Salle 66 FINAL
St Bonaventure 56
Furman 58 FINAL
Samford 68
Duke 69 FINAL
Virginia 63
Mercer 46 FINAL
Wofford 49
Northern Ky 64 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 74
USC Upstate 79 FINAL
North Florida 74
Longwood 71 FINAL
Presbyterian 67
Ark-Little Rock 61 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Abilene Christian 74 FINAL
Lamar 84
TX A&M-CC 51 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 61
SE Missouri St 70 FINAL
Austin Peay 64
CS-Northridge 62 FINAL
UC Riverside 66
Towson 86 FINAL
Hofstra 72
UT Martin 62 FINAL
Murray State 65
San Jose St 41 FINAL
New Mexico 67
Rice 65 FINAL
North Texas 75
Toledo 80 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Oklahoma State 56
San Francisco 69 FINAL
San Diego 77
Utah State 42 FINAL
San Diego St 62
Northwestern St 88 FINAL
SE Louisiana 73
UCF 56 FINAL
SMU 75
Southern Ill 46 FINAL
Missouri State 52
Troy 55 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 54
Jacksonville St 43 FINAL
Tennessee St 45
Alabama State 65 FINAL
Texas Southern 80
Stanford 88 FINAL
Washington St 89
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
BYU 78
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
New Mexico St 53
Northern Ariz 81 FINAL
Southern Utah 60
Middle Tennessee 70 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Weber State 57 FINAL
Northern Colorado 71
Chicago State 56 FINAL
Grand Canyon 55
UC Santa Barbara 55 FINAL
UC Irvine 77
Memphis 50 2nd Half 5:33
Gonzaga 70
Air Force 63 FINAL
UNLV 74
Cal Poly 65 2nd Half 0:27
UC Davis 65
Montana State 62 FINAL
Portland State 80
Montana 69 2nd Half 1:41
Sacramento St 65
Colorado 35 2nd Half 11:39
UCLA 42
UMKC 42 2nd Half 10:16
Utah Valley U 37
Seattle 51 2nd Half 0:35
CS-Bakersfield 53
Mount St Marys 64 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
Charleston Southern 40 FINAL
Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Liberty 58 FINAL
High Point 41
Presbyterian 46 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 59
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
Northern Ill 65 FINAL
Ball State 62
Houston 66 FINAL
Cincinnati 69
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Holy Cross 67 FINAL
American Univ 61
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
George Washington 87 FINAL
George Mason 52
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Jacksonville 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 64
North Florida 49 FINAL
USC Upstate 61
St Marys-CA 53 FINAL
Pepperdine 49
Nebraska Omaha 49 FINAL
IUPUI 68
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
Sam Houston St 74
Mercer 59 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 71
No Dakota State 52 FINAL
South Dakota St 82
Oral Roberts 70 FINAL
South Dakota 93
Southern Miss 63 FINAL
Western Ky 61
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
UAB 73
East Carolina 67 FINAL
Tulane 63
South Florida 57 FINAL
Memphis 53
Buffalo 75 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 53
New Mexico St 74 FINAL
TX-Pan American 71
Utah Valley U 58 FINAL
UMKC 61
Jackson State 71 FINAL
Miss Valley St 74
Louisiana 83 FINAL
Texas State 81
South Alabama 53 FINAL
ULM 55
Saint Louis 72 FINAL
Dayton 87
Cleveland State 72 FINAL
Oakland 64
Grand Canyon 76 FINAL
Chicago State 51
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oregon 67
Washington St 56 FINAL
(12) Stanford 75
Kansas State 41 FINAL
Texas Tech 38
UNLV 91 FINAL
Air Force 79
UCF 61 FINAL
Tulsa 70
UNC Greensboro 64 FINAL
Wofford 77
Delaware State 62 FINAL
SC State 64
San Diego State 70 FINAL
Utah State 59
Sacramento St 86 FINAL
Montana 94
Northern Colorado 52 FINAL
Weber State 59
Hampton 66 FINAL
Norfolk State 71
NC A&T 53 FINAL
Savannah State 48
Alabama A&M 64 FINAL
Prairie View 81
Toledo 64 FINAL
Bowling Green 48
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
Grambling 75
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alcorn State 51
Marist 63 FINAL
Iona 58
Bucknell 41 FINAL
Colgate 54
North Dakota 69 FINAL
Idaho State 75
Ark-Little Rock 58 FINAL
Georgia Southern 44
BYU 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 56
Gonzaga 85 FINAL
Portland 63
Pacific 84 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 61
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Lamar 76
Colorado State 49 FINAL
Fresno State 53
New Mexico 64 FINAL
San Jose St 62
UC Davis 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 54
San Diego 74 FINAL
San Francisco 69
New Orleans 58 FINAL
McNeese State 82
TX A&M-CC 55 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 64
Old Dominion 72 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 44
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 59
Eastern Washington 98 FINAL
Idaho 95
Stetson 82 FINAL
Lipscomb 77
Washington 58 FINAL
California 82
USC 35 FINAL
(7) Oregon State 68
IUPU-Ft Wayne 55 FINAL
Western Ill 59
Northwestern St 52 FINAL
SE Louisiana 58
SE Missouri St 62 FINAL
Austin Peay 70
Portland State 46 FINAL
Montana State 63
Columbia 76 FINAL
Brown 85
Charlotte 81 FINAL
FIU 62
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
(19) Princeton 83 FINAL
Dartmouth 65
Penn 74 FINAL
Harvard 69
UT Martin 95 FINAL
Murray State 85
Troy 67 FINAL
TX-Arlington 70
Alabama State 51 FINAL
Texas Southern 67
Jacksonville St 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 50
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Nevada 45
Oklahoma St 63 FINAL
Iowa State 62
CS-Bakersfield 69 FINAL
Seattle 62
La Salle 74 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 65
Cal-Irvine 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 74
Fla Gulf Coast 67 FINAL
Northern Ky 46
Southern Utah 64 FINAL
Northern Ariz 73
Green Bay 64 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 45
CS-Northridge 49 FINAL
Hawaii 64
Cal State Fullerton 68 2nd Half 0:39
Long Beach St 72
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