/Each Franchise’s Best Roster After the First NHL Expansion: Western Conference Edition

Each Franchise’s Best Roster After the First NHL Expansion: Western Conference Edition

  • While NHL teams are always searching for ways to improve their rosters, the offseason sees the most upheaval. Whether it be via the draft, trade market, or free agency, teams make the moves that they think will better their team in both the present and long run. For the first time in 17 years, teams have the added challenge of replacing one of their players that was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st team, in the expansion draft.

Some teams such as the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and the aforementioned Golden Knights are looking to essentially build a team from the ground up this offseason. On the opposite side of the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Montreal Canadiens are looking to better their rosters and adhere to their championship aspirations. While some teams are further away from sporting a deep, talented roster than others, they all have the same goal: to put the best possible team on the ice when the season starts in October. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best team each Western Conference franchise has built since the first NHL Expansion occurred in 1967.

 

Read the Eastern Conference Edition Here

 

 

Anaheim Ducks – 2006-07

 

Record: 48-20-14 (110 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions

Head Coach: Randy Carlyle

Captain: Scott Niedermayer

 

Led by Hall of Fame winger Teemu Selanne’s 48 goal campaign, the 2006-07 Ducks’ offense finished sixth overall in goals. Selanne’s linemates Andy McDonald (78 points) and Chris Kunitz (60 points) had standout seasons of their own. Anaheim also possessed an extremely talented ‘Kid Line’ consisting of 24-year-old Dustin Penner and 21-year-olds Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry; said line was incredibly successful despite their young age, as Getzlaf and Penner both tallied 25+ goals, while Perry chipped in 17 of his own.

Swinging a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger further solidified Anaheim’s defense that already boasted a Hall of Famer in Scott Niedermayer. As expected, the Pronger-Niedermayer pairing gobbled up minutes, while dominating both offensively and defensively.

In net, starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere finished with a career-high 36 wins, and posted a 2.26 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Backing up Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov gave the Ducks a decent second option; he even won the first three games of the Ducks’ playoff run while Giguere was out.

 

 

Arizona Coyotes – 1998-99

 

Record: 39-31-12 (90 points)

Season Outcome: Lost in First Round

Head Coach: Jim Schoenfeld

Captain: Keith Tkachuk

 

Hockey Hall of Fame snubs Keith Tkachuk (68 points), Jeremy Roenick (72 points) and veteran goal-scorer Rick Tocchet (56 points) gave the 1998-99 Coyotes a formidable top line. Add in solid veteran wingers Greg Adams and Dallas Drake and young stars Daniel Briere and Shane Doan, and the Coyotes had plenty of talent up front.

Teppo Numminen led the defense in scoring with 40 points and was also a key piece of the team’s power play unit. Jyrki Lumme and Oleg Tverdovsky also contributed 25+ points, giving the Coyotes a solid crop of defenseman.

In net, goaltender Nikolia Khabibulin, statistically, had the best season of his career; the Russian netminder finished with career-highs in wins (32), goals against average (2.13), and save percentage (.923%).

 

 

Calgary Flames – 1988-89

 

Record: 54-17-9 (117 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions

Coach: Terry Crisp 

Captain: Tim Hunter, Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski

 

On offense, the 1988-89 Flames’ Stanley Cup-winning team was headlined by four Hall of Famers in Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Lanny McDonald, who was in his 18th and final season in the NHL. Leading the team in points with 110 – a career high – was Joe Mullen. Behind Mullen, Hakan Loob, Gilmour, and Nieuwendyk all topped 80 points. The Flames’ offense also featured a rookie Theoren Fleury and 22-year old Gary Roberts, who both went on to score more than 400 goals in their careers.

On defense, Hall of Famer Al McInnis and Gary Suter graced the Calgary blueline, both topping 60 points during the ’88-89 season. Jamie Macoun and Brad McCrimmon, who both went on to play 1,000 games in the NHL, rounded out the Flames’ soild top four.

