NHL Western Conference Preview: Where do the Sharks fit?

Oh shitake mushrooms! It's here. It's really, truthfully here:


So, stop trimming your mullet (or skullet) for fear of human interaction. Impress your friends with the last 20 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winners, ALPHABETICALLY. (no, I am not doing that here. I like writing for this site.)

It is time for our Realigned Western Conference Preseason Power Ranking Machine! (I'll work on a better name. I promise.) Let's do this quick and dirty style, starting with the dregs and working our way to find out the answer to this question...are the Sharks truly an elite team in 2013?

14. Calgary Flames: No Iginla. No Kiprusoff. Mike Cammalleri is the only current player on the roster with a 30-goal season to his credit. Watching this team will be like watching the Minnesota Twins in September. Name tags please.

13. Edmonton Oilers: When exactly does all this young talent that the Oilers keep stockpiling add up? The Oilers are sloppier than a gorilla eating a spaghetti strainer full of beans with the puck. Too young and too undisciplined. Watch out for Taylor Hall, but no defense means no playoffs.

12. Colorado Avalanche: Speaking of no defense...it's the 2013 Colorado Avalanche! The Avs will most likely be feisty and extremely loony/bipolar with Patrick Roy as coach, but their defense looks to be the same, if not worse, than the one who gave up 3.12 goals per game last year.

11. Dallas Stars: They took a step in the right direction, acquiring Tyler Seguin from the Penguins. However, they lost Loui Eriksson's wicked shot in return, and (notice a recurring theme) their defense is TURRBLE. Maybe they can have Matt Garza give bunting lessons during intermissions?

10. Nashville Predators:  The Predators are docile kitten balls of love when it comes to putting the puck in the net. Only three players scratched double-digit tallies last year. The defense is pretty great, lead by Shea Weber, but you can only win so many 1-0 and 2-1 games. Not quite.

9. Winnipeg Jets: An up-and-coming franchise who just happened to waltz into the wrong conference. Andrew Ladd is a great player coming into his prime, and the Jets did some work to sure up their spotty secondary scoring. But, they are still too young to crack a very deep top-eight.

8. Phoenix Coyotes: It looks like hockey is here to stay in Phoenix. Marketing "it's this or watch Carson Palmer throw clutch-time interceptions" might get fans in and keep them there. Mike Smith rebounds from an inconsistent year and Mike Ribeiro proves to be a very big signing.

7. Minnesota North Wild Stars: CAN WE PLEASE FORCE DALLAS TO BECOME THE WRANGLERS/STEER ROPERS AND BRING THE NORTH STARS BACK??? Zach Parise and Ryan Suter equal playoffs. If Dany Heatley finds his superstar knickers, they'll go deep.

6. Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne is almost as old as Emilio Estevez and is just as good of an actor. Very "seasoned" or "ageless" in key spots (hello, Saku Koivu,) and very young in others, but when you have a goaltending tandem of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, you can get away with that.

5. Vancouver Canucks: John Tortorella goes from out of the frying pan and into the fire. With fans as passionate and unbridled as any European socc..err...football fans, and the never-ending saga of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Luongo, this will be a good, not great team that will win the tabloids.

4. St. Louis Blues: The solid goaltending pair of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, along with one of the best six-man defenses in the league is enough to make the Blues a legitimate contender. However, other than boosting their depth at center with Derek Roy, the offense still has a LOT of questions.

3. San Jose Sharks: A deep defense that is both young and battle-tested. High-impact talent on all top three forward lines. Losing Raffi Torres hurts like a female dog, yet if Antti Niemi can shoulder the hefty load between the pipes like he did last year, this team looks primed to contend.

2. LA Kings: I am firmly convinced that Jonathan Quick is an animatronic with a laser in his chest that always, ALWAYS,  @#$#$%^  tracks the puck in play. Quick is my vote for this year's Vezina Trophy, and offensive/defensive balance and stasis equals Stanley Cup contention.

1. Chicago Blackhawks: The champs are here. And they are back in pretty much the exact same form that led to a President's Cup-winning 36-7-5 mark last year. Hossa's injury is a concern, but there is no team as consistent and as talented in the entire NHL as the Blackhawks.

We missed you Barry! So much.






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