Being that the Chicago Blackhawks return most of their team that got knocked out of the Western Conference in the first round by the Coyotes, the ‘Hawks are not necessarily too affected by an impending lockout. Reports out of Chicago have indicated that their captain, Jonathan Toews, has been holding workouts for current and former Hawks. When asked what their prospects are for the coming season, the players indicated that they were not ready yet to commit to play overseas, remaining hopeful that something can be worked out in the coming days. For Chicago, the lockout means less time on the ice for their 2nd and 3rd line defenseman to gel together while limiting the time that Corey Crawford gets between the pipes. Crawford was very streaky during his second year in goal. The Hawks will need him to be much more consistent, especially if they have aspirations of playing come June.
Columbus is without a doubt the team that is most affected by the lockout in the division. Some would say they will be poor either way. While this statement certainly has some validity, the rebuilding process will be somewhat accelerated if their young core can begin to play on the ice together. Obviously, the only way that a young team can go through growing pains is through games. A lockout only further delays this process. Without a marquee player, as top winger Rick Nash was dealt to the New York Rangers this offseason, the Blue Jackets will need to find a spark or hope to have defensive battles nightly if they want to have a decent season.
Detroit is in a very similar position to the Hawks, if not a little better. They have a veteran core that still excels at a high level, while
they have a goalie that can stand on his head in Jimmy Howard. The biggest problem with the Red Wings is the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom, and how do they can replace his production and with whom. For any team, the loss of a player of Lidstrom’s caliber will take years to replace and his production cannot be replaced by one player alone. The defense of the Red Wings will have to take a more offensive approach as a whole, while a defenseman will have to step up as a presence on the blue-line during the power play. The lockout just will take it longer for the Red Wings to figure out clarity on the blue line, but fans should not be concerned as the Red Wings should still contend in the Western Conference despite the work stoppage.
The Predators are probably the team that is affected the second most by the lockout behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. After losing Ryan Suter, the Predators need to find a worthy mate for Shea Weber. If Shea Weber were to have also left, the Predators would be in much trouble as the Blue Jackets because their blue line would have been completely decimated, leaving the team without a true leader on the ice. Nashville will become a little more experienced on the offensive side and Pekka Rinne is as good as they come in goal. The Predators overachieved last year with a dominant defensive pairing. Expect them to take a little time to find the right chemistry on the blue line , something that will only be prolonged with a lockout.
The Blues are definitely the team that is best in place in their construction. The lockout only affects some of their younger players – as they lose time to develop and fans miss opportunities to see what many are calling the next Russian star, Vladimir Tarasenko. From the forwards to the blue line, to the men between the pipes, the Blues have consistency at all positions. Some believe that the Blues greatly overachieved last year but there is really no reason that they cannot repeat with similar success. Injuries could become a major problem, but that is the same for any NHL team post-lockout. As long as the Blues players continue their conditioning and workout routines, they stand as good of a shot as anyone to win the Western Conference.
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