Between the pipes, Mike Vernon finished with an incredible 37-6-5 record and posted top-five numbers in both goals against average and save percentage.

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks – 2009-10

 

Record: 52-22-8 (112 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions 

Head Coach: Joel Quenneville

Captain: Jonathan Toews

 

Led by 21-year-olds Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – both of whom have gone on to become top players in today’s NHL – the 2009-10 Blackhawks’ offense was solid from top to bottom. Behind Kane (88 points) and Toews (68 points), the Blackhawks had four other players top 40 points in Patrick Sharp (66), Marian Hossa (51), Kris Versteeg (44), and Troy Brouwer (40). Finishing just behind them, Andrew Ladd posted 38 points before leaving the team in the offseason. Now a defenseman, big-bodied Dustin Byfuglien potted 17 goals as a winger in 2009-10.

On the blue line, the ‘Hawks boasted a talented crop of defenseman – the most talented being Duncan Keith, who has become one of the league’s premiere two-way defenders. The 2010 season was Keith’s best, as he finished second among all defenseman with a career-high 69 points. The ‘Hawks also got some offense from Brian Campbell (38 points). Chicago also had more defensive-minded players in Brent Seabrook, Brent Sopel, and Nicklas Hjalmarsson to fill out their defensive core.

In net for Chicago was veteran starter Cristobal Huet, who split time with the younger Antti Niemi. While neither was great statistically during the regular season, Niemi was able to backstop the team to a Stanley Cup.

 

 

Colorado Avalanche – 1995-96

 

Record: 47-25-10 (104 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions

Head Coach: Marc Crawford

Captain: Joe Sakic

 

Headlined by two Hall of Famers enjoying their career-best seasons in Joe Sakic (120 points) and Peter Forsberg (116 points), the Avalanche finished second in the league in scoring in the ’95-96 season. The Avalanche offense also featured thirty-goal scorers Claude Lemieux and Valeri Kamensky, while Scott Young and Adam Deadmarsh both topped 20 goals.

On defense, the Avalanche boasted a solid group that got a lot of its offensive contribution from Sandis Ozolinsh (50 points in 66 games). The rest of the defensive group, including Adam Foote, Craig Wolanin, Curtis Lechyshyn, Sylvain Lefebvre, and Alexei Gusarov – who all finished with a plus/minus above +25 – was more defensive-minded.

A midseason trade with the Montreal Canadiens brought in Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy who took over for Stephan Fiset. The move immediately paid off, as Roy finished the season strong and caught fire in the playoffs, where he won all 16 games and posted a .921 save percentage and 2.10 GAA.

 

 

Dallas Stars – 1998-99

 

Record: 51-19-12 (114 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions

Head Coach: Ken Hitchcock

Captain: Derian Hatcher

 

The Stars’ attack was headed by Hall of Fame center, and the best player in franchise history, Mike Modano. After an injury-plagued ’97-98 season, Modano returned to form in ’98-99 to score 34 goals and dish out 47 assists. Modano was just one of three Hall of Fame forwards on the Stars’ Stanley Cup-winning team, as winger Brett Hull and center Joe Nieuwendyk also donned the Stars’ uniform that year – and both topped 50 points. Adding to the Stars’ depth, center Jamie Langenbrunner and winger Jere Lehtinen were both impressive, with each surpassing 45 points.

On defense, Dallas’ top-ranked unit was led by captain Derian Hatcher, Sergei Zubov, and Darryl Sydor. Both Zubov and Sydor were deadly offensively – each eclipsing 45 points – while also serving on the team’s power play unit. While Hatcher was no slouch offensively, tallying 30 points, he served as the team’s lockdown defenseman, registering a plus/minus (+/-) of +21.

In net, the Stars boasted the Jennings Trophy – awarded to the goalkeeper(s) having played for the team with the fewest goals scored against it – winning tandem of Hall of Fame goaltender Ed Belfour and Roman Turek. At age 33, Belfour was remarkable, posting a stingy 1.99 GAA in 61 games, while Turek thrived in the backup role, finishing with a 2.08 GAA in 26 games.

