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Vulgar Statistics: Power Rankings: Western Conference

09/26/11
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This is going to be a weekly Friday column throughout the regular season (in addition to Sunday Vulgar Stats columns), but I’m all out of offseason ideas so I’m going to let it do double duty up until opening day.  This particular installation is also going to be different from its regular season incarnations in content.  Since I don’t have any stats with which to do my usual stats-based rankings, I’m using an amalgam of last year’s record and offseason additions.

Alright, let’s set up my completely arbitrary rules.  I wanted to keep with a statistical theme, so I assigned point values to each position gained and lost:

  • First Line Center – 10
  • First Line Winger – 8
  • Second Line Center – 8
  • Second Line Winger – 5
  • Third Line Center – 3
  • Third Line Winger – 2
  • Fourth Line Forward – 1
  • First Pair Defense – 5
  • Second Pair Defense – 3
  • Third Pair Defense – 1
  • Starting Goaltender – 6
  • Backup Goaltender – 2

Essentially I added or subtracted from a team’s point total based on what they lost in personnel.  There was some fudging to be done, say if a team has a player returning from injury (Crosby or Roy), I gave their teams a percentage credit (based on games missed) for that.  If a team has a couple players that fit one category (i.e. Philly losing two first line (in terms of talent) centers), then I modified the figures accordingly.

There are a few things that this sort of analysis doesn’t account for:

  • The time it takes to recover from a lot of turnover
  • Young players improving
  • Impact rookies – generally I counted lottery picks as third line players (Nugent-Hopkins for example) and ignored the rest.

So on top of what the completely made up numbers say, I will be offering an “eyeball test.”  Think of it as a “Final Thoughts” for every team.  Let us begin.

15). Edmonton Oilers

Key Additions:

  • Ryan Smyth (W +5)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C +3)
  • Eric Belanger (C +3)
  • Ben Eager (W +1)
  • Cam Barker (D+1)
  • Andy Sutton (D +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Dustin Penner (W -5)
  • Andrew Cogliano (C -3)
  • Colin Fraser (C -1)
  • Kurtis Foster (D -3)
  • James Vandermeer (D-3)

Total: 62 + 14 – 15 = 61 Points

The Eyeball Test: Something tells me this is a little low for Edmonton as their young guys will almost certainly improve.  With Taylor Hall building on a good first season and a slew of young talent, Edmonton should win their fair share of games in a Western Conference that seemed to (for the most part) get worse.

14). Colorado Avalanche

Key Additions:

  • Gabriel Landeskog (W +2)
  • Chuck Kobasew (D +3)
  • Jan Hejda (D +3)
  • Shane O’Brien (D +1)
  • Semyon Varlamov (G +6)
  • J. S. Giguere (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Tomas Fleischmann (W -5)
  • John Michael Liles (D -5)
  • Adam Foote (D -1)
  • Brian Elliot (G -2)
  • Peter Budaj (G -2)

Total: 68 + 17 – 15 = 70 Points

Eyeball Test: You have to think that even with the departure of Foote and Liles, the addition of Varlamov will make a big difference for Colorado.  You didn’t think for a minute I was going to count them as losing a starting goaltender regardless of the fact that by default someone was the starting netminder last year, did you?  Pundits seem to have Colorado at both ends of the spectrum, either making big strides, or fighting Edmonton for worst in the west.  I’ll lean towards the latter.

13). Minnesota Wild

Key Additions:

  • Dany Heatley (W +8)
  • Devin Setoguchi (W +5)
  • Darroll Powe (C +3)
  • Mike Lundin (D +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Martin Havlat (W -8)
  • Andrew Brunette (W -2)
  • Brent Burns (D -5)
  • Cam Barker (D -1)
  • Jose Theodore (G -1)

Total: 86 + 17 – 17 = 86 Points

Eyeball Test: Alright, this one feels a little better.  With the departure of Brent Burns, Minnesota is probably going to get at least a little worse.  And I think the Heatley for Havlat trade is a lot more even than it seems.  Yes Heatley is the better offensive talent, but Havlat is undoubtedly the better team player.  I didn’t penalize them as much for Theodore because he was mostly pressed into service due to injuries.

12). Calgary Flames

Key Additions

  • Lee Stempniak (W +5)
  • Chris Butler (D +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Daymond Langkow (W -5)
  • Robyn Regehr (D -5)
  • Adam Pardy (D -1)
  • Steve Staios (D -1)

Total: 94 + 6 – 12 = 88 Points

Eyeball Test: Another prediction I feel pretty good about, even though Calgary is a little tough to gauge.  With a good preseason, maybe Paul Byron should be counted as a key addition, but it’s hard to put anything behind a guy with single digit NHL starts.  The Flames will miss Robyn Regehr’s intangibles as well as his on-ice play; for that Chris Butler is certainly no substitute.  And Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff are only getting older.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iggy and Kipper rapidly decline and the bottom fall out for Calgary.

