Minnesota Wild 2013 season preview; standings prediction
The Northwest Division could be the best division in the National Hockey League. Every team could make the playoffs. The division may come down to three teams.
The Wild are the most improved team in the division, but the Canucks are the reigning division champs. The Oilers have some of the best young scorers in the game, that's what happens when you have the first overall pick for three straight years, but is it ready to take the next step.
The other two teams have talent, but don't have the depth and overall talent of the Canucks, Wild and Oilers.
No. 1 - Vancouver Canucks
Why they could win the division: Experience and talent. The Canucks won the division last season with nearly the same team as they have this season. They are a balanced team that has good role players in addition to scorers.
Why they could not win the division: Health and goaltenders. The Canucks are already dealing with injuries to David Booth and Ryan Kesler. The longer they are out, the farther it could set them back. Also, a goalie controversy could be brewing between Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.
No. 2 - Minnesota Wild
Why they could win the division: Depth and improvement. The lack of depth was exposed last season when injuries started to mount. The Wild signed the top two free agents and have its highly-skilled prospects turning pro. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund instantly upgrade the team's top units. The scoring depth improves with the addition of Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle.
Why they could not win the division: Chemistry and experienced depth. With all the new additions, chemistry is big question mark. If they cannot get on the same page quickly, the Wild may fall too far behind to catch up. The talent is definitely there with incoming prospects, but how will their talents translate to the NHL?
No. 3 - Edmonton Oilers
Why they could win the division: Scoring depth. The Oilers, with the benefit of several high draft picks, have assembled a pretty impressive group of prospects. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov form the most skilled trio of young players in the league. They are the No. 1 overall draft picks from each of the last three drafts. They combine with Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner and Justin Schultz to form the best group of players under 25 years old in the league.
Why they could not win the division: Youth and defense. The scoring depth is nice. But if you can't keep the puck out of your own net, you are not going to win games. Also, the young players are still developing and are still getting used to the NHL game.
No. 4 - Calgary Flames
Why they could win the division: They always find a way to be in it. The Flames don't have the deepest or most talented teams in the league, but they are always right in the playoff race until the end of the season. With Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames are never out of any game or season. The Flames addressed a need on defense by acquiring and signing Dennis Wideman.
Why they could not win the division: Don't have the pieces. The Flames have some talented players, but lack enough top-end players to get it over the hump. Jay Bouwmeester has been a disappointment and the team is littered with role players in key spots.
No. 5 - Colorado Avalanche
Why they could win the division: Offense, offense and more offense. The Avalanche can score. Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk, Steve Downie and Gabriel Landeskog are top-end offensive players. Erik Johnson is a pretty good player to build a defensive group around.
Why they could not win the division: Youth and defense. Much like the Oilers, there is a lot of youth and a lack of defense. The Avalanche allow way too many goals to contend with the league's top teams.