Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

NHL West Will be Won in Dallas

NHL West Will Be Won in Dallas

By Ed Przylucki Hoya Staff Writer

Every year right around this time, a sporting event takes place that many people overlook. With the NFL season in full swing and the playoffs getting underway in pro baseball, the National Hockey League started its 1999-2000 campaign under a cloud of controversy stemming from the conclusion of last season’s Stanley Cup Championship.

While it is pointless for me to discuss how my beloved Buffalo Sabres were cheated out of the Cup by the heartless suits over at the league office, it may serve some purpose to preview the upcoming NHL season for the die-hard hockey fans here at Georgetown. In this commentary, we’ll take a look at the Western Conference from top to bottom.

The Dallas Stars are the team to beat. Period. With the addition of defenseman Jamie Pushor, the Stars strengthen what may be the league’s best defense. Centers Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk are easily the league’s best one-two punch at the position.

The Detroit Red Wings pose the most serious threat to any ambitions the Stars may have at repeating. With Nicklas Lidstrom finally under contract, the Wings have an experienced, veteran defense to back up all star-quality forwards Steve Yzerman, Sergi Federov, Brendan Shanahan and Igor Larionov. Plus, they have perhaps the greatest coach in hockey history, Scotty Bowman, guiding them from behind the bench.

The Colorado Avalanche enter the season with high expectations and a new arena but a depleted core of forwards. Gone are franchise forwards Theo Fleury and Valeri Kamensky to free agency, but returning are the top two rookies from a year ago, Chris Drury and ilan Hejduk. Yet with perennial all-stars Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg and perhaps the greatest goalie in NHL history, Patrick Roy, the Avalanche shouldn’t suffer too much.

One of the biggest surprises in the league last year was the emergence of the San Jose Sharks as contenders. While they finished two wins shy of a winning record last year, the Sharks performed extremely well in the playoffs and boast one of the leagues top young scoring trios: Jeff Friesen, Patrick Marleau and Marco Sturm. With Mike Vernon in net, the Sharks should advance further than the second round of the playoffs this season.

The St. Louis Blues will also make noise this season with NHL minutes leader and captain Chris Pronger. Al MacInnis and Pavol Demitra, who had career seasons last year, will be looked upon to provide a good portion of the scoring again this year.

With two of the most prolific scorers in the NHL, the Anaheim ighty Ducks spent the off season adding help for Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya on defense with the acquisition of Oleg Tverdovsky.

The Phoenix Coyotes, perennial under-achievers, will have to overcome a physically unimpressive defense and constant questions at the goalie position to help forwards Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Juha Ylonen live up to expectations.

The Los Angeles Kings will have added firepower on offense this season with the additions of free-agents Ziggy Palffy and Bryan Smolinski. Former Norris Trophy winner Rob Blake will see some help with the arrival of Aki Berg.

The Edmonton Oilers look to return to the playoffs for the fourth straight season and should do so behind top-scorer Bill Guerin and forwards Mike Grier and Ryan Smyth. Roman Hamrlik anchors a young defense which should flourish under new head coach and ex-Oiler Kevin Lowe.

The Calgary Flames acquired goaltender Grant Fuhr over the summer to assist veteran defensemen Steve Smith and Phil Housley.

The Chicago Blackhawks lost their heart and soul when defenseman Chris Chelios was traded to Detroit at the end of last season. Emerging star Alex Zhamnov and veteran Doug Gilmour should pick up some of the slack as new Head Coach Lorne Molleken looks to institute a wide open offensive system in the Windy City.

The Vancouver Canucks are an aging team with no true scorer but two of the league’s biggest prospects: Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Finally, the Nashville Predators will count on center Cliff Ronning and the number two pick in last year’s amateur draft, David Legwand, to help this near talent-less team out of the basement of the Western Conference.

The teams making the playoffs should be Dallas, Detroit, Colorado, San Jose, St. Louis and Anaheim. Phoenix, Los Angeles and Edmonton should battle it out for the remaining two spots. And as much as it pains me to say it, I predict Dallas will once again find themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals when all is said and done.

Next Time: The Eastern Conference and Playoff Predictions

 

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