Friday, January 18, 2013

Poison Pen Preview: Western Conference

If you missed it, I previewed the Eastern Conference on Monday. You're already here, so go read it.

Now, for our friends in the Western Conference. Gosh, you're such a swell bunch of rivals, and I have SO much respect for each and every one of you. Let's take a look at key players at each end of the spectrum, what the teams are doing for their fans to welcome them back, and prognosticate where each team will find itself at the end of this truncated, bastard cash grab of a season.

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Best Player: "Captain Serious", Jonathan Toews. Toews is, by all accounts, the most respected young player in the NHL with a really shitty nickname, edging out "Sid the Kid" and "The Great 8".
Worst Player: How does Sheldon Brookbank keep falling into NHL contracts? Also, if you're Chris Campoli and you see that your former team would rather have Brookbank on their roster than's time to start thinking about a new line of work, right? Like, he sees this, yeah?
Wait, they're counting on who? Chicago is going into it's THIRD season with a core good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup...and Corey Crawford standing between the pipes. If Stan Bowman is ever in charge of your night out, DON'T GO, because Billy Joel will end up your designated driver.
Gimmick to win back the fans: The Hawks fired their best bullet in the chamber a few years ago when they really reached out to their fans and rewarded them for their loyalty by...deciding to show the team's home games on television. This year, don't put it past the Hawks to give their fans permission to record those televised games on their VCRs.
Prediction: 2nd place
Columbus Blue Jackets
Best Player: It's probably not a good sign that I had to visit the team's roster on their website to figure out an answer to this question. It's probably an even worse sign that I wondered if I could just skip this category for the Jackets. After careful consideration (I drew a name out of a hat) I decided on Fedor Tyutin, because that's the name I drew out of the hat.
Worst Player: I so desperately wanted this to be one of the players they got from the Rangers for Rick Nash, but alas, I couldn't in good conscience NOT say Derek MacKenzie.
Wait, they're counting on who? "Hey, remember that guy who was good for us like 4 years ago and ever since then has been an inconsistent headcase that hasn't been able to even approach his former level of play? Let's give him another chance!" Welcome back, Steve Mason!
Gimmick to win back the fans: A few years ago, the Jackets installed a Civil War cannon that's fired after every goal. This year, lucky fans will be selected at random to fire the cannon after each Columbus goal, which means by the end of the season, at least six fans will have gone home happy.
Prediction: 5th place
Hockeytown (Detroit Red Wings)
Best Player: Even a hater like me can't deny that Pavel Datsyuk is pretty great. Datsyuk occupies rarified air in my esteem, standing beside only the now-retired Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Federov as the only Red Wings players I had grudging respect for. Oops, sorry, I forgot to bolden, italicize, underline, and jack up the font on that one really relevant pertinent and important part:
okay, that's out of my system.
Worst Player: I feel like I may be a little unduly pessimistic about Mikael Samuelsson. Hell, maybe this, his 14th stint in Detroit, may be the time he finally figures out how to hit the net.
Wait, they're counting on who? Is it possible that the dropoff between Nick Lidstrom and Ian White is really all that much? I mean, people slightly downgrade from a Maybach to a station wagon with woodgrain paneling and it works out fine ALL THE TIME WITHOUT EXCEPTION.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Fans in attendance and watching at home on opening night will be treated to a spectacular laser show designed to hypnotize them into thinking Damien Brunner is Brendan Shanahan, they're in the year 1998, and the whole octopus thing isn't dated and stupid.
Prediction: 4th place
Nashville Predators
Best Player: This is an easy one: Shea Weber, the cute girl that all the rich jocks (Philly, Detroit, the Rangers) want to date, but ends up going to the prom with the bucktoothed hayseed. That's you Nashville. Oh, and you're paying her $110 million to go with you, you perverts.
Worst Player: Know who else has a job? Brian McGrattan. Hey, he's got a family to feed too, I guess. His family is definitely ashamed of him.
Wait, they're counting on who? Hey, remember when David Poile gave up a first round draft pick for Paul Gaustad? Well, they kept Paul Gaustad, whose biggest contribution to any team in his career was the time he stood and watched Milan Lucic truck Ryan Miller as though he had a camera in his hand and a press pass around his neck. We brought Paul Gaustad here to win faceoffs, ladies and gents, and maybe he'll do it.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Four words: "Faith Hill Panties Giveaway".
Prediction: 1st place
St Louis Blues

