IceHL WEST Predictions, Part I

With both leagues finally drafted and now in the midst of making moves, what better way to spend the time during the lockout than by analyzing teams as if there were a real season coming up? You’ll find division-by-division breakdowns of all 16 teams in the IceHL WEST, with brief analyses of offensive, defensive and goaltending capabilities followed by my ratings.

Note: Potential rank is calculated using last season’s stats with this season's rosters. These, among other stats will be discussed in a future metrics post.


Alaska Huskies

3323 points; Potential rank: 3rd

+ A trio of 30-goal scorers (Ovechkin, Spezza, Pacioretty) highlight a potent offense. Vanek, Filppula, Stastny are solid assist machines. Malone and Read are more balanced.

+ McDonagh, Garrison, McBain, Girardi and E. Johnson are a solid group that can offer a blend of shotblocking and scoring.

+ If Smith picks up where he left off, he'll be an elite talent, and Crawford is also a solid backup.

– While this team boasts a solid offense, will Read regress? Will Ovechkin improve?

– The defense is a bit NYR-heavy and Erik Johnson is a question mark.

– Is Crawford really the man in Chicago for the long haul?

Overall Rating: 4.16/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4.5/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: With a team built to last and a GM who tends to make moves with uncanny timing, there's no reason to believe that Alaska wouldn't take the division again this season, though the competition should be much tougher.

Northwest Narwhals

3113 points; 1 injured; Potential rank: 4th

+ Great top five to lead the team (Neal, Kessel, J. Staal, Fisher, Lecavalier) with high point productions. Second tier (B. Sutter, Little, Okposo/Setoguchi) also has some utility.

+ Tough starting group (Phaneuf, Hedman, Streit, Bieksa) with lots of offensive/defensive point balance.

+ Fleury will be the man in Pittsburgh again. A healthy Backstrom in net will also pay dividends.

– Setoguchi is a real issue here. Underperforming previous season and injured. Large risk.

– How well will L. Schenn slot in if the starters here are injured?

– Is Backstrom ready to make a triumphant return?

Overall Rating: 4/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: The Narwhals have the shot to make it into the playoffs, but their fate is going to be tied to how close the battle is within the division. On paper, this team is a bubble team at worst and a bottom 4 seed at best.

Regina Renegades

2648 points; Potential rank: 11th

+ Brad Richards is the man for Regina, and Tanguay, Nugent-Hopkins and Pominville make a nice top 4.

+ Byfuglien and Campbell lead an offensively-minded group. Visnovsky, Myers and Gilbert wrap it up.

+ Miller and Luongo are capable goaltenders that run more hot than cold. Miller's the man in Buffalo.

– Outside of the top 4 forwards, nobody in that department averages better than 2.5 points per night, so there are depth concerns.

– What if new destinations for Visnovsky and Gilbert don't pan out? There could be trouble.

– Luongo's value is closely tied to his fate. He needs to be the man somewhere. He is in limbo at present.

Overall Rating: 3.67/5
Offense: 3.5/5
Defense: 3.5/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: With the stiff competition the Renegades are about the face this season, Regina might have a tough time seeing the postseason. Questions about their roster also make it tougher to endorse a run.

Saskatoon Sharpshooters

3436 points; Potential rank: 1st

+ A do-it-all group that includes strong scoring with Sharp and D. Sedin and balance from the rest of the roster (Simmonds, Backes, Laich, Glencross, Lupul, Ryder).

+ Heavy focus on shotblocking with Carle, Smid, Beauchemin, Vlasic and MacDonald.

+ Howard and Brodeur have potential if the two stay healthy. Both have the talent.

– Brodeur could have the wheels fall off at any moment. Howard might return to form, but will his team?

– Little offense from the defense outside of Carle.

– How Lupul and Laich get used in systems could change their values.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: The Sharpshooters will need a by-the-system contribution from everyone for this team to survive: that is, the players do exactly as what their scoresheets say they can do. Saskatoon could challenge for a division title, but will likely settle as a lower four playoff seed.


Dallas Outlaws

2630 points; Potential rank: 14th

+ Young team with power (Seguin, Parise, Nash) and some lower-end guys. (Perron, Couturier, Hagelin)

+ Balanced defense with lots of quality players. (Weber, Bogosian, Del Zotto, Hamhuis and Goligoski)

+ Varlamov should be the guy in Colorado. Same with Holtby in Washington.

– Can Holtby earn that time under a new system? Will Varly have a team that can support him?

– A very top heavy roster that has a large gap between the top-end offense and the rest of the forwards. If just one of those top guys has an injury (like Nash), this spells a lot of trouble.

– Will offensive points, which this team has in spades, carry the defense?

Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Offense: 3.5/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 3/5
Playoffs: Dallas has some work to do to get into the postseason. A stiff division won't make anything easier either.

Houston Hellcats

2678 points; Potential rank: 11th

+ Datsyuk and Hartnell are two solid topflight options that are very complimentary.

+ Chara is quality, and Seidenberg could be good. Faulk and Burns also have potential. Staal if healthy was a steal.

+ Anderson and Ward make for an awesome duo, both getting at least 30 wins and 3 SOs.

– Concerns about the return of Horton, injuries of Koivu and Samuelsson and age of Jagr and Doan.

– Boston D overinvestment and injury risks to Burns and Staal are concerns.

– Should the Senators/Hurricanes start sinking, the goalies will suffer fast.

Overall Rating: 3.16/5
Offense: 3/5
Defense: 3/5
Goalies: 3.5/5
Playoffs: While Houston will likely have some trouble this season with the competition, the Hellcats could make some noise up until the very end of the season but only if everyone fires on all cylinders. A bubble team at best.

New Orleans Gators

3043 points; 1 injured; Potential rank: 5th

+ Strong forward crew (Giroux, Thornton, Zetterberg, Gaborik, Selanne, Stafford) should pump out the points on a nightly basis.

+ Solid, if unspectacular defense (Subban, Johnson, Whitney, Gonchar and Kaberle) that can put up where it needs to.

+ Equal parts proven talent and risk with Lundqvist and Reimer in net.

– Returns of Gaborik and Jokinen from injury might make a difference.

– No real huge standout on the defense here.

– Is Reimer the guy? Can he return to form after last season's injury debacle?

Overall Rating: 3.83/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 3.5/5
Goalies: 4/5
Playoffs: The Gators are a strong team that can call on many different parts of their roster to produce.  If it's even possible, the Gators might sneak up on unsuspecting teams and crush them. Potential division-winners, if not a dark horse to run the distance.

Winnipeg Winterhawks

2638 points. Potential rank: 13th

+ Solid top six (Crosby, Tavares, Lucic, Hornqvist, Ladd, Plekanec) with good potential if the leader remains healthy.

+ Defense follows a similar build as offense. Killer leader (Karlsson), lots of solid talent surrounding it (Doughty, Ekman-Larsson, Leopold) and one big question. (Markov)

+ Two solid goaltenders (Price and Pavelec) with the ability to have awesome years.

– Concerns about Havlat, Heatley and Crosby hinder the offensive potential.

– Markov has played 20 games in the last two seasons. Will he play 20 games this year?

– See the Houston goaltending issue: if the Canadiens/Jets begin to falter, watch out.

Overall Rating: 3.83/5
Offense: 4/5
Defense: 4/5
Goalies: 3.5/5
Playoffs: Might need to win the division to make it into the playoffs, but Winnipeg is on near-even footing with New Orleans. The Winterhawks have a shot to make it in, but it's not going to fall into their laps as easily as it could for the Gators.