Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
This is a very deep conference. It is so deep that if the season ended today, Stanley Cup preseason favorites the Los Angeles Kings would not make it to the postseason. We are only about a quarter of the way through the regular season, but does that mean it is too early to judge the current top eight seeds in the Western Conference? Probably. But let’s give it a fair shot and see which of the current playoff teams are contenders of pretenders for making a Stanley Cup push this coming playoffs.
8. Vancouver Canucks
I hate these guys. I think all Blackhawk fans hate these guys. I would have no issue making them a pretender just out of pure disdain for the Sedin brothers and Roberto Luongo. However, they just have too much talent to not be among the top eight teams in the conference this season. They have struggled on offense so far this year, something they don’t do often. The defense has been exceptional and Luongo is having his typical, top tier regular season. Offense and defense will balance out and they will finish on the Top six this year, barring any serious injuries. As long as Luongo continues to play at this level, they can handle any of the upper echelon teams in the conference…..but…..I just hate them too much.
7. Minnesota Wild
Netminder Josh Harding is off to a blazing start and the team is very balanced with talent and veteran leadership on both ends of the ice. I am skeptical of how Harding will play as the season progresses and whether him or Niklas Backstrom can play at a high level during the postseason. This is a good, but not great, offensive team and there will be moments where the offense just doesn’t score., though as of late they are putting up goals in bunches. That said, I don’t know how much they can lean on the inexperienced Harding, who only has 5 career playoff starts (though decent ones) and I see a similar outcome to that of last season with an early round exit.