Welcome to another of the newest additions to Faceoff-Factor: the Western Conference Roundup. The WCR is a look at the National Hockey League’s Western Conference, including the current Western Conference standings, general news and notes, and major turns of events and/or moves as each team jockeys for playoff position. Always feel free to comment on anything, or even suggest additions to the weekly roundup!

Western Conference Standings

1. San Jose Sharks, 36-7-5, 77 pts.
2. Detroit Red Wings, 32-11-7, 71 pts.
3. Calgary Flames, 30-15-4, 64 pts.
4. Chicago Blackhawks, 27-13-8, 62 pts.
5. Anaheim Ducks, 26-22-5, 57 pts.
6. Dallas Stars, 23-18-7 53 pts.
7. Minnesota Wild, 25-21-3, 53 pts.
8. Edmonton Oilers, 25-21-3, 53 pts.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets, 24-21-5, 53 pts.
10. Phoenix Coyotes, 24-22-5, 53 pts.
11. Vancouver Canucks, 22-20-8, 52 pts.
12. Colorado Avalanche, 24-26-1, 49 pts.
13. Los Angeles Kings, 20-21-7, 47 pts.
14. Nashville Predators, 22-24-3, 47 pts.
15. St. Louis Blues, 20-24-5, 45 pts.

Denotes division leader

Western Conference – Playoff Picture

One word stands out in my mind as I peer at the Western Conference standings: parity. As the standings show, as of February 3, 2009, there is a log jam of teams (5 in total) with 53 points in the Western Conference. Three of them ( Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and the Edmonton Oilers) are seeded in the top 8 teams, while the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes are on the outside looking in due to tie-breaking policies (teams with the most wins are seeded higher).

The biggest movers and shakers of late have been the San Jose Sharks, who have been strong throughout the entire season, and the Calgary Flames. Both teams have gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. The Sharks suffered only their second home regulation loss of the season on Saturday, January 31, losing 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks after shutting out the Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes on back-to-back nights. Meanwhile, the Flames, who lost to the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Monday, have been powered by center Michael Cammalleri, who leads the team with 25 goals, 11 of which have been in the past 8 games.

The biggest drop off has been the Vancouver Canucks who, after the signing of Mats Sundin, have gone 1-5-4 in their last 10, including their current 8 game losing streak. The Canucks have fallen from 5th to 11th in conference, yet are still only one point out of a playoff spot.

The Detroit Red Wings rebounded from their recent 5 game skid, most recently losing to the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals, with an overtime victory on Monday night despite the absence of Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg missed Monday’s game against St. Louis, his third straight missed contest since signing a 12-year/$72 million contract (the longest and most lucrative in Red Wings history), due to back spasms. Could these back spasm issues have been caused by Henrik carrying large bags of money to the bank? He hopes to play on Wednesday against Phoenix.

The biggest surprise for many may be the Dallas Stars. At the beginning of December, they were in last place in the Western Conference. They had a PR nightmare with the “Sean Avery Incident” on December 2, and subsequently, Avery was removed from the lineup. So what have the Stars done since then? They have gone 15-7-3 and with 53 points, currently sit in 6th in the Conference – all while not having veteran offensive defenseman Sergei Zubov and captain Brendan Morrow. Aside from the change in locker room chemistry, Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippet credits the return of veteran defenseman Darryl Sydor (who was traded from Pittsburgh for defenseman Philippe Boucher) with the development of Dallas’ young blueliners Matt Niskanen and Niklas Grossman.

Western Conference – News and Notes

  • The Los Angeles Kings will be without the services of defenceman Denis Gauthier, who received a 5-game suspension without pay from the NHL for his vicious, head-hunting hit on Montreal Canadiens‘ defenceman Josh Gorges on January 31. Gauthier received a 5-minute charging major and a game misconduct during the game and will forfeit $56,451.61 in salary (which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund). He is eligible to show his love for others on February 14 against the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets “made it so”, assigning left wing Alexandre Picard to their AHL affiliate, Syracuse.
  • The Nashville Predators lost defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a separated shoulder and placed him on injured reserve.
  • The Anaheim Ducks will have the services of George Parros and his mustache for 3 more seasons after signing him to an extension. Anaheim RW Bobby Ryan was also named NHL rookie of the month for January. Congratulations Mr. Ryan!

Beware of sharks, fire, and falling octopi.

Have a great day!