NHL 2017: Western Conference team capsules


By Ed Barkowitz - The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News



Western Conference

In predicted order of finish

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Central Division

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Chicago Blackhawks

Last season: 109 points, 1st in division and conference, swept by Nashville in first round.

Ice chips: Chicago reacted to its first-round flop by dealing Artemi Panarin to Columbus for Brandon Saad, who was on two of their recent Cup-winning teams … Also back with the band is Patrick Sharp, who played on three Cup teams. He had a miserable year last season in Dallas and was signed as a free agent.

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Dallas Stars

Last season: 79 points, 6th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: The Stars were among the most active teams in the offseason, led by the signings of goalie Ben Bishop (from Tampa Bay) and winger Alexander Radulov (from Montreal). … They brought back Ken Hitchcock as head coach. Hitchcock was the Stars coach from 1996-2002, winning the Cup in 1999. He was 45 when he first coached Dallas. He’ll be 66 in December.

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Minnesota Wild

Last season: 106 points, 2nd in division, lost to St. Louis in first round.

Ice chips: Set a franchise record with 49 wins last year, but again couldn’t do any postseason damage. … Top-six forward Zach Parise continues to deal with a back injury that has contributed to his last two seasons being largely a disappointment. He has 30-goal capability if he can get himself healthy, but he’ll miss at least the first two games.

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St. Louis Blues

Last season: 99 points, 3rd in division, lost to Nashville in second round.

Ice chips: Vladimir Tarasenko scored 39 goals last season often playing alongside Jori Lehtera, who was traded to the Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Tarasenko has scored 116 goals over the last three seasons, second only to Alex Ovechkin (136).

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Nashville Predators

Last season: 94 points, 4th in division, last team from West to get into postseason, made it all the way to the Cup Finals.

Ice chips: Entering their 19th season and coming off the greatest run in team history. … Defenseman Roman Josi is the new team captain now that Mike Fisher has retired. He’s the second Swiss player to captain an NHL team. Former Islander Mark Streit was the first in 2011. Nashville GM David Poile calls Josi, “our Roger Federer.”

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Winnipeg Jets

Last season: 87 points, 5th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Have made the playoffs just once since moving from Atlanta before the 2011-12 season. … Steve Mason is the Jets’ primary goaltender.

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Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 48 points, fewest in hockey.

Ice chips: Center Matt Duchene wants to be traded and the team wants to deal him. Yeah, it’s awkward. … Colorado will play two games against Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden, on Nov. 10-11. … Winger Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, is with his third team in three years.

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Pacific Division

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Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 103 points, 2nd in division, lost to Anaheim in second round.

Ice chips: Connor McDavid became the first Oiler to win the NHL scoring title since you-know-who 30 years ago. McDavid, who turns 21 on Jan. 13, was signed to an eight-year, $100 million extension in July. His only visit to Philadelphia is Oct. 21.

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Anaheim Ducks

Last season: 105 points, first in division, lost to Nashville in conference finals.

Ice chips: The Ducks have won five consecutive division titles and notched at least 100 points in each of the last four years, but they have not reached the Cup Finals since winning it all in 2007. … Corey Perry had just 19 goals last season and is due for a rebound.

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Calgary Flames

Last season: 94 points, 4th in division, lost to Anaheim in first round.

Ice chips: Goaltender Mike Smith, 35, will take the place of Brian Elliott, who’s now a Flyer. … Johnny Gaudreau had (for him) only 18 goals in 72 games last season after posting 30 in 79 games the previous season. … TSN reported Monday that the Flames signed 45-year-old winger Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal for $1 million. … Calgary started 5-10-1 last season, finished it 40-23-3.

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San Jose Sharks

Last season: 99 points, 3rd in division, lost to Edmonton in first round.

Ice chips: This will be the first season in the 21st century that the Sharks will be without Patrick Marleau (signed by Toronto). … The early exit from the postseason allowed captain Joe Thornton to have knee surgery in April, which sped up recovery time.

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Los Angeles Kings

Last season: 86 points, 5th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Former Flyers coach John Stevens is the new head man in Los Angeles. He takes over a team that has missed the playoffs twice in the last three years and was knocked out in the first round the other time.

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Arizona Coyotes

Last season: 70 points, 6th in division, no playoffs.

Ice chips: Former Penguins assistant (and Flyers legend) Rick Tocchet is the new head coach. … Rookie Clayton Keller has been impressive enough to see some time on the top line (with Derek Stepan and Max Domi) during the preseason. Keller, 19, was the seventh overall pick in 2016. … Shane Doan, who played 21 years for the franchise and was Coyotes captain since 2003-04, retired. Tocchet has not decided on a replacement. The Arizona Republic says he may just use a bunch of alternates.

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Vancouver Canucks

Last season: 69 points, last in division, ended with an eight-game losing streak.

Ice chips: The Sedin twins turned 37 last week. Daniel was a minus-16 last season. Henrik was minus-27. … Bo Horvat was the Canucks’ only 20-goal scorer last season. As tough as the Pacific is, the arrow is certainly pointing down in Vancouver. … Good luck to rookie head coach Travis Green.

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Vegas Golden Knights

Last season: Did not compete. The Golden Knights are the first team in the four major pro sports to be located in Las Vegas.

Ice chips: The team’s T-Mobile Center home is about two miles north of the Mandalay Bay casino complex. … The Golden Knights are owned by Bill Foley, a 72-year-old Texan who lived for a time in Canada while his father served in the Air Force. … George McPhee is the general manager. Kelly McCrimmon (Brad’s brother) and Murray Craven also hold top management positions. … Former Florida coach Gerard Gallant is the head coach and Pierre Eduoard-Bellemare, who was plucked from the Flyers in the expansion draft, already is establishing himself as one of the team’s leaders.

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By Ed Barkowitz

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News