A new season is upon us and we already have a grasp of what to expect in the “Wild” Western Conference. At least to start the campaign, that is. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for each team.
In the Central Division a few big developments have occurred. Cristobal Huet comes out the big winner of the Chicago goalie sweepstakes and should be in line for a solid season on a young but dynamic Blackhawks team. Dustin Byfuglien is possibly the biggest fantasy loophole this season gaining both forward and defense eligibility in fantasy hockey leagues. He could pick up 50 points in one of your defense positions.
Derrick Brassard seems to have won the center sweepstakes in Columbus skating between Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, while R.J. Umberger is slated for second line duties with Jakub Voracek and Fredrik Modin. Nikita Filatov is still trying to earn the last roster spot on a suddenly deep Blue Jackets squad.
Nothing surprising is happening in Motown, but with the addition of Marian Hossa it has allowed some flexibility in splitting Henrik Zetterberg from Pavel Datsyuk. Jiri Hudler deserves a jump in value lining up with Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.
In Nashville, one of Dobber’s favorites, Patric Hornqvist seems to have moved up on the depth charts to play on a much underrated Preds top-line of Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. That should at least soften the blow of the potential loss of Alexander Radulov to the KHL.
Possibly the biggest surprise this season could be the Blues offense. The Blues top line of Andy McDonald, Lee Stempniak and Brad Boyes tallied a total of 35 points in just five pre-season games. Most fantasy owners probably bypassed a lot of Blues players during their drafts, but with this impressive pre-season these three must be owned right now.
There haven’t been a lot of big developments stemming from the Northwest Division, but there are a few noteworthy changes. Todd Bertuzzi seems to have rekindled some of the chemistry he had playing with Jarome Iginla during the Olympics. It looks like Daymond Langkow will center the two, which could leave recently acquired Mike Cammalleri with the short end of the stick.
Joe Sakic returns for another season in Colorado and should score at a point-per-game pace. Andrew Raycroft and Peter Budaj will battle it out all season long for the number one gig in Colorado. J.M. Liles will probably welcome Tony Granato back behind the Avs bench; Liles scored 14 goals each season he played under Granato while only picking up six goals last season under Joel Quenneville in his doghouse.
The Oilers will start the season with three goalies. Jeff Deslauriers needs to clear waivers if he is sent down to the minors, and there will be another NHL team ready to jump on his services if that happens. Mathieu Garon has played well enough to earn the starting gig, so you’ll probably see Dwayne Roloson dealt sometime during the season for a bucket of pucks. Sheldon Souray seems to be back to 2006 form where he tallied 64 points in 81 games. There will be less pressure on him now that they also added Lubomir Visnovsky on the blue line. The Oilers power play certainly looks revamped and could be one of the top units in the NHL this season.