Around the Western Conference: September 30th

By Jeff Quirin
NHL Hot Stove Associate Editor
- LA Kings and defenseman Drew Doughty agree to an eight year, $56 million contract.

It appears Doughty and his agent Don Meehan won the showdown with General Manager Dean Lombardi. The blockbuster deal eclipses the $6.8 AAV limit Lombardi had previously refused to budge on by $200,000 per season. Is he worth it? The CEO of AEG, the Kings parent company, Tim Leiweke sure thinks so. He said Thursday, “Let’s go win some Cups.”
True, the last major personnel piece has added to in theory push the Kings to an elite level for the upcoming season and beyond. But many more questions remain regarding the team as a whole to fulfill the Stanley Cup finals predictions of some pundits.
- A significant roster shakeup and the addition of Mike Richards alters team chemistry and the locker room. How will they respond?
- For as well as Doughty plays he is still being paid largely on potential. Can he return to Norris finalist quality or will 2011-12 be as up and down as 2010-11?
- They are a virtual lock for the top eight in the West. Can they win a playoff round? They haven’t since 2001.
Parallels can certainly be drawn between this Kings club and the 2008-09 Chicago Blackhawks. They two were a sexy pick before the regular season began. Prove what you can do first and then the lofty prognostications are a little easier to believe.

Puck Daddy: Alex Radulov is none too happy in the KHL right now.

As Dmitry Chesnokov points out in his post, the percentage is low that the one time Nashville Predators froward returns to Smashville to finish out the final season of his ELC, but Barry Trotz could sure use him.
Heading in to the campaign the Preds leading scorer is lifer Martin Erat who chipped in with just 17 goals and 50 points last season. There is no knowing if Sergei Kostitsyn’s 23 goal and 50 points in 77 games played performance is for real and will carry over  or if he was a flash in the pan. Besides those two their only other “known” scoring threat is Patric Hornqvist. Who is more known for collecting garbage around the net and stirring the pot than his skill level.
Radulov would bring an injection of world class skill to be the creator for Erat and Hornqvist and reduce pressure on Kostitsyn. Sure, a full season of Mike Fischer and a year wiser Colin Wilson may make a big difference, but this club is expected to make the playoffs. Wishing and hoping that top six forwards can net more than 50 points is playing with standings regressive fire in the wild west.

BlueNoteZone: TJ Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart look the part of a top line against the Avalanche.

Every team needs a go to line that can jump on the ice in any situation and change the course of a game. The most famous, or infamous to some, example is the trio of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlef and Corey Perry out in Anaheim. The Blues may have found their version last night.
While both Blues’ scoring lines were on point in their 3-1 victory over Colorado, the Berglund line was the best on the ice. Consistently dominating the play below the red line and along the boards. The proof was on the score sheet for those who couldn’t see it. They combined for two goals and an assist with seven shots on goal.
Berglund has been a beast in camp and the preseason looking to prove he’s worth a big time contract with the two year “prove me” deal expires. Oshie and Stewart are in contract years.
Size? Berglund 6’4, 218 lbs and Stewart 6’2, 228 lbs. Check.
Skill? Oshie dangles once and scores from his knees and Stewart streaks end to end and scores. Check.
Chemistry? Developing quickly.
The potential for a great line is there. Will the next step be taken (isn’t that always the question in St. Louis in the Checketts era)? Watch out if they do.

Edmonton Journal: Will the top selection in the 2011 entry draft crack the Oilers lineup?.

Though the article comes from the start of training camp, it poses one of the biggest questions in the Western Conference this preseason. Should Ryan Nugent-Hopkins play out the season in Edmonton?
Recent history favors his continued presence in the OIlers lineup. Recent highly touted top picks like teammate Taylor Hall, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and Patrik Kane have all come in to the NHL and found measured levels of immediate success and continued improvement. Though all considered “smaller” players at the time of their arrival by today’s standards they have not struggled amongst the trees. They’ve all had adjustment periods, but have come out ahead by fighting through it directly rather than by differing to another season after going back and cake walking the juniors scene.
The one detraction could be the excessive amount of youth in Edmonton. But teams have learned from the Phoenix Coyotes’ mistakes of overloading a roster with youth. The summer acquisitions of Ryan Smyth and  Eric Belanger as well as (hopefully) full seasons with captain Shawn Horcoff and scoring ace Ales Hemsky healthy should alleviate that concerns.
RNH will find success and good advice wherever he plays, but in the NHL he will find success and mentors that are more beneficial to his career.

Detroit News: Red Wings owner Illitch says Bettman has promised a move to the Eastern Conference.

All is fair in love and war. Hockey is a bit of both so there should be no surprise that the Detroit Red Wings will be pushing every button on Gary Bettman they can find to get a cushy travel schedule. But the issue of realignment isn’t theirs alone to resolve. There are 29 other clubs who have an equal stake in the process. The league as a whole must come first.
Taking away the Western Conference’s biggest attraction will negatively impact the revenue of every other western team. For teams like St. Louis, Colorado, Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville , all clubs with attendance or money problems, the Wings coming to town is a sure fire sellout. That’s money they need to not profit, but just to break even.
An acceptable compromise would be to alter the schedule composition and reduce the number of games the Wings play in the Pacific timezone, but with a three division system that won’t be easily achieved. Don’t be surprised if the league pushes for the Sidney Crosby philosophy to be applied in realignment scenarios. What is best for the league’s top player/team/franchise is what’s best for the league overall.