October 01, 2018

Exciting Times In Western Canada

As a Vancouver Canucks fan, I must admit I'm dreading this season. As pathetic, dreadful, awful, embarrassing - insert your own derogatory term here, they earned it - as they have been in the last three years, I think it's going to get worse. They are finally going to hit rock bottom in 2018-19.

The retired Sedins are no longer there to mask whatever shortcomings they could mask in the twilight of their brilliant careers. And while I do think Elias Pettersson will be a star in this league, he, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are about the only three players a contending team might actually want from this roster. And I'm going on record right now that Boeser is a prime sophomore slump candidate.

Still, the future looks bright in Vancouver, thanks to a number of prospects emerging in the next year or two. The distant future looks bright.

Until then there is plenty of fantastic hockey to watch in the rest of Western Canada.

The Oilers have the most dynamic player in the game in Connor McDavid. Not only is McDavid unquestionably the best player in the game, he is already incredibly dialed in. He is a man on a mission and ready to carry this team on his back. Can we award him the Hart, Ross and Lindsay trophies right now? Even if he can pull off that trophy hat trick, it might not be enough as the Oilers are poorly built around him. If the Oilers falter again this year (goaltending, as always, will play a big role in that), it's time to rebuild the rebuild.

Down the road in Calgary, the Flames have amassed a nice collection of young talent no doubt. But I'm sorry, I have never been able to get into the Flames. I'm talking about going all the way back to the days of Joe Nieuwendyk and Al MacInnis and the 1989 Stanley Cup team, through to Theo Fleury and Jarome Iginla. For all the greats that have passed through Calgary, I have never been able to watch the Flames. I think it's because I grew up as a Gretzky fan. You can never switch sides in the Battle of Alberta.

But yes, the Flames, too, have a nice collection of young talent up front and on the blue line. Perhaps new coach Bill Peters can find make this unit a truly cohesive team, but I'm not sure anyone can help the goaltending if veteran Mike Smith can't return to form.

I suspect at least one of the two Alberta teams will miss the playoffs, possibly both. Maybe neither team is as far along in their development as they would like to be. That being said, I do think the Flames have a better team even though the Oilers have the ultimate weapon.

The team that I am the the most excited to watch this season is the Winnipeg Jets.

They are everybody's favorite pick to win the west this year. And with good reason. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck emerged as a star last season. Goaltending was the final piece of the puzzle, as the Jets are stocked with a surplus of emerging talent on both the forward and defense units. They truly are as good as any team in the league, it's just a matter of who can survive/luck out in the West as there are so many good teams.

The Jets have a blue line that is nearly as impressive as San Jose or Nashville. Big Buff Dustin Byfuglien is back and imposing as ever, while Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrisey are really coming into their own. Morrisey in particular impresses me with his fantastic play.

Tyler Myers adds good depth on defense, as does Ben Chiarot. Expect Tucker Poolman and Sami Niku to start the year in the minors though, as they need playing time as this is an important development year for each. They should be Jets regulars next season, and stars in good time.

Up front the Jets are fueled by superstars Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Mark Schiefele. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault are veterans on this team. And they have a seemingly endless supply of young talent coming along to support them - Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Nic Petan, Kristian Vesalainen, Nik Ehlers, Brendan Lemieux.....it's almost unfair.

Vancouver and Edmonton should be taking notes on how to rebuild.

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