For the last three seasons, the hockey’s Holy Grail has stayed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins won it in 2016 and 2017 and then the Capitals won it last season.
Yes, the Western Conference put good teams in the Final in the Sharks, Predators, and Golden Knights, but each time, the Penguins and Capitals were able to come through and win it all. Prior to the last three seasons, the West owned the Cup. The Kings won in 2012 and 2014 while the Blackhawks won in 2013 and 2015 before the power shifted to the East.
Going into this season, it looks like the power go back to the West. It starts with the San Jose Sharks who got Erik Karlsson, locked-up Evander Kane, and already have other pieces in place that will make the Sharks one of the teams to beat in the West.
You still have the Nashville Predators. They went to the Final in 2017, were the best team in the league last year, and still have much of the same team that has had success together over the last few years.
The Winnipeg Jets are also an extremely dangerous team. They went to the Conference Final last season, have unbelievable depth, a Vezina Trophy finalist in Connor Hellebuyck, and one heck of an offense.
One should also expect the St. Louis Blues to bounce back this season after missing the playoffs last year. If Jake Allen can provide the consistent goaltending that he is certainly capable of, the Blues will be a very tough team to beat with guys like Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, Robbie Fabri, Jaden Schwartz, and others.
There is a good chance that the Golden Knights will once again be very good. They may not be able to duplicate the success they had in their first season, but they certainly have the lineup and the goaltending to make some serious noise.
You also can’t count out teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames or even the Chicago Blackhawks. With a little luck and more consistency in certain areas of their respective games, these teams can all have a chance to get into the playoffs.
While the East clearly has several good teams as well, the West owns more elite clubs and more teams that could be contenders for the next several seasons. Come June, I think the Cup will go West and prosper.