NHL Western Conference Capsules

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:15 PM ET

NORTHWEST DIVISION

Calgary Flames

Say hello to: C Olli Jokinen, LW Alex Tanguay, RW Tim Jackman, LW Raitis Ivanans, G Henrik Karlsson, D T.J. Brodie, C Stefan Meyer, C Brendan Morrison

Say goodbye to: LW Nigel Dawes, RW Brian McGrattan, RW Jamal Mayers, LW Eric Nystrom, RW Christopher Higgins, G Vesa Toskala

On the mend: C Daymond Langkow (neck), C Matt Stajan (shoulder) C/RW David Moss (shoulder), RW Ales Kotalik (knee) are out indefinitely

Insider says

The Flames must become a better offensive team than last season, but the thought that Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen will make enough of a difference that they'll be in the playoffs is hard to believe.

Pivotal player

C Olli Jokinen

Shock and awe was everywhere when the big centre was re-signed to a two-year, $6-million contract. Jokinen struggled during his first stint with the Flames, so the skeptics are out in full force.

2009-10 record: 40-32-7, third in division, 10th in conference

In a shootout

Jarome Iginla

Olli Jokinen

Niklas Hagman

Burning question

Was last year's failure to make the playoffs the first step down to the bottom of the standings or just a blip?

Soft spot

Until proven otherwise, it'll be scoring. Several players are coming off disappointing seasons -- Jokinen, Tanguay, Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester to name a few -- and in need of bouncing back.

Cap room

None

Colorado Avalanche

Say hello to: LW Daniel Winnik, G Jason Bacashihua, C Mark Olver, D Jonas Holos

Say goodbye to: RW Marek Svatos, C Stephane Yelle, LW Darcy Tucker, D Brett Clark, D Ruslan Salei

On the mend: LW Peter Mueller (concussion) and LW David Koci (jaw) are out indefinitely; RW Milan Hejduk (back) is day-to-day

Insider says

The sophomore jinx can affect as many as a half-dozen players who were freshmen last season. If the likes of Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi and Ryan O'Reilly struggle, the Avs will take a step back.

Pivotal player

G Craig Anderson

It's almost criminal the goalie figured to be a stop-gap netminder wasn't among the top three in voting for the Hart Trophy or the Vezina Trophy. His performance all season was why the Avs made the playoffs.

2009-10 record: 43-30-9, second in division, eighth in conference

In a shootout

Matt Duchene

Milan Hejduk

Paul Stastny

Burning question

Are all those surprise stories from a year ago capable of doing it again?

Soft spot

Scoring from the wings could be an issue. Milan Hejduk is the lone proven winger, while others are either second-year players or the likes of Chris Stewart, coming off a career year.

Cap room

$13 million

Edmonton Oilers

Say hello to: LW Taylor Hall, C Colin Fraser, RW Steve MacIntyre, LW Magnus Paajarvi, RW Jordan Eberle, D Kurtis Foster, D Jim Vandermeer

Say goodbye to: LW Ethan Moreau, C Mike Comrie, LW Patrick O'Sullivan, C Robert Nilsson, RW Fernando Pisani, C Ryan Potulny

On the mend: LW J.F. Jacques (back) wilk be eased into action

Insider says

The new kids will generate some excitement, but the thin defence and questions about goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin -- as well as the others between the pipes -- will mean making the playoffs is a tall order.

Pivotal player

RW Ales Hemsky

Injuries kept the talented winger to just 22 games last season. The youngsters will give some buzz, but Hemsky is most likely to be a consistent point producer.

2009-10 record: 27-47-8, fifth in division, 15th in conference

In a shootout

Ales Hemsky

Taylor Hall

Gilbert Brule

Burning question

Will Taylor Hall become the first Oiler to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year?

Soft spot

Where do you want to start? The forwards are young and will be prone to mistakes, the defence is not strong and the goaltending is questionable. Mainly, there's hope for the future.

Cap room

$9 million

Minnesota Wild

Say hello to: C John Madden, C Matt Cullen, LW Eric Nystrom, RW Brad Staubitz, LW Matt Kassian, G Jose Theodore

Say goodbye to: LW Derek Boogaard, D John Scott, C Andrew Ebbett, RW Owen Nolan

On the mend: C James Sheppard (broken kneecap) is expected to miss up to four months; RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) is working his way back after missing all but one game last season; G Josh Harding (knee) is out for the season

Insider says

Coach Todd Richards wants his team to play an up-tempo style, but the Wild simply doesn't have the offensive talent to trade scoring chances. Watch for tighter defence this year, but it won't be enough.

