Im taking Chicago, but the two teams will be 8 and 9 in the west in my books. The whole conference is getting stupidy skilled, and I feel the Hawks will need more experience before they can make a huge impact, and the flames need more depth.
But the NHL is becoming more and more like the CFL, any team can win on any given night. Well, the way the CFL used to be, Edmonton and Hamilton just cant win.
I'm thinking Chicago is just a bit young at this point despite the moves. Campbell gets praised but he is worse defensively than Phaneuf, who often gets ripped for his defensive liabilities (but he's 23 while Campbell's a few years older). And offensively he's a bit overrated too, never truly having large goal production or proving he's an elite PP Quarterback. But Calgary is trying to get younger and faster in order to "catch up" to other West teams on the rise. They have to do it from outside because within the organization, there's a paltry amount of scoring talent.
Well-stocked on D, but not a ton of firepower IMO. If any of Kipper, Iginla or Phaneuf gets hurt for any period of time, it could be perilous for Calgary. Even the most hardcore Flame fan has to admit that it'll be harder to make it this year. Hell, we're talking about a team that barely made it at the end last year (sure they took SJ to 7 but the Sharks are a wilting flower come post-seasnon). What's to say they're a sure shot this year? Chicago, Columbus, Phoenix, Edmonton and Minnesota have all improved but are building FA singings on top of youthful cores. I'll be surprised if the Flames win the NW.
I like their most of their moves (except retaining Vandermeer while adding his bro) as a stop gap while prospects try to develop, but Huselius and Tanguay's offense gone will, on paper, barely be replaced by Glencross, Bourque and Camalleri. The hope will be that the new guys surprise whil some players not underachieve (Lombardi, Primeau, Kipper, Moss, etc.) and others make huge growth (Boyd, Nystrom). On top of this, Iggy, Langkow, Regehr and Phaneuf will need to keep on doing the same. Their D is a smidge better with Giordano in and Warrener out (though he barely played at the end of 07-08). I peg them 6th-8th at best unless they make a major move. But time is of the essence. Maybe in the East the Flames would be a threat each year but in the West, they're on the threshold of falling out of the top 8.
We were 3 points out last year, haven't lost anyone substantial and have picked up Huet and Campbell.
We're in the playoffs. I think the Hawks and Flames will be neck and neck for the 6th and 7th Western conference playoff spots.
Chicago last year had almost the most man-games missed due to injury in the entire NHL, so even if we better that, we should almost make the playoffs with the team we had last year.
We have a better team this year, Toews and Kane will be a year older, our defence has to be among the elite now in the league with Seabrook, Keith, and Campbell. Havlat is in a contract year, and there is no way he can play fewer games than he did last year. He's apparently healthy, and when that happens, he's one of the elite players in the league