THN pre-season prediction: 8th in West
Scoring leaders: Jarome Iginla, 39; Alex Tanguay, 32; Rene Bourque, 26.
Key stat: Much of the team’s trouble this season comes from its inability to lock teams down. It has the league’s worst points percentage (.538) when leading after the first period and is 24th (.800) when leading after two.
Biggest surprise: This tells the story. Journeyman winger Tim Jackman has made a surprising offensive contribution with six goals so far this season.
Biggest disappointment: Matt Stajan, who signed a four-year deal for $14 million, has two goals in 37 games this season.
What to expect: Interim GM Jay Feaster is expected to present team ownership with two plans going forward – one if the team is in playoff contention by the trade deadline and one if the team is out of the post-season picture by Feb. 28. Count on them going with the latter. Whether that means the Flames will blow things up and try to trade the likes of Jarome Iginla remains to be seen, but they clearly are not as good as they thought they would be. Daymond Langkow was shut down for the season and his career is in jeopardy. At least the Flames have the Heritage Classic as something exciting to anticipate.
THN pre-season prediction: 9th in West
Scoring leaders: Matt Duchene, 43; Paul Stastny, 37; Milan Hejduk, 36.
Key stat: Duchene leads all second-year players by a huge margin, 13 points ahead of Ville Leino.
Biggest surprise: Right winger David Jones has made the most of his expanded responsibilities and has already shattered his career-high for points.
Biggest disappointment: With the Avalanche leading 5-3 in the second period of a game against the Minnesota Wild Nov. 27, leading scorer Chris Stewart decided to get into a fight with Kyle Brodziak and broke his hand.
What to expect: The Avalanche will only improve when Stewart returns to the lineup. Since he began skating with the team in practice recently, that should be anytime in the near future. With the Canucks as the class of the league, the Avalanche have almost no chance of winning the division, so they’ll have to keep the pedal down in order to make the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. The Avalanche are a budget team and will be unlikely to take on much salary at the trade deadline, so they’ll make due with what they have and hope their young players continue to develop.
THN pre-season prediction: 15th in West
Scoring leaders: Dustin Penner, 27; Ryan Whitney, 27; Sam Gagner, 26.
Key stat: The Oilers are last in the NHL in both goals-against per game (3.29) and penalty-kill percentage (74.7 percent).
Biggest surprise: Ryan Jones is on pace for 20 goals this season playing primarily in a third-line role.
Biggest disappointment: The Oilers’ young players who are not rookies have not contributed to any significant level at all. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule have just 20 goals combined.
What to expect: Another last-place finish in the Western Conference and a second straight draft with a top-three selection. In reality, the Oilers don’t have a lot of players who would be attractive to other teams because they are locked into long-term contracts. But they do have a lot of room under the salary cap, so they could take on some expensive expiring contracts if either draft picks or young players come along with them. Look for Taylor Hall to continue his improved play and be right in the mix for rookie of the year, unless he struggles in his move to center on the first line.
THN pre-season prediction: 13th in West
Scoring leaders: Martin Havlat, 38; Mikko Koivu, 37; Brent Burns, 26.
Key stat: If you’re looking for a reason why the Wild have such trouble scoring, consider the fact they average the fewest shots on goal in the league per game (25.8).
Biggest surprise: Rugged Cal Clutterbuck leads the team in goals with 13 and is vying to become the first player in league history to lead the NHL in hits three straight seasons.
Biggest disappointment: Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s return from a serious concussion has seen him score just 10 points in 20 games.
What to expect: With a surge in the latter part of the first half, the Wild have done a good job staying in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. After getting off to a good start, Guillaume Latendresse had surgery on a torn labrum and further surgery on his hip, which was a huge loss. He continues to improve and is confident he will play again this season, but he can’t return soon enough for a team that has a terrible time scoring goals. The Wild are perilously close to the cap, so they can’t afford to add any offensive talent at the deadline.
THN pre-season prediction: Stanley Cup winner.
Scoring leaders: Daniel Sedin, 55; Henrik Sedin, 55; Ryan Kesler, 41.
Key stat: Led by free agent acquisition Manny Malhotra, the Canucks lead the NHL in faceoff wins percentage at 56.4 percent.
Biggest surprise: Jeff Tambellini has provided the Canucks with some timely offense and upgrades their overall team speed – all for an NHL minimum $500,000.
Biggest disappointment: Alexandre Burrows missed the first 10 games of the season with a shoulder injury, but is way off the pace that saw him score 35 goals last season.
What to expect: GM Mike Gillis has an enormous amount of confidence in this group – as he should – so don’t expect any radical changes as the deadline approaches. The Canucks entered the second half first overall in the NHL and without a loss in regulation in 17 straight games, but face a grueling second half, with two four-game road trips and a five-game trip. The only things left to be determined are whether the Canucks will win the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the regular season and whether Daniel Sedin will get 50 goals and his twin brother Henrik 100 assists.
THN Puck Panel – Breaking down the Atlantic and Northwest Divisions
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
THN’s mid-season reports will run two a day from Jan. 12-14.
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