Pivotal player

LW Guillaume Latendresse

After being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, Latendresse netted 25 goals and 37 points in 55 games for the Wild, which badly needs scorers.

2009-10 record: 38-36-8, Fourth in division, 13th in conference

In a shootout

Martin Havlat

Mikko Koivu

Guillaume Latendresse

Burning question

Will the Wild be able to play the trapping game which brought success during the franchise's first few seasons?

Soft spot

Scoring. The Wild has some gunners in Latendresse, Martin Havlat, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette and Chuck Kobasew, but for some reason it isn't enough.

Cap room

$2.4 million

Vancouver Canucks

Say hello to: D Dan Hamhuis, C Manny Malhotra, LW Raffi Torres, C Joel Perrault, LW Jeff Tambellini, D Keith Ballard, G Cory Schneider, D Ryan Parent

Say goodbye to: D Willie Mitchell, G Andrew Raycroft, LW Steve Bernier, LW Michael Grabner, C/RW Pavol Demitra, C Kyle Wellwood, C Ryan Johnson, LW Darcy Hordichuk, D Shane O'Brien

On the mend: D Sami Salo (Achilles) is out indefinitely; LW Alex Burrows (shoulder) is expected to miss about a month

Insider says

The Canucks should win the Northwest Division for the third consecutive season. In fact, they're a Stanley Cup contender in a season where several teams are in the mix.

Pivotal player

C Henrik Sedin

Last season's Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner doesn't have to be all-world to get his team to the playoffs but will be looking to repeat his performance

2009-10 record: 49-28-5, first in division, third in conference

In a shootout

Ryan Kesler

Mikael Samuelsson

Mason Raymond

Burning question

Can Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond all improve on their career seasons from 2009-10?

Soft spot

Forward depth is still a question mark. Manny Malhotra will help in a big way, but the bottom six consists of role players and question marks.

Cap room

None

CENTRAL DIVISION

Chicago Blackhawks

Say hello to: G Marty Turco, D John Scott, LW Viktor Stalberg, RW Hugh Jessiman, RW Fernando Pisani, C Ryan Potulny

Say goodbye to: G Antti Niemi, G Cristobal Huet, LW/D Dustin Byfuglien, D Brent Sopel, LW Ben Eager, LW Andrew Ladd, LW/C Kris Versteeg, RW Adam Burish, C Colin Fraser, C John Madden, D Kim Johnsson

On the mend: D Brian Campbell (knee) is out for a month

Insider says

Even with star forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and a strong supporting cast, the Blackhawks aren't as strong as last season but still a team to beat.

Pivotal player

G Marty Turco

The past couple of seasons were not kind to the former Dallas Stars standout. Now he's coming to a top-level team, although he'll need to be a bigger contributor than his predecessors were last season.

2009-10 Record: 52-22-8, first in division, second in conference

In a shootout

Jonathan Toews

Patrick Kane

Marian Hossa

Burning question

The hunger will remain, but will there be any bitterness about losing so many key players from a championship team?

Soft spot

Remember how the Blackhawks had third and fourth lines which were able to dominate their opponents? That won't happen this season.

Cap room

$1 million

Columbus Blue Jackets

Say hello to: LW Nikita Filatov, LW Ethan Moreau, RW Ben Guite, C Tomas Kana

Say goodbye to: No one worth mentioning

On the mend: D Kris Russell (knee) is to return within a few weeks

Insider says

A lack of talent wasn't addressed by adding role players in the off-season. The return of Nikita Filatov won't have enough impact.

Pivotal player

LW Rick Nash

The lone true consistent threat, Nash has developed his game the way Steve Yzerman did, but the organization hasn't rewarded its franchise player with enough talent around him.

2009-10 Record: 32-35-15, fifth in division, 14th in conference

In a shootout

Rick Nash

Kristian Huselius

Derick Brassard

Burning question

Will goalie Steve Mason, who struggled after winning the Calder Trophy in 2009, regain his form?

Soft spot

Too little talent and depth up front, too little offensive ability on the blue line.

