> NORTHWEST DIVISION
1. Vancouver Canucks (15.0)
Offense: It must be nice to have the last two NHL scoring leaders on the same line in the Sedin Twins. They combined for 60 goals and 198 points last season. Vancouver had two 41-goal scorers in Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler, who combined for 33 power play goals. Feisty winger Alex Burrows also can score. 4.0
Defense: Christian Ehrhoff signed with the Sabres, taking away a key member of their top-rated PP, but plenty of talent remains. Kevin Bieksa took a hometown discount to stick around. Dan Hamhuis is a proven star. Former RIT standout Chris Tanev played well in 29 games last season. 3.5
Goaltending: Roberto Luongo melted down in the Cup finals last season, giving up 18 goals in the four losses. People remember his performance against Boston and forget he led the NHL with 38 wins and was second in GAA (2.11) and fourth in SP (.928). Cory Schneider (16-4-2, 2.23 GAA, .929 SP) is no slouch behind him. 4.0
Intangibles: The Canucks should be plenty motivated after running away with the best record and losing the Cup in Game Seven. Can they overcome the short offseason? Yes. 3.5
Outlook: The Red Wings and Penguins reached the Stanley Cup finals in consecutive years, and the Canucks have just as much talent as both. Still, it's a tall order.
2. Colorado Avalanche (11.5)
Offense: Paul Stastny had only 22 goals, which led to trade rumors over the summer. It was likely just a poor season. Young Matt Duchene and David Jones are talented. They added Chuck Kobasew and Joakim Lindstrom, who scored 28 goals in 54 games last season in Sweden. Forward Peter Mueller returns from a concussion, a big plus. 3.0.
Defense: Erik Johnson was acquired in a trade last season. Johnson, Ryan O'Byrne and Jan Hejda give them size that was missing at the beginning of last season. They lack a true puck-mover after John-Michael Liles landed in Toronto. 3.0
Goaltending: J-S Giguere was among the NHL's better goalies during a stretch in Anaheim. He'll battle with Semyon Varlamov, who played better than his 11-9-5 record would suggest in Washington. The tandem is a major upgrade over Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott. 2.5
Intangibles: Things are almost certain to get better after the Avs finished with five wins over their final 32 games. They were 3-21-2 in February and March. It couldn't get much worse. 3.0
Outlook: Look out for the Avalanche. They were the second-worst team in the NHL last season, but they have the talent to climb into the playoffs this year.
3. Calgary Flames (11.0)
Offense: Trade rumors involving Jarome Iginla were rampant during a slow start last season, but he scored 41 goals over the final 67 games and finished with 86 points. West Seneca native Lee Stempniak arrives after scoring 19 goals for Phoenix. The Flames had three other 20-goal scorers in Alex Tanguay, Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross. 3.0
Defense: Jay Bouwmeester is coming off his worst season since 2003-04 and needs to justify the big contract. Scott Hannan signed as a free agent. Cory Sarich is entering his 14th NHL season. Amazing. The Flames traded Robyn Regehr for money reasons, getting Chris Butler in return from the Sabres. 2.5
Goaltending: Miikka Kiprusoff has played 70-plus games for six straight seasons. He was once one of the best in the NHL but has been mostly average for five years. 3.0
Intangibles: GM Jay Feaster took over last season for Darryl Sutter, who suffocated players and others in the organization. They could be better with a slight attitude adjustment. 2.5
Outlook: The Flames have enough talent to make the playoffs, but they're also capable of missing them if they don't find the right chemistry.
4. Edmonton Oilers (10.5)
Offense: The Oilers scored the fewest goals in the West last season for two reasons: injuries and inexperience. Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky were limited to 47 games each, which put much of the scoring load on 2010 first pick overall Taylor Hall. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the top pick in June. They're much better. 3.0
Defense: Colorado (288) was the only team to give up more goals than Edmonton (269). Ryan Whitney is a good puck-handler and passer. Tom Gilbert has skill but is erratic. Andy Sutton gives them size and toughness. Cam Barker should help. The Oilers are in trouble if they run into injuries. 2.5
Goaltending: Nikolai Khabibulin had a miserable year after getting charged with DUI and having injuries that limited him to 47 games. At 38, he wants to prove he can still play. Three years ago, he had a 25-8-7 record with a good Chicago team. Devan Dubnyk, who is 6-foot-6, is behind him. 2.5
Intangibles: Tom Renney is a good coach who spent last season trying to get his young players to learn his system and the ways of the NHL. Another year under him should help, so long as the Oilers stay in one piece. 2.5
Outlook: The development of their young players will decide their playoff fate. They could sneak into the eighth spot if they stay healthy.
5. Minnesota Wild (9.0)
Offense: Dany Heatley arrives with Devin Setoguchi from San Jose looking to prove he can still be a dominant player in the league. Heatley had only 26 goals last season after scoring 39 or more in five straight seasons. Mikko Koivu has a true scorer on his wing. It should help a team that had 206 goals last season, second-fewest in the West. 3.0
Defense: The Heatley trade sent Brent Burns to San Jose. Cam Barker's contract was bought out, which leaves the Wild very thin along the blue line. Marek Zidlicky will likely be on the top pairing. That should say enough. 1.0
Goaltending: Nicklas Backstrom had a 2.33 GAA and .920 SP or better for three straight seasons before signing a contract extension. Since, it has been 2.66 GAA and .916 or worse. Funny how that works. He has less help around him and needs to play well. 2.5
Intangibles: Mike Yeo will be behind an NHL bench as a head coach for the first time in his career. He was an assistant under Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh when the Pens won the Cup in 2009. He has a big challenge. 2.5
Outlook: Heatley is a wild card who will help offensively, but their defense is a mess. They look like long shots for the playoffs.