11). Nashville Predators

Key Additions:

  • Kyle Wilson (C +3)
  • Niclas Bergfors (W +2)
  • Zack Stortini (W +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Joel Ward (W -5)
  • Marcel Goc (C -3)
  • Steve Sullivan (W -2)
  • J. P. Dumont (W -2)
  • Cody Franson (D -3)
  • Shane O’Brien (D -1)

Total: 99 + 6 – 16 = 89 Points

Eyeball Test: What is Nashville doing? It’s hard to harp on them too much considering how they continue to be a playoff contender with a collection of nobodies, good defense, and Pekka Rinne, but…committing to putting the puck in the net is kind of important.  With their defense and special teams, Nashville was my dark horse Western Conference Cup pick last season.  They will not be this season.

10). Columbus Blue Jackets

Key Additions:

  • Jeff Carter (C +10)
  • Vinny Prospal (W +5)
  • James Wisniewski (D +5)
  • Radek Martinek (D +3)
  • Curtis Sanford (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Scottie Upshall (W -5)
  • Jakub Voracek (W -5)
  • Jan Hejda (D -3)
  • Mathieu Garon (G -2)

Total: 81 + 25 – 15 = 91 Points

Eyeball Test: I liked what Columbus did a lot this offseason and I think the Central Division could be completely up for grabs.  With that a possibility, don’t be surprised to see Columbus a few more points north of ninety and in the playoffs.

9). Phoenix Coyotes

Key Additions:

  • Daymond Langkow (W +5)
  • Raffi Torres (W +2)
  • Boyd Gordon (W +1)
  • Kyle Chipchurra (W +1)
  • Mike Smith (G +2)

Key Subtractions

  • Lee Stempniak (W -5)
  • Eric Belanger (C -3)
  • Vernon Fiddler (W -2)
  • Ed Jovanovski (D -3)
  • Ilya Bryzgalov (G -6)

Total: 99 + 11 – 19 = 91 Points

Eyeball Test: Yeah…this one’s a little off.  Mike Smith isn’t much of an addition, nor are the cadre of fourth liners above, and the loss of Ilya Bryzgalov feels like it should count for negative fifty.  Phoenix was a great story for a few years, but I’m jumping ship bigtime.  Mike Smith vs. Jason Labarbera, can anyone say goalie controversy?  Yuck.  The only thing that will save them from sinking faster than their future in Phoenix is their suffocating style of play.

8). St. Louis Blues

Key Additions:

  • Jason Arnott (C +3)
  • Jamie Langenbrunner (W +2)
  • Scott Nichol (C +1)
  • Kent Huskins (D +1)
  • Brian Elliot (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Cam Janssen (W -1)
  • Ty Conklin (G -2)

Total: 87 + 9 – 3 = 93 Points

Eyeball Test: I like the Blues a lot this year; they’ve got Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, are super deep at center, have good goaltending, and lost virtually nothing.  Detroit is old, and Chicago is two lines of really good players and two lines of really bad players, both can be had.  Don’t forget that this is a team that led off last season with eleven of their first twelve games against playoff teams and went 9-1-2 in that stretch before injuries and an abysmal January (2-8-2) sunk them for good.  I have them eighth here, but the Blues are my dark horse pick to win their division this year.

7). Dallas Stars

Key Additions:

  • Michael Ryder (C +3)
  • Radek Dvorak (W +2)
  • Vernon Fiddler (W +2)
  • Jake Dowell (C +1)
  • Sheldon Souray (D +3)
  • Adam Pardy (D +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Brad Richards (C -10)
  • Jamie Langenbrunner (W -2)
  • Karlis Skrastins (D -1)

Total: 95 + 12 – 13 = 94 Points

Eyeball Test: There is no question that the loss of Brad Richards is a big one.  There is a question whether or not they can make up for it with some of their additions and their young guys coming into the system.  Personally I feel the departure of Richards will hurt a bit in the short term, but ultimately benefit Dallas as his age and cost were issues that were only getting bigger.

6). Chicago Blackhawks

Key Additions:

  • Andrew Brunette (W +2)
  • Rostislav Olesz (W +1)
  • Jamal Mayers (W +1)
  • Daniel Cacillo (W +1)
  • Steve Montador (D +1)
  • Sean O’Donnell (D +1)
  • Sami Lepisto (D +1)
  • Ray Emery (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Troy Brouwer (W -2)
  • Tomas Kopecky (W -2)
  • Jake Dowell (C -1)
  • Fernando Pisani (W -1)
  • Brian Campbell (D -3)
  • Chris Campolli (D -1)
  • Marty Turco (G -2)

Total: 97 + 10 – 12 = 95 Points

Eyeball Test: Is Chicago just going to change out their bottom two lines every season from now on?  Yeesh.  Like I said earlier, they have a ton of super talented players so you know they’re always going to be in the mix.  Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, and Seabrook will win you a lot of games.  Unfortunately their mess of bottom tier players will also lose a lot of them, and I think Brouwer and Kopecky are more important than their point totals indicated.

