Looked around and didn't see this posted. If it is, I apologize.
Here's Bucci's Western Conference preview - [url]http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview20 ... id=4537388
And to save you some reading:
15. Colorado Avalanche
14. Phoenix Coyotes
13. Minnesota Wild
12. Edmonton Oilers
11. Dallas Stars
10. Nashville Predators
9. Los Angeles Kings
8. Anaheim Ducks
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
6. St. Louis Blues
The serotonin's rushing, I'm coughing
Well, I kinda caught the blues
But you won't catch me complaining
To the super or the moon
Because the carrot's gonna dangle
Until the diamond is appraised
-- "Endless Entertainment" by Bright Eyes
I wrote this two years ago for the Blues preview:
John Davidson is a smart and confident hockey man who has seen every nook and cranny of the hockey business. His boss, Dave Checketts, is a polished, smart businessman with a fine head of hair and a politician's aura in the mold of Mitt Romney. Under coach Andy Murray, a smart hockey dude, the Blues finished 27-18-9 last season and missed the playoffs by 15 points. Everything seems to be looking up.
In last season's preview, we talked about how the draft history of the Blues put them in a bad spot (when they went for a championship every year) and then a good spot:
2008 -- No. 4: Alex Pietrangelo
2007 -- No. 13: Lars Eller
2006 -- No. 1: Erik Johnson (and Patrik Berglund 25th overall)
2005 -- No. 24: T.J. Oshie
2004 -- No. 17: Marek Schwarz
2003 -- No. 30: Shawn Belle
2002 -- None
2001 -- None
2000 -- No. 30: Jeff Taffe
We are now in the "up" stage two seasons later. The 2005 and 2006 drafts, getting Andy McDonald for Doug Weight and trading Dennis Wideman for Brad Boyes (the ultimate "great trade for both teams" deal) has put the Blues in a great position going forward. Kariya's $6 million comes off the books after this season, as does Keith Tkachuk's $2.1 million. This gives St. Louis the option of being a player for someone like Kovalchuk, or bringing back Kariya and Tkachuk at reduced prices. Both are at the point where their salaries will decline going forward.
That cap space may also be used for goaltending. That is the one mystery surrounding the Blues. Right now, they pay their goaltenders $4.3 million combined. As long as they are performing, that is a great way to have depth elsewhere (the Rangers pay their goalies $7.5 million; the Ducks $7.3 million). The Blues also have a little bit of cap space to do something this season.
It's a great time to be a Blues fan. Not only are they improving, not only are they a playoff contender, but they are also interesting. This team has an attraction to it. The young players are cool. And Kariya and Tkachuk have late-1990s star power still to this day. Their names sound like hockey.
Hockey matters in St. Louis again. Cool.
5. Vancouver Canucks
4. Detroit Red Wings
3. San Jose Sharks
2. Chicago Blackhawks
1. Calgary Flames
All I can say is - damn it feels nice to be ranked that high again - next stop
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