Volume 95, Issue 21

Wednesday, October 10, 2001
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Blues a Thanksgiving treat

Ripken closes the books on career

Big Four duke it out in the West

Damn those Yankees!

Mustang Weekend Scoreboard

Big Four duke it out in the West

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

With all the summer action involving big names on the move and Glen Sather switching professions from general manager to paramedic, we at The Gazette failed to notice the puck dropped for NHL action a week ago.

Before we get any further behind, here is a look at how things will shake-down in the wild, wild Western Conference (Look for an Eastern Conference preview in tomorrow's Gazette.)

In the money

The Western Conference and pretty much the entire NHL begins and ends with the big four.

Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis and defending Stanley Cup champs Colorado are the movers and shakers in this conference.

The Red Wings bulked up the most over the summer, adding snipers Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull and, of course, all world goalie Dominik Hasek.

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, their proposal to the NHL to take a time out for afternoon naps during day games was denied.

Dallas added Pierre Turgeon and are very deep at centre, but, much like Detroit, they badly need to find the fountain of youth.

St. Louis should be a team ready to step up and emerge from the pack with Doug Weight on board and Keith Tkachuk poised for a huge season, but alas, until they pull the big deal and land Mike Richter or some other qualified netminder, they will continue to sing the Blues.

Colorado, despite losing two future Hall of Famers in Ray Bourque to retirement and Peter Forsberg to a self-imposed sabbatical, look once again like the team to beat.

Joe Sakic is finally the leader they need him to be and the Avs have so much young speed and talent with the likes Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejkuk, they will eventually wear down any team in the West.

Knockin' on the door

The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are the main threats to displace one of the top four teams in the West.

Vancouver surprised everyone last year by gelling together as a young team and making the playoffs.

Ed Jovanovski is climbing the defensive ranks into the elite category and is ready to lead this team to the next level. Nonetheless, like the Blues, Vancouver needs to find a bona fide number one goalie to make any real noise.

San Jose is ready for a deep playoff run, provided goalie Evgeni Nabokov doesn't suffer from a sophomore jinx. The Sharks are a great mix of talent and grit and, with Teemu Selanne getting a full season in teal, great things could be on the horizon.

The Los Angeles Kings made some waves in the playoffs last year taking the Avalanche to seven games, but goalie Felix Potvin is due for another disappearing act and the Kings could find themselves scrambling to make the playoffs.

Two teams that will be better than you think – Calgary and Phoenix.

There's always next year

Alas, the always exciting Edmonton Oilers will not strike it rich this season. The Oilers have done a great job in the past plugging the holes left when their only true stars have departed for greener pastures, but this season, with the loss of Weight, the burden will be too much for them to bear.

Meanwhile, Nashville isn't there yet, Anaheim still has Paul Kariya, Minnesota is lost in the wild and Columbus is going to discover the conference cellar.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001