Western Conference

October 01, 1999|By Orange County Register

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Last season: 29-41-12, 10th in West.

Coach: Lorne Molleken, second season (13-6-4).

Outlook: After making the playoffs 28 consecutive seasons, the Blackhawks have missed them the past two seasons. Molleken has opened the attack, to the liking of skilled forwards Tony Amonte, Doug Gilmour, Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze.

Detroit Red Wings

Last season: 43-32-7, third in West.

Coach: Scotty Bowman, seventh season (262-134-59).

Outlook: Bowman is the winningest coach in NHL history and keeps coming back for more, despite his retirement talk year after year. This group probably is good for at least one more run. It certainly helped that Norris Trophy finalist Nicklas Lidstrom decided not to return to Sweden. Steve Yzerman just signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract extension.

Nashville Predators

Last season: 28-47-7, 12th in West.

Coach: Barry Trotz, second season (28-47-7).

Outlook: The Predators had a respectable expansion season, but already their second season is off to a bad start with No. 1 goalie Mike Dunham out of training camp over a contract squabble. Without him, the job belongs to Tomas Vokoun, who had a surprisingly strong rookie season.

St. Louis Blues

Last season: 37-32-13, fifth in West.

Coach: Joel Quenneville, fourth season (100-76-28).

Outlook: The Blues traded a second-round pick to Dallas to get Roman Turek (16-3-3, 2.08 goals-against). The Blues have two of the best defensemen in the game in Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis, but the rest of the defense is shaky.

Northwest Division

Calgary Flames

Last season: 30-40-12, ninth in West.

Coach: Brian Sutter, third season (56-81-27).

Outlook: The trade of longtime star Theo Fleury last season began a new era for the Flames, who also lost Andrew Cassels to free agency, leaving Rene Corbet as their oldest forward at 26. But young forwards Cory Stillman, Jarome Iginla and Valeri Bure are coming off good seasons.

Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 44-28-10, second in West.

Coach: Bob Hartley, second season (44-28-10).

Outlook: Mr. Everything, Peter Forsberg, is out until at least December after off-season shoulder surgery. But don't cry too much for Colorado, which still has Joe Sakic, Sandis Ozolinsh, Patrick Roy, Claude Lemieux, Adam Foote and two of the top three rookies in the league last season in Ted Drury and Milan Hejduk.

Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 33-37-12, eighth in West.

Coach: Kevin Lowe, first season.

Outlook: Former Oilers defenseman Lowe takes over the coaching job from Ron Low, who turned down the team's one-year offer without a raise. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik, leading scorer Bill Guerin, winger Mike Grier and left wing Ryan Smith are holdouts. But Doug Weight is back healthy after knee reconstruction.

Vancouver Canucks

Last season: 23-47-12, 13th in West.

Coach: Marc Crawford, second season (8-23-6).

Outlook: The Canucks haven't been the stellar team Mark Messier thought they would be when he bolted the Rangers to sign with Vancouver in 1997. During his tenure the Canucks have yet to make the playoffs. But with good, young talent, the Canucks appear headed in the right direction. The once high-scoring Alexander Mogilny had 14 goals in 59 games last season.

Pacific Division

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Last season: 35-34-13, sixth in West.

Coach: Craig Hartsburg, second season (35-34-13).

Outlook: They have more than enough talent to make the playoffs again, but can they jump from middle of the pack to an elite team this season? Detroit's easy four-game playoff sweep of the Ducks last season proved the Ducks needed to upgrade to compete with the big boys.

Dallas Stars

Last season: 51-19-12, first in the West.

Coach: Ken Hitchcock, fifth season (163-90-36).

Outlook: The Stars won the first Stanley Cup in the franchise's 31-year history in June. The Stars have reached 100 points the past three seasons and perhaps complacency is the only thing that could prevent them from making another Cup run. The only key losses are veteran wingers Dave Reid and Pat Verbeek and backup goalie Roman Turek.

Los Angeles Kings

Last season: 32-45-5, 11th in West.

Coach: Andy Murray, first season.

Outlook: The Kings greatly upgraded their attack, getting perennial 40-goal scorer Ziggy Palffy to play on a line with Jozef Stumpel and Luc Robitaille. But they also acquired a grittier attitude, with disciplinarian Murray now running the show.

Phoenix Coyotes

Last season: 39-31-12, fourth in West.

Coach: Bobby Francis, first season.

Outlook: The franchise's past eight trips to the playoffs have resulted in zero series victories. The blown 3-1 series lead against St. Louis last season cost coach Jim Schoenfeld his job. Its biggest concern is the holdout of restricted free agent Nikolai Khabibulin.

San Jose Sharks

Last season: 31-33-18, seventh in West.

Coach: Darryl Sutter, third season (65-59-28).

Outlook: The Sharks scored the fewest goals of any of the 16 playoff teams last season and elected not to re-sign leading goal-scorer Joe Murphy. But they have boosted their attack by acquiring Niklas Sundstrom from Tampa Bay.

Pub Date: 10/01/99

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