Cap room

$6.5 million

Detroit Red Wings

Say hello to: LW Jiri Hudler, C Mike Modano, D Ruslan Salei, D Jakub Kindl

Say goodbye to: D Brett Lebda, D Andreas Lilja

On the mend: D Derek Meech (concussion) is day-to-day

Insider says

Injuries played a part in Detroit needing an incredible finish to make the playoffs and finish fifth in the conference. The Wings will be fighting for a division title.

Pivotal player

G Jimmy Howard

It's his team now. After finally making it to the show, Howard eventually supplanted Chris Osgood as No. 1 and put together an excellent season. He'll have to do it again.

2009-10 record: 44-24-14, second in division, fifth in conference

In a shootout

Pavel Datsyuk

Henrik Zetterberg

Todd Bertuzzi

Burning question

Did last season's injury wave represent the fact the Red Wings are getting old, or was it just a run of bad luck?

Soft spot

Goaltending will continue to be a question mark until the Wings have a proven netminder who can put together back-to-back standout seasons.

Cap room

$600,000

Nashville Predators

Say hello to: C Matthew Lombardi, RW Sergei Kostitsyn, D Shane O'Brien, D Aaron Johnson, G Anders Lindback

Say goodbye to: C Jason Arnott, C Dustin Boyd, G Dan Ellis, D Dan Hamhuis, C Mike Santorelli, RW Ben Guite

On the mend: None

Insider says

Just when the Predators have a bounce-back season as a team, they lose more talent. A playoff spot will be hard, but you know they'll try for it.

Pivotal player

D Shea Weber

Obviously the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne will be huge, but the Predators are now Weber's team to run. At least they have that cornerstone in place.

2009-10 record: 47-29-6, third in division, seven in conference

In a shootout

Martin Erat

David Legwand

Matthew Lombardi

Burning question

Will Patric Hornqvist be able to duplicate his 30-goal season of a year ago?

Soft spot

Everywhere. Scoring is at a premium, the goaltending depth is non-existent and the blue line took a hit with Dan Hamhuis' departure. Still, the Preds keep overcoming these things.

Cap room

$12 million

St. Louis Blues

Say hello to: G Jaroslav Halak, C Vladimir Sobotka, C T.J. Hensick, D Alex Pietrangelo, C Nicholas Drazenovic

Say goodbye to: G Chris Mason, C Keith Tkachuk, LW Paul Kariya

On the mend: C Vladimir Sobotka (shoulder) will miss the first couple of weeks

Insider says

The Blues are the best bet to duplicate the feats last season of the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. All that young talent is ready to take a step forward.

Pivotal player

G Jaroslav Halak

The Montreal Canadiens playoff hero last spring was acquired via trade and inked to a four-year $15-million US contract. All the youth in front of him will be prone to mistakes, and Halak will need to close the door.

2009-10 record: 40-32-10, fourth in division, ninth in conference

In a shootout

Brad Boyes

Andy McDonald

T.J. Oshie

Burning question

Are all those young players ready to take a collective step forward?

Soft spot

Scoring is a big issue, especially from the third and fourth lines. The defencemen are talented, but nearly all of them have a history of injury troubles.

Cap room

$14 million

PACIFIC DIVISION

Anaheim Ducks

Say hello to: D Toni Lydman, D Andy Sutton, LW Aaron Voros, RW Ryan Hillier, D Cam Fowler, LW Tomas Zaborsky, D Paul Mara

Say goodbye to: D Scott Niedermayer, D Aaron Ward, LW Kyle Calder, D James Wisniewski, LW Mike Brown, D Steve Eminger, D Nathan Oystrick, G Joey MacDonald, LW Matt McCue (trade with Rangers)

On the mend: D Toni Lydman (head) is out indefinitely; LW-RW Joffrey Lupul (blood infection) is out until at least November

Insider says

Having lost Scott Niedermayer one year after losing Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin, the Ducks don't have the back end -- or netminding -- to be a legitimate playoff threat.

Pivotal player

C Ryan Getzlaf

Anaheim's best forward has Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan to score, too, but is still the straw to stir the offensive drink.

2009-10 record: 39-32-11, fourth in division, 11th in conference

In a shootout

Ryan Getzlaf

Corey Perry

Teemu Selanne

Burning question

How long before Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler can become the pillars of the blue line? It's a few years away.

Soft spot

The defence and offensive depth. The top forward line is great, but after that, the Ducks have to hope Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu still have magic. Goaltending is an issue, too.