> PACIFIC DIVISION
1. Los Angeles Kings (15.5)
Offense: Mike Richards and Simon Gagne join a team that already had a very good first line with Anze Kopitar between two Dustins -- Penner and Brown. Richards and Gagne could have 30-goal seasons if they stay healthy. They could have a 20-goal scorer on the third line in Jarret Stoll. 4.0
Defense: Franchise defenseman Drew Doughty signed an eight-year deal for $56 million during training camp. Rob Scuderi was good in his own end and has won a Stanley Cup. Jack Johnson is talented but still inconsistent. Overall, it's talented and deep. 4.0
Goaltending: Jonathan Quick appears ready to join the NHL's top goalies. The former Buffalo Regals goalie (for one year) is coming off his best season (35 wins, 2.24 GAA, six shutouts) and now has 180 games on his resume. Jonathan Bernier doesn't have as much experience, but he's almost as reliable. 3.5
Intangibles: The Kings' front office sent a great message in the offseason by making it clear they want a Cup, confirmed again with Doughty's contract. They have a respected coach in Terry Murray. 4.0
Outlook: L.A. has the most talent in the conference but lacks experience. It needs to prove it's better than Vancouver and good enough to win it all.
2. San Jose Sharks (14.0)
Offense: The Sharks took a hit offensively when they traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but they're not hurting. Patrick Marleau (37 goals), Joe Thornton (21), Joe Pavelski (20), Ryan Clowe (24) and Logan Couture (32) can score. No other returning players had more than nine goals. Welcome, Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus. 4.0
Defense: Brent Burns (17 goals) will help their overall defense and the offense. Dan Boyle for years has been one of the best D-men in the league. Newcomer Colin White will help a unit that already had Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Douglas Murray. 3.5
Goaltending: Antti Niemi proved last season that his rookie year with Chicago was no fluke. He was steady for 60 games before getting roughed up by Vancouver in the playoffs. Antero Nittymaki is expected to play behind him. 3.5
Intangibles: The Sharks took another step by reaching the conference finals. The experience helps but is it enough? Heatley could be addition by subtraction. 3.0
Outlook: They've had Stanley Cup talent but have never played for a Stanley Cup. Is this the year? No.
3. Anaheim Ducks (12.0)
Offense: Ryan Getzlaf is between 84 goals with left winger Bobby Ryan (34) and right winger Corey Perry (50). It makes for one of the NHL's most dangerous lines, but the Ducks aren't too scary after them. Teemu Selanne had another 30-goal season, but he's 41. Saku Koivu is 36 and Jason Blake is 38. The latter two are on the second line. 2.5
Defense: The pairing of Lubomir Visnovsky and former Sabre Toni Lydman was among the best in the NHL last season. Visnovsky had 18 goals and 68 points to lead D-men in scoring. Lydman was plus-32. Francois Beauchemin and Kurtis Foster are effective in their respective roles. Cam Fowler, going into his second season, is a future star. 4.0
Goaltending: Jonas Hiller was having a good year (26-16-3, .924 SP, five shutouts) through 49 games before a serious bout with vertigo ended his season. He's fine now and will be the No. 1 goalie. Veteran Dan Ellis, who won eight of 11 games for the Ducks last season, is back. 3.0
Intangibles: Opposing teams will be certain to use their top checking lines to stop Perry after he led the league with 50 goals and won the Hart Trophy. Can he handle the attention? We'll see. 2.5
Outlook: The Ducks are a playoff team, but they're not quite with the top tier.
4. Dallas Stars (9.5)
Offense: Brad Richards' departure was a serious blow, and the Stars barely made an attempt to replace him. The best newcomer is Michael Ryder, who had 18 goals and was terrific for Boston in its Cup run. Loui Eriksson has scored 27 or more goals in three straight seasons. He and Mike Ribeiro will get much more attention. 2.5
Defense: The blue line mostly consists two kinds of players: small guys who are skilled (Alex Goligoski) and big guys who don't have enough skill (Mark Fistric). Stephane Robidas is solid. Veteran Sheldon Souray is back in the NHL after spending 2010-11 in the minors, where he played 40 games. 2.5
Goaltending: Kari Lehtonen had his best year statistically, but neither his 2.55 GAA nor .914 SP was overly impressive. Still, he won 34 games, matching a career high. Andrew Raycroft is behind him. Not terrible, not great. 2.5
Intangibles: It's not easy for a team to know there's little chance of making the playoffs before the season begins. 2.0
Outlook: The Stars weren't good enough to make the playoffs with Richards, so they shouldn't be expected to make it without him.
5. Phoenix Coyotes (9.0)
Offense: Shane Doan has been their best player for years. Second-liners Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski can be effective, but they're not difference-makers. Daymond Langkow, who played four games last season and is 35 years old, is their top center. 2.0
Defense: Ed Jovanovski left as a free agent for Florida. Keith Yandle is solid and Adrian Aucoin can be very good when willing. Rostislav Klesla and Michal Rozsival should help them, but their arrivals came at the expense of offense. Derek Morris has lost a step but is a good leader for a team that needs one. 3.0
Goaltending: Ilya Bryzgalov, who carried them for four years, was traded to Philadelphia in yet another cost-cutting move. Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera aren't anywhere near as effective as Bryzgalov, but they will compete for the top job. 2.0
Intangibles: Ownership crises, financial issues and uncertainty grows tiresome and has a tendency to take a toll. 2.0Outlook: Give the Desert Dogs credit for making the playoffs in the last two years. This is the season in which off-ice problems catch up to them.