Best Player: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, the best player in the league whose surname has a pastry in it. He is really, really good. If he really was a pie, he'd be Huckleberry.
Worst Player: Hey, Jeff Woywitka's not in the AHL, which is probably why the Mayan apocalypse couldn't happen the way it was supposed to.
Wait, they're counting on who? This one isn't so much a "who" as it is a "what". That "what" is, they're counting on Ken Hitchcock not getting strangled to death by one of the players. You see, because Ken Hitchcock is a pain in the ass, and nobody likes him, and why does he look like that? So lumpy.
Gimmick to win back the fans: The Blues have gone the charitable route, reaching out to fans and communities of all 30 NHL franchises by donating enough food to fill the food banks in their areas, and they did it simply by raiding Keith Tkachuk's refrigerator.
Prediction: 2nd place
Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks
Best Player: Sorry, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Come see me when youre 40, when you've scored over 600 goals, when you shoot your glove out of the air with your stick to celebrate those goals, and when you're from Finland. It's Teemu Selanne.
Worst Player: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, captain of the Starship Suck.
Wait, they're counting on who? Jolly Bruce Boudreau injected life into the struggling Ducks when he was brought in to replace Randy Carlyle last season, but once giggling players discovered "Bruce Boudreau" was the name Elmer Fudd was using to conceal his identity, the team fell off the pace.
Gimmick to win back the fans: During their January 26th home game against Nashville, Anaheim will ice an entire team of actual ducks to play against the Predators. Paul Gaustad will stand and watch the biggest one peck at Pekka Rinne.
Prediction: 5th place
Dallas Stars
Best Player: Sniper Loui Eriksson is a threat to score every time he's on the ice. Eriksson has a knack of finding spots where no one sees him. In that sense, he's a perfect fit in Dallas.
Worst Player: Defenseman Jordie Benn, who also drinks the milk out of brother Jamie's cereal bowl when he's done eating it, dates women that his brother has dumped, and still wears his brother's hand-me-up skates.
Wait, they're counting on who? Guys named Tomas Vincour and Colton Sceviour, that's who. I've never seen either one of them, but if they don't wear matching ascots when they go to dinner, then they're not the men they could be.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Some teams will choose a night or two to honor legends of the sport. The Stars will be hosting legends night every night of the season after signing What's Left Of Ray Whitney and What's Left Of Jaromir Jagr.
Prediction: 3rd place
Los Angeles Kings
Best Player: Conn Smythe trophy winner Jonathan Quick will lead the defending Stanley Cup champs into their lockout-shortened title defense. Goalie Quick, captain Dustin Brown, and former King and current broadcaster Jim Fox will be jumping over the lazy dogs of the Western Conference on a nightly basis once the season is underway.
Worst Player: The defending champs don't really have a "worst player", per se, but I'd want to punch a guy named Kyle Clifford right in the dick on principle alone. You can't be named "Kyle Clifford" and still be a good person.
Wait, they're counting on who? The West Hollywood Two, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, likely spent the better part of the last 6 months drinking Jose Cuervo and crushing the dreams and vaginas of waitresses just looking for a break into the business. What shape will they be in once games start? Will Coach Sutter notice their Gatorade bottles smell like Mad Dog 20/20? Does gonorrhea affect the accuracy of your shot? Many unanswered questions.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Kings fans and Ducks fans have been invited to take a group road trip to San Jose to pretend they're looking for those three Stanley Cups Sharks fans figured they would've had by now before laughing and laughing and laughing
Prediction: 1st place
Gary's Orphans
Best Player: I know you want me to say Shane Doan. Don't lie. You want me to say Shane Doan because you don't know who any of the other players on the Coyotes are, so you want me to say Shane Doan so you can nod sagely and rub your chin. But I'm not playing along, it's NOT Shane Doan. Shane Doan sucks. Phoenix doesn't have a best player.
Wait, they're counting on who? Jerry Moyes  The NHL  Jim Balsillie  Jerry Reinsdorf  The NHL  Matthew Hulsizer  The NHL  Greg Jamison (?)
Gimmick to win back the fans: "Hey guys, uh, you know there's a hockey team that plays in town, right? Yeah, only it's about 45 minutes outside of town, but that's still pretty close compared to having to drive to Anaheim or LA or the Yucatan Peninsula or" *realizes they're talking to saguaro cactuses*
Prediction: 2nd place
San Jose Sharks
Best Player: Patrick Marleau. Haha, just kidding, said that just to piss Jeremy Roenick off. It's Logan Couture.
Worst Player: I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that not one of you has ever heard of Bracken Kearns. "Bracken Kearns" sounds like a Scottish euphemism for jerking off.