5). Detroit Red Wings

Key Additions:

  • Ian White (D +3)
  • Mike Commodore (D +1)
  • Ty Conklin (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Kris Draper (C -3)
  • Mike Modano (C -3)
  • Brian Rafalski (D -5)
  • Ruslan Salei (D -1)
  • Chris Osgood (G -2)

Total: 104 +6 – 14 = 96 Points

Eyeball Test: I know that Detroit would technically take the third seed by winning their division, but I’m only following my own set of arbitrary rules in this entry, not the NHL’s.  Let’s face facts, Detroit is only getting older.  Datsyuk and Zetterberg are pushing into their mid thirties and I don’t even know how old Lidstrom is anymore.  When you draft in the bottom ten every year for a very long time, eventually your skill starts to taper off.  You can’t always rely on late round steals.  I think Detroit’s dominance is coming to an end.

4). Anaheim Ducks

Key Additions:

  • Andrew Cogliano (C +3)
  • Kurtis Foster (D +1)
  • Matt Smaby (D +1)

Key Subtractions:

  • Todd Marchant (C -3)
  • Andy Sutton (D -1)
  • Andreas Lilja (D -1)

Total: 99 +5 – 5 = 99 Points

Eyeball Test: A good team without a lot of turnover; smells like a Stanley Cup run to me.  If Jonas Hiller is completely over his vertigo issues, watch out.

3). Los Angeles Kings

Key Additions:

  • Mike Richards (C +10)
  • Simon Gagne (W +8)

Key Subtractions:

  • Wayne Simmonds (W -5)
  • Ryan Smyth (W -5)
  • Alexei Ponikarovski (W -2)
  • Michael Handzus (C -3)

Total: 98 + 18 – 15 = 101 Points

Eyeball Test: The Kings took a bit of a gamble here.  I like Simmonds a lot, and I would have been loathe to let him go (especially along with top prospect Brayden Schenn), thought it doesn’t hurt to get two established two line players.  Simon Gagne (who feels like he’s about ten years older than he actually is) will be key.  If he stays healthy, he’s fantastic, if not, he’s a waste of money.

2). San Jose Sharks

Key Additions:

  • Martin Havlat (W +8)
  • Andy Murray (C +3)
  • Michael Handzus (C +3)
  • Brent Burns (D +5)
  • James Vandermeer (D +3)
  • Colin White (D +1)
  • Thomas Greiss (G +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Dany Heatley (W -8)
  • Devin Setoguchi (W -5)
  • Kyle Wellwood (C -3)
  • Ben Eager (W -1)
  • Jamal Mayers (W -1)
  • Scott Nichol (C -1)
  • Ian White (D -3)
  • Ken Huskins (D -1)

Total: 105 + 25 – 23 = 107 Points

Eyeball Test: The Sharks swapped out a lot of personnel and generally that means a dropoff, at least early on while the “new” team gets used to playing together.  But the Sharks are still long on talent, and I don’t think the Havlat/Heatley exchange will make either side a big winner.  My question is how effective the lower lines will be without a guy like Setoguchi constantly matched up against players that can’t handle him.

1). Vancouver Canucks

Key Additions:

  • Owen Nolan (W +2)
  • Marco Sturm (W +2)

Key Subtractions:

  • Raffi Torres (W -2)
  • James Tambellini (W -2)
  • Tanner Glass (W -1)
  • Christian Ehrhoff (D -5)

Total: 117 + 4 – 10 = 111 Points

Eyeball Test: I know Ehrhoff wasn’t considered a top pair defenseman by most pundits, but he logged big time minutes in all situations. He will be missed.  Vancouver is still probably the most talented team in the Western Conference, but they also probably won’t run away with it this season.  With a weak division that will let them pile up points and some major losses, they look even less built for the playoffs than they did last season.

Final Thoughts:

  1. Vancouver – 111
  2. San Jose – 107
  3. Los Angeles – 101
  4. Anaheim – 99
  5. Detroit – 96
  6. Chicago – 95
  7. Dallas – 94
  8. St. Louis – 93
  9. Phoenix – 91
  10. Columbus – 91
  11. Nashville – 89
  12. Calgary – 88
  13. Minnesota – 86
  14. Colorado – 70
  15. Edmonton – 61

It’s not like anyone has any better basis for ranking teams so I’m going to stand by that and be proud of it.

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