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NHL Predictions 2014-2015: Western Conference

The Defending Big D staff weighs in on who will make the playoffs and who will be on the outside looking in within the Western Conference, and add some hot sports opinions for the conference.

It's going to feel almost exactly like this.
It's going to feel almost exactly like this.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's here! It's finally here! The day that is like Christmas for NHL fans. The first games start tonight at 7 PM EST with four pretty good matchups:

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens (7 PM EST)
Boston Bruins vs Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 PM EST, NBCSN)
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames (10 PM EST)
Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks (10 PM EST, NBCSN)

You know you want to tune in to watch the Kings completely troll the fact that the Sharks choked a 3-0 series lead to beat them on their way to the Stanley Cup. They'll raise their banners in front of them on home ice. If nothing else, watch that part of this game and hope for nice reaction shots from Sharks players.

While we struggle through these last few hours, we can spend the time debating the western conference standings for this season. We took a vote on who would make the playoffs and the order in which teams would finish in each of the divisions out on the east coast. The average ranking is across everyone (this time, with Brad included!) and the writer by writer rankings are given at the bottom of this post.

Pacific Division Rankings

Los Angeles Kings
Anaheim Ducks
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks
Arizona Coyotes
Edmonton Oilers
Calgary Flames

Pacific Division Bold Predictions

Brad:

The West improved over the East even MORE this summer, and points will be handed out in the far superior conference like candy early and often.

Brandon:

The Pacific is suddenly one of the most boring divisions in hockey.

David:

Yeah, I'll say it. Edmonton will make the playoffs. Scrivens will make 50 saves a night and the Oilers young guns will finally realize that they're actually pretty damn good. And seriously. It's only the Pacific Division. A year ago we all talked about how great they were, now they've got at least two teams that would make a great fit in the Eastern Conference. Who knows, maybe Arizona quite literally. And, in a spirit of parity, I'm giving a wildcard spot to the Pacific this year, since I don't think the Preds have done enough to make the jump and Winnipeg are going to spend the season shooting goals into their own net to keep up with Buffalo.

Derek:

The Vancouver Canucks make a big move or two at the trade deadline, acquiring veterans to help them make the playoffs, but ultimately still fall short. Heartbroken, the organization starts a full-blown rebuild the next summer.

Erin:

The Sharks aren't their normally regular-season dominant selves, and that and some regression from the Ducks leaves the doors wide open for a Kings division crown.

Huw:

People will still keep calling the Arizona Coyotes the Phoenix Coyotes all season long.

Josh

Vancouver keeps sucking. Edmonton and Calgary rise a little.

Patrick:

Vancouver not being in the playoffs still seems strange, but even with the Sedins at full health, the fact is they traded away their next best two players in Luongo and Kesler. Anaheim and LA are likely West semifinal favorites, but they just don't have the allure that the central does despite the recent Stanley Cup win by LA.

Robert:

LA can't score enough to overcome mediocre play from Quick, who finds himself enmired in a goalie controversy by February.  San Jose is good, because just look at them.  John Scott only suits up for five games before being released.  OEL further cements his status as an elite blueliner in one of Arizona's final seasons before the big move to Kansas City.

Taylor:

California takes the only three playoff spots the pacific division will get again this season. The Kings will not repeat as the Stanley Cup champions, as they'll lose to the central division winner in the western conference finals. I think San Jose gets really close to a first round sweep, no matter who they draw.

Wes:

Calgary hasn't bottomed out quite yet. Edmonton finally trades a "name" (looking at you, Eberle) in pursuit of being good. Vancouver hobbles towards respectability, Arizona loses a bunch of 2-1 games. Watch San Jose, though, their bumbling of Thornton or Marleau could be a wildcard.

Central Division Rankings

Chicago Blackhawks
St Louis Blues
Dallas Stars
Colorado Avalanche
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
Winnipeg Jets

Central Division Bold Predictions

Brad:

I'm foolishly predicting things to pan out like they did last season, which never happens. The difference is this season the Stars won't need to get pretty lucky as the Coyotes collapse down the stretch, as was the case last year. 91 points won't get it done this time.

Brandon:

I'm probably going to regret putting Minnesota on the outside of the playoffs, but I really think it's going to be a toss-up between Nashville, Colorado and Minnesota for those final two spots and I think all three of those teams will finish with a much better season than Calgary.

David:

Semyon Varlamov will play as a mere mortal this season and the Avs won't be able to fun 'n gun their way to another division title, let alone the playoffs. And, in a spirit of parity, I'm giving a wildcard spot to the Pacific this year, since I don't think the Preds have done enough to make the jump and Winnipeg are going to spend the season shooting goals into their own net to keep up with Buffalo.

Derek

The Colorado Avalanche become legitimately good, and not just lucky. Semyon Varlamov proves to be the real deal, while the youngsters (Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog) all take big steps in their development and run roughshod offensively.

Erin:

Goals against issues hurt the Blues, Wild and Stars, but the Stars more explosive offense gives them the edge to stay out of the wild card brawl.

Huw:

The Winnipeg Jets end up winning the Connor McDavid lottery. It's a nice reward for the pulverizing they receive at the hands of their fellow central teams. If they aren't anywhere near a playoff spot by the trade deadline expect them to start trading assets to get the prospects and picks they need to compete in the division of death.

Josh:

Colorado realizes they are a paper tiger. Nashville makes the biggest move of them all and takes the 8 seed.

Patrick:

Minnesota edges out Vancouver for the last Wild Card Spot. With each of the top teams in the central getting better, the Stars are still a year or two out, so Chicago and St. Louis are probable west finals favorites provided they don't meet in the first round again.

Robert:

LA can't score enough to overcome mediocre play from Quick, who finds himself enmired in a goalie controversy by February. San Jose is good, because just look at them. John Scott only suits up for five games before being released. OEL further cements his status as an elite blueliner in one of Arizona's final seasons before the big move to Kansas City.

Taylor:

Minnesota and Colorado will catch the two wild card spots in the west, with Colorado due for some regression and Minnesota's goaltending situation fairly unsettled all season. I also expect a lot of overtime/shootout points given out in intra-conference games, more than we're used to seeing.

Wes:

The regression monster catches up to Colorado, but serious deficiencies at the bottom of the conference (Nashville can't score, Winnipeg can't play hockey) keep them in the playoffs. Minnesota stresses without a clear answer in net. Chicago and St. Louis are the runaway class of the conference.

Voting by writer (green denotes playoff team):

2014-2015 WC Predictions