Now that we're into September, I feel its time to give my predictions for the NHL season. This week I'll break down the Western Conference, and next week I'll talk about the East.
Without any further ado, here's my predictions:
1. Anaheim Ducks - Besides questionable goaltending from their high end but unproven prospects, the Ducks are fairly stacked. The Pacific division could easily be the worst in hockey this year, but the Ducks should be an exception.
2. Calgary Flames - This is a tricky pick. As weak as the division looks right now, Calgary has the potential to be the best team other than Anaheim. But as we seen with Colorado last season, they also have the potential to decline drastically. But with their offseason moves comes stability and hope, and I think a strong season by Dougie Hamilton and their starting goalie could turn the Flames into a serious dark horse contender.
3. Los Angeles - Most of their roster is in tact, and the addition of Lucic and some much needed rest will definitely benefit them, but there's enough black clouds and distractions around to hinder their chances of being dominant. Playoffs? Probably. Stanley Cup? Highly doubtful.
4. Edmonton Oilers - Edmonton will get painfully close to a playoff spot this year, but will fall short. There's no reason to go into tank mode at any point this season, and their skill alone should be enough to gain a few spots. And if things aren't going so well, they have tons of trade-able talent for obtaining proven veterans. Playoffs are coming soon, but not quite yet.
5. Vancouver Canucks - On paper, Vancouver should be a top team in this division. But their stars are declining, and their secondary players are just not good enough to pick up the slack. The Canucks have a lot of good young players, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see them pass Edmonton or even get into the playoffs, but I just can't see it.
6. San Jose Sharks - Oh how the mighty have fallen. What was once a powerhouse is now going to be fodder for the other teams in the division (with one exception). They have some great players, but lack serious depth and proven goaltending.
7. Arizona Coyotes - The writing is on the wall. By lottery, trade, or any way possible, the Coyotes will get the 1st overall pick. The script writes itself: Arizona drafts an Arizona-born star first overall, begins a new era for Coyotes hockey. That plan could be ruined if Smith returns to form, but I'm sure Lindback would get more starts if that happened (and I don't see either of those happening). The only question is how bad would attendance be for a legit tank-mode Coyotes?
1. Chicago Blackhawks - Yes, they lost a lot of key players this offseason. Yes, that list could include Patrick Kane. And yes, they're still the dominant power of the Central division. Scoring depth may be an issue, but this team is set defensively, and still has some huge offensive stars to carry the weight on the other end.
2. Dallas Stars - The rest of the division is a mess, and any team beyond Chicago could land anywhere in the standings. Dallas has one of the best top-6's in the league, solid defensive depth, and some wildcards in goal. I expect Niemi to take the starting job, and if he plays even a little better than Lehtonen last season, look out.
3. Winnipeg Jets - This is a tough pick. Good depth, good scoring, great defense, awfully unpredictable goaltending. This team looks really good, and maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I can see them making the playoffs again this year.
4. Minnesota Wild (Wildcard) - The playoff killers will be back for more this year if Dubnyk can continue his momentum. That is a giant "if", and if that's not the case, the team will implode. The coach will likely be fired, the bigger stars might be traded off, and Minny might ride their younger players through a rebuild.
5. Nashville Predators (Wildcard) - When I initially wrote this list, I had them last in the division. But that prediction has bitten me before, so I'll give the Preds the benefit of the doubt. This division is really deep with talent, and while their offense isn't enough to carry this team, their defense and goaltending can.
6. St. Louis Blues - St. Louis has a much better offense than Nashville, but their goaltending is highly questionable. Their solid defense wont outmatch the other teams in the division, and thus they will draw the short straw in the division.
7. Colorado Avalanche - Other than Chicago, this is the only other prediction I'm fairly confident about. I want to like this team, I really do, but most of the team is made up of old veterans way past their prime, and young players who have lots of potential but just flatlined for whatever reason. MacKinnon could improve, but I still don't think that's enough to help this team.
Well I wasted enough time with that, lets go straight to the concepts!
COTW Sept 6-12 vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)
Cougars Top 5 vote (ends Friday @ 10:59pm Eastern)
Collingwood Magpies - Duncan L.
We start with a pair of AFL concepts from Duncan, the first being for the Collingwood Magpies. I'll admit that I don't follow the AFL much, but their team names have potential for some really nice hockey identities.
A team older than pro hockey itself should have a classic, identifiable look, and this set accomplishes that perfectly.
The modern, edgy 3rd is perfect contrast to their main set. Imagine an edgy Canadiens jersey looking that cool? No? Me neither.
Logos are well picked.
Execution is well done.
The cuffs/hems don't match on the main set, and I don't see why they shouldn't.
The number font on the 3rd jersey is just a little too cartoony.
Overall: What a way to start off today's concepts! This is a real gem. 8.7/10
Essendon Bombers - Duncan L.
Can Duncan go 2/2 on awesome concepts today with this one for Essendon?
I'm a sucker for diagonal stripes, and they look really good on this set.
The old Ducks template looks fantastic as a 3rd for this set.
Good use of the wordmark on the away jersey but not on the others.
The main set of jerseys need some grey, even just as secondary striping.