Wait, they're counting on who? Joe Thornton, hahahahahahahaha. You can also count on daddy to come home when he says he's just going out for a pack of cigarettes.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Sharks management has decided to reward longtime season ticket holders by informing them they can do a "LETS GO SHARKS" chant in three quick beats rather than the droning "LETS GO SHAAAAAAARKS" that makes them sound like they're on quaaludes.
Prediction: 4th place
Northwest Division
Calgary Flames
Best Player: Easily, Jarome Iginla. In fact, Iginla will remain the Flames' best player long after he's been traded for pennies on the dollar to a team that isn't run by Jay Feaster.
Worst Player: I'm going over this roster and I feel like Ben Roethlisberger at a sorority mixer. I want ALL of them. Why can't I pick Krys Kolanos and Matt Stajan and Chris Butler? Oh hey what the hell I WILL pick Krys Kolanos and Matt Stajan and Chris Butler.
Wait, they're counting on who? Uh, Dennis Wideman? I guess? I mean, they gave him $25 million, so I guess it's Dennis Wideman. I really hope Flames fans can talk themselves into Dennis Wideman, for their sake. Heh.
Gimmick to win back the fans: Remind them that the last time there was a lockout, the Flames had just come off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they can do it again! And then hope none of them figure it out.
Prediction: 5th place
Edmonton Oilers
Best Player: For all the good young players we keep hearing about on this club, are any of them regarded as "the best" of them? I really like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but it could be any of the RNH/Hall/Eberle trio. Edmonton is the only team in this division I can't work up a bunch of hate for. Yet.
Worst Player: I am so, SO sad that I can't write Zack Stortini in this space, but then I realized Andy Sutton still plays here so, nice! Also, if you're on a team with Ben Eager and he's not the worst player on the team, your team may be in trouble.
Wait, they're counting on who? The Oilers have three choices: 40 year old Nikolai Khabibulin (40!), Devan Dubnyk , or another karmically friendly lottery ball. We all know how this is ending, don't we?
Gimmick to win back the fans: Threatening to move the team to Seattle! REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY.
Prediction: 3rd place
MinneSuter Parises
Best Player: Clearly a two-horse race between Zach Parise (who spent his summer curing the common cold) and Suter Trophy favorite Ryan Suter, the man who they re-named the Norris Trophy for. Co-best players!
Worst Player: Haha, THE REST OF THEIR ROSTER. Look at it! Gaze upon it. Actually, Mikko Koivu is pretty good, but the rest of them are very Nate Prosser-esque. This roster is the Nate Prosser of rosters.
Wait, they're counting on who? Oh, Dany Heatley is your scoring depth? Or Pierre-Marc Bouchard? Mikael Granlund is nothing more than a Youtube highlight right now.
Gimmick to win back the fans: The Wild went out and spent close to $200 million on two players to get their boring fans all excited, and promptly locked them out for being overpaid. Wait, that was their gimmick to drive their fans away, sorry, got that one mixed up. Um, FREE BLOND HAIRED, BLUE EYED PUPPIES FOR EVERYONE!
Prediction: 4th place
Vancouver Canucks
Best Players: Jesus Christ, I can't wait until the Ginger Twins are gone so I don't have to keep playing the "haha theyre the SAME" game. Ask a Canucks fan who the best player on the team is and they'll say it's Cory Schneider, because they're still suffering smoke inhalation from their legendary Stanley Cup Loss Celebration With Fire Parade in 2011.
Worst Player: "VAN - Signed D Cam Barker..." was as far as I made it before I got the giggles. Barker is keeping this space warm for future multi-time "worst player" winner Zack Kassian.
Wait, they're counting on who? Nobody special, just that one goalie they had a couple years ago that got them to the Stanley Cup Final and have been trying to give him away ever since. What was his name? Ah well, it doesnt matter anyway, once they dump him they have something named Joe Cannata backing up Cory Schneider, so stay healthy Cory!
Gimmick to win back the fans: "Tyler Bozak Jersey Tshirt Night" to take place on January 23rd, celebrating the newest member of the Canucks organization.
Prediction: 1st place
Colorado Avalanche
Best Player: Are we talking "best player that's currently signed to the club" or "best player that's being squeezed by an increasingly cheap ownership group being fronted by a bean-counter GM"? Because there are two different answers based upon that. The best player currently on the roster is Matt Duchene. Yes, I like Landeskog. Yes, I love Landeskog. Yes, he's only played one season. One more like last year, his name is in this spot next season.
Worst Player: @AnthraxJones You misspelled "sucks" "RT @MChambersDP: Chuck Kobasew sick, won't travel. Looks like Bordeleau will make NHL debut vs Minnesota”

Wait, they're counting on who? Yeah, who's gonna be taking Ryan O'Reilly's place while he's getting paid as he deserves over in the KHL while Stan Kroenke's wallet is tucked inside his prostate over here? John Mitchell? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Gimmick to win back the fans: "Hey Avs fans, thanks for being patient with us while we rebuild with young talent! By the way, don't expect us to PAY the young talent when their contracts are up! Oh, and fuck you!"
Prediction: 2nd place. O'Reilly signed by this time next week. And I'm still a bitch.
Go Avs go.


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