Cap room

$6 million

Dallas Stars

Say hello to: G Andrew Raycroft, G Brent Krahn, RW Adam Burish

Say goodbye to: G Marty Turco, C Mike Modano, LW Jere Lehtinen

On the mend: None

Insider says

Every team in the league would love Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards, but it's not enough to make the Stars a playoff team. Watch for a further step back.

Pivotal player

G Kari Lehtonen

Highly touted Atlanta first-round pick has been injured so much during his career it's amazing to think the Stars believe he can lead them to the playoffs. Dallas isn't sitting pretty with Andrew Raycroft and Brent Krahn waiting in the wings.

2009-10 record: 37-31-14, fifth in division, 12th in conference

In a shootout

Mike Ribeiro

Brad Richards

Loui Eriksson

Burning question

Can Kari Lehtinen hold up for a whole season as the No.-1 man in net?

Soft spot

Scoring from the wings is OK but not beyond the first two lines. Goaltending is a big question mark and the defence doesn't play physical.

Cap room

$8 million

Los Angeles Kings

Say hello to: D Willie Mitchell, LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW Andrei Loktionov

Say goodbye to: LW Alexander Frolov, LW Raitis Ivanans, D Randy Jones, D Sean O'Donnell, C Jeff Halpern, RW Fredrik Modin

On the mend: D Matt Greene (shoulder) is expected back in late October or early November

Insider says

Reaching the playoffs was the first step for a team that has been constantly rebuilding. Next is to not only finish in the top five of the Western Conference but to win a playoff round ... or more.

Pivotal player

D Drew Doughty

It's amazing to think how far he has come during the past year. At 20, Doughty was part of a Canada's Olympic gold-medal winning team and a Norris Trophy finalist. The next step is to lead a team deep into the playoffs.

2009-10 record: 46-27-9, third in division, sixth in conference

In a shootout

Jack Johnson

Anze Kopitar

Dustin Brown

Burning question

Is goalie Jonathan Quick as good as his breakout season or will he take a step back?

Soft spot

After the top three defencemen, it becomes a crapshoot. Forward depth is an issue for a team with such high hopes, and goaltenders have to prove they're for real.

Cap room

$8.5 million

Phoenix Coyotes

Say hello to: LW Ray Whitney, C Andrew Ebbett, C Eric Belanger, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Say goodbye to: D Zbynek Michalek, D Mathieu Schneider, C Matthew Lombardi, C Robert Lang, LW Daniel Winnik

On the mend: D Kurt Sauer (head, neck) is out indefinitely

Insider says

The Coyotes went 14-6 in shootouts last season, by far the most victories in the NHL. If they flip that record this season, they won't make the playoffs.

Pivotal player

G Ilya Bryzgalov

He was a deserved Vezina Trophy finalist after winning 42 games and posting eight shutouts. It was a breakout season, and there's no reason to think his game will fall apart. Should he not be as good again, the good times will dry up in the desert.

2009-10 record: 50-25-7, second in division, fourth in the conference

In a shootout

Radim Vrbata

Adrian Aucoin

Wojtek Wolski

Burning question

The never-ending relocation questions didn't affect the Coyotes last season. Will the expectations of being a playoff team?

Soft spot

Goals were an issue last season, and losing Matthew Lombardi will be a factor. Whether Lee Stempniak has a hot hand or reverts to old form will be an interesting study.

Cap room

$9 million

San Jose Sharks

Say hello to: G Antti Niemi, G Antero Niittymaki, RW Jamal Mayers

Say goodbye to: G Evgeni Nabokov, D Rob Blake, C Manny Malhotra, RW Brad Staubitz, RW Jed Ortmeyer

On the mend: None

Insider says

You know they will be a top-flight regular-season team again. Until the Sharks win a Stanley Cup, though, it won't be a successful season.

Pivotal player

G Antti Niemi

The consensus is Niemi benefited from playing on the loaded team in Chicago. Now, he won't have as deep a club in front of him and will be counted on as the netminder to put the Sharks over the hump.

2009-10 record: 51-20-11, first in division, first in conference

In a shootout

Joe Pavelski

Dany Heatley

Ryane Clowe

Burning question

We've said it before and we'll say it again: What's preventing this crew from being a champion?

Soft spot

Losing Rob Blake makes the defence corps even thinner. Scoring depth is an issue, which happens with so much front-line talent.

Cap room

$1 million


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