The stripes on the main set don't match, and while neither look bad, I don't see why they can't match.
The black captain patch on the home jersey is a bad idea.
The numbers on the main set need some sort of outline, at least on the away jersey.
Overall: Not liking this as much as the first one, but still cool. 7.5/10
New York Rangers - Lucas D.
Remember those awesome Rangers alternates from 10 years ago? Well Lucas tries to make a white version with this concept.
While the aforementioned alternates were pretty bland, this set has quite a bit going on, but not too much to become overkill.
Grey is a more prominent colour on this jersey, and I'm okay with that.
Cuff and hem pattern match and look nice.
Believable? You bet.
No matter how hard I try, I'll never like name arches.
The yoke stripes might look better with grey instead of white. Would match the arms a little better that way.
Overall: I like it. Maybe not as much as the old Lady Liberty jerseys, but I'd be happy with this. 7.7/10
Buffalo Sabres - Mario A.
Time to get old-school with this Sabres concept from Mario.
If a team deserves to use vintage white, its the Sabres. The original teams wont do it, and vintage white looks fantastic with yellow and blue.
The "1970" anniversary logo is the best one to use here.
Traditional striping that is believable and original for the Sabres.
Vintage white and true white on the same jersey? No! Unless you're the Coyotes, who uses beige as a main colour and doesn't try to act like an old team, there's no reason to mix both "whites".
The colouring of the striping really baffles me, especially on the home jersey.
The hem on the home jersey should be yellow, to match the cuffs.
Names are too close to the yoke.
Overall: This isn't a turdburger, but I'm not buying it. 7/10
Colorado Avalanche - Mario A.
New logo and colours look great.
Striping pattern is kind of vintage and modern, which works well for the Avalanche.
I don't see how this would be good for a celebration of the NHL's past, but that's okay. The Avalanche should be looking forward to new jerseys and designs.
The numbers could use some sort of outline.
The name is pretty close to the yoke (or where the yoke would be).
The stripes might be just a little overkill. They cramp up the back of the jerseys.
Overall: Not perfect, but going into the right direction for the Avs. 7.5/10
Holy Cross (NCAA) - Tyler F.
So Holy Cross is a NCAA school with a decent hockey program, highlighted by an upset win over Minnesota in 2006. But that was their last NCAA tournament entry to date. Their jerseys are dull, besides the colours, so Tyler looks to give them a fresh new look.
Why isn't purple used more in hockey? Its a bold colour to use, but its really hard to look bad in purple, if your secondary colours are good enough.
Good choice of logo instead of their "HC" one.
This would make for a great alternate to contrast their blandish main jerseys.
The purple is too dark to use as a gap colour between black and grey. I'd put the black and grey stripes together and make them thicker.
The logo and jersey uses too different blacks.
Overall: Needs a bit of work, but I'd love to see a jersey like this being used. 7.6/10
Jersey Ads - David P.
And now for something completely different. David tries to tackle the jersey ads debate with this proposition: What if we used ads on practice and pregame jerseys, and not on actual game jerseys?
I've said my piece about jerseys ads before, and I am still firmly against it. However, looking from both sides of the argument, it's something that could help the game and its owners, so it should be something to look into.
David's idea hits a home-run. While the lore of hockey jerseys is strong with the fanbase, practice jerseys are rarely talked about and discussed. Pregame jerseys are sometimes noteworthy, but only during special events. I think this is a fair proposition from fans and designers, and I'd support this idea.
But the owners aren't going to want this. They'll want to see ads DURING the game, when everyone is watching. Honestly, fans don't care enough about practice and pregame to make this idea worthwhile to them, they're still getting food and drinks from the concessions, or just settling in on the couch before the game starts on their TV. No one would pay for ad space that will hardly be noticed.
If the NHL used this idea, I'd be happy, but really surprised.
But from an idea and concept standpoint, this gets a 9/10.
Detroit Red Wings - Matt M.
And we'll end today with something that I except the NHL would want to do, put ads front and center on game jerseys. Matt's concept does just that, for one of hockey's purest franchises.
I hope Addidas overhauls the majority of the NHL's jerseys, but leaves Detroit alone. This set works as a vintage jersey, a modern jersey, and an easily recognizable identity for Hockeytown.
The "Addidas" stripes on the shoulder really don't bother me. I think they actually bring just enough new life to this set without making the hardcore traditionalists mad.
Alright, here's a compromise. I'm okay for the Ford logo being on the front IF they'd be willing to recolour the logo to the Red Wings' colours.
I like the "D" patch, but where would the captain patch go?
I'd like to see the back of this set, because I think the back of the jersey would be the ideal place for ads if they need to be on the jersey at all.
Overall: Concept wise, there's nothing new or noteworthy here, besides the Ford logo (unwanted but realistic), the "D" patch (bad), and the yoke stripes (good). So this concept breaks even. 7.5/10
Whew, that was a long post, time to wrap it up!
My COTW nominee this week is Duncan L's Collingwood Magpies concept!
Don't forget to vote for this week's COTW vote, as well as the Chicago Cougars Competition vote.
Check back next Sunday for my Eastern Conference predictions!
Thanks for reading, see you next week!