1. VANCOUVER CANUCKS (56 PTS)
Key additions: RW Anson Carter, G Wade Flaherty, RW Richard Park
Key subtractions: D Marek Malik, D Brent Sopel, LW Brad May, G Johan Hedberg
The skinny: "There's just too much regular-season offensive firepower," Kerr says. "This is one team that will make hay early with all the power-plays that should be handed out. Plus, they may have the best line in the NHL, with Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison."
2. CALGARY FLAMES (54)
Key additions: RW Tony Amonte, RW Darren McCarty, D Roman Hamrlik, G Philippe Sauve, C Daymond Langkow
Key subtractions: LW Martin Gelinas, C Craig Conroy, LW Ville Nieminen, G Roman Turek, D Mike Commodore
The skinny: "Darryl Sutter, Darryl Sutter, Darryl Sutter," Davidson says. "Nobody gets off the hook with him. Over a very short period of time, he's proven to be one of the best hockey minds in the business. Period. They have good depth on the blueline, they're tough and it's a fairly young lineup. That'll be important with the condensed schedule due to the Olympics."
3. DETROIT RED WINGS (48)
Key additions: G Chris Osgood, D Andy Delmore
Key subtractions: G Curtis Joesph. D Derian Hatcher, RW Darren McCarty, D Mathieu Dandenault
The skinny: "They've lost a little bit of character with Hatcher and McCarty gone," Davidson says. "Steve Yzerman is older. They need their young players to become the big guys. They've got a new coach and there's still a lot of good players on that team."
4. SAN JOSE SHARKS (46)
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: D Mike Rathje, C Mike Ricci
The skinny: "This is an underestimated, young - yet experienced - team," Kerr says. "They've lost some older players but they'll be fine. It doesn't hurt that they have one of the better 'tenders in Evgeni Nabokov. The crackdown on obstruction and not having a red-line may allow Patrick Marleau to have a breakout season."
5. EDMONTON OILERS (39)
Key additions: D Chris Pronger, C Mike Peca
Key subtractions: RW Brad Isbister, C Mike York
The skinny: "They were ninth in scoring the last time they played two years ago, and their power-play sucked," Garrett says. "So they'll score by committee and the power-play will be better. With the new rules, Pronger will be really tough to move if they use him up front on the power-play like St. Louis did at times. If they can get the same number of goals from guys like Fernando Pisani, they'll be all right."
6. DALLAS STARS (38)
Key additions: D Martin Skoula, D Stephane Robidas
Key subtractions: RW Rob DiMaio
The skinny: "Marty Turco and Mike Modano will single-handedly keep it from getting worse," Kerr says. "This is a team caught in transition between the old CBA and the new CBA. They're going to have to make a decision on which way they're going."
7. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (31)
Key additions: LW Paul Kariya, D Danny Markov, C Scott Nichol
Key subtractions: None
The skinny: "I think their team was designed for clutch-and-grab, tight defence and good goaltending," Garrett says. "I don't think Paul Kariya will be the answer by scoring enough goals to make a difference. In 2004, they made the playoffs for the first time and a lot of it was their goaltender. Can he be as good night after night after night? I don't think so."
8. COLORADO AVALANCHE (29)
Key additions: C Pierre Turgeon, D Patrice Brisebois, D Curtis Leschyshyn
Key subtractions: C Peter Forsberg, D Adam Foote
The skinny: The loss of Forsberg is huge," McGuire says. "The loss of Foote is gigantic. People know who Adam Foote is but he doesn't get enough credit for how good a player he is. Not to slight the guys who replaced them but it's just not the same. Talk about goaltending questions, let's see how David Aebischer does without Foote in front of him and Forsberg deflecting pressure by controlling the puck in the offensive zone."
9. LOS ANGELES KINGS (27)
Key additions: C Pavol Demitra, C Jeremy Roenick, G Mathieu Garon
Key subtractions: RW Ziggy Palffy, C Jozef Stumpel, C Jason Allison
The skinny: "People are discounting L.A. because of the players they've lost," McGuire says. "But they've got a great coach and I think Pavol Demitra, with no red-line, is going to be huge. Same with Valeri Bure. And I'm looking forward to watching Mike Cammalleri play in the NHL. He had an awesome year in the AHL. And Mathieu Garon's going to be really solid in net."
10. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (25)
Key additions: D Adam Foote, D Bryan Berard, G Martin Prusek, C Jan Hrdina
Key subtractions: None
The skinny: "Columbus and Chicago could be the two big surprises on the plus side of the margin," Davidson says.
"Rick Nash is a great player and Adam Foote will help," Garrett adds. "They're counting on Bryan Berard to put up some offensive numbers and play a lot of minutes and I don't think he can do it. Plus, they're just not deep enough."
11. ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS (21)
Key additions: D Scott Niedermayer
Key subtractions: None
The skinny: "Even though he's not on the ice, I think Brian Burke will make a big difference there," McGuire says. "Scotty Niedermayer, if he's not the best player in the league, he's definitely the best defenceman. The power-play should be real effective and without the red-line, Peter Sykora and Sergei Federov are going to have big years. They'll also have an infusion of youth with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry."
12. ST. LOUIS BLUES (19)
Key additions: D Eric Brewer, LW Dean McAmmond
Key subtractions: D Chris Pronger, C Pavol Demitra
The skinny: "Losing Pronger, Demitra and maybe not having Al MacInnis (hurts)," McGuire says. "There's so many obvious factors that relegate them to where they are. They've lost so much and had so little replace it.
13. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (18)
Key additions: G Nikolai Khabibulin, D Adrian Aucoin, RW Martin Lapointe
Key subtractions: G Jocelyn Thibault
The skinny: "Khabibulin will give them good goaltending," Garrett says. "But he's going to have to be great, not just good, every night. And you put all your money in him and Adrian Aucoin. I like Trent Yawney as a coach but I don't think they've got enough talent. It's just not going to work."
14. MINNESOTA WILD (16)
Key additions: LW Andrei Nazarov, D Scott Ferguson, D Daniel Tjarnqvist, C Todd White
Key subtractions: Andrew Brunette
The skinny: "I think they're a year away from taking another step forward," McGuire says. "Their young players are good but they lost a real good scorer in Andrew Brunette. Once the younger guys develop, they'll be a team a lot like Nashville in terms of turning it up another notch."
15. PHOENIX COYOTES (13)
Key additions: G Curtis Joseph
Key subtractions: G Sean Burke
The skinny: "Do the guys they brought in really improve the team that much? I don't know," Garrett says. "Don't forget about the Gretzky factor," Davidson cautions. "Don't underestimate him. He may take this team and give them a heck of a chance to get in. He'll bring something to the table that will make players give that extra effort that may win them a few games."
The NHL will have a new look when the 2005-06 campaign kicks off this fall.
New faces on new teams, new rules aimed at creating more offence.
With all the changes that have taken place over the past six weeks, Sun Media hockey writer Scott Fisher polled four hockey experts to get their views on the revamped Western Conference. The Fan 960's Rob Kerr, Sportsnet's John Garrett, TSN's Pierre McGuire and New York Rangers broadcaster John Davidson offer their opinions but, with final rosters still up in the air, the panel reserves the right to alter their views before the puck drops.
The final rankings are determined by giving 15 points for every first-place vote, 14 for second, on down to one point for a last-place vote.