 

 

Edmonton Oilers – 1983-84

 

Record: 57-18-5 (119 points)

Season Outcome: Stanley Cup Champions

Head Coach: Glen Sather

Captain: Wayne Gretzky

 

Led by the greatest player of all-time, the 1983-84 Oilers are considered to be one of the greatest teams of all time. With a 23-year-old Gretzky at the helm and running away with the league lead in points with 205, the Oilers easily led the league in goals scored with 446. Joining Gretzky were Hall of Fame wingers Jarri Kurri, Mark Messier, and Glenn Anderson, who all finished with at least 99 points, despite all being just 23 years old. Edmonton also enjoyed great depth, as players such as Ken Linseman (67 points), and wingers Pat Hughes, Dave Hunter, WIlly Lindstrom (who all eclipsed 20 goals) all performed well.

Edmonton also got plenty of offense from their blue line, which was led by Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, who finished second on the team in points with 126. While nowhere near the level of Coffey, defenders Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg each chipped in 40 points.

Between the pipes, Edmonton had a young goaltending tandem of Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. The two split starts almost down the middle and posted a combined GAA of 3.85 that left something to be desired. However, they did both finish in the top fifteen in save percentage among all goaltenders.

 

 

Los Angeles Kings – 1992-93

 

Record: 39-35-10

Season Outcome: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

Head Coach: Barry Melrose

Captain: Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille

 

After building a dynasty with the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri found themselves reunited once again with the Los Angeles Kings in 1991. The two joined fellow Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, who had been named an All-Star in each of the seven previous seasons. While Gretzky missed almost half of the 1992-93 season – his fifth season in Los Angeles – the depth of talent possessed by the Kings was enough to overcome the loss of Gretzky, who had racked up 65 points in just 45 games prior to his injury. Leading the team in Gretzky’s absence, Luc Robitaille tallied a career-best 125 points, while Kurri (87 points), Tony Granato (82 points), Mike Donelly (69 points) and Tomas Sandstrom (52 points) also helped fill the void.

On defense, Paul Coffey – another piece of Edmonton’s dynasty from years past – graced Los Angeles’ blue line, racking up 57 points before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings midseason. With Coffey gone, Hall of Famer Rob Blake –  who was just 23 years old at the time – became the team’s number one defenseman. He performed fairly well, finishing the season with 59 points. Rounding out the Kings’ defense was Alexei Zhitnik, Marty McSorley, Charlie Huddy and Darryl Sydor.

In net, however, the Kings weren’t very strong, as the tandem of Kelly Hrudey and Robb Stauber put the Kings in the middle of the pack stat-wise among all goaltenders.

 

 

Minnesota Wild – 2016-17

 

Record: 49-25-8 (106 points)

Season Outcome: Lost in First Round

Head Coach: Bruce Boudreau 

Captain: Mikko Koivu

 

The 2016-17 Wild quietly boasted the second-ranked offense, which had seven players eclipse 45 points in veterans Eric Staal (65), Mikko Koivu (58), and Jason Pominville (47) and younger players Mikael Granlund (69), Nino Niederreiter (57), Jason Zucker (47), and Charlie Coyle (56). Zach Parise, while an elite talent, had a down season, but did manage to chip in 42 points of his own.

On defense, the Wild had multiple talented two-way defenders in Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, both of whom finished with 35+ points and a plus/minus above +30. In addition, Matthew Dumba tallied 34 points and finished with a +15.

In goal, Devan Dubnyk made 63 starts, posting an impressive 40-19-5 record and finishing in the top ten in save percentage (.925 %) and GAA (2.25).

 

 

Nashville Predators – 2006-07

 

Record: 51-23-8

Season Outcome: Lost in First Round

Head Coach: Barry Trotz

Captain: Kimmo Timonen

 

On offense, Hall of Famer Paul Kariya turned in a solid 24 goal, 76 point season in his last season in Nashville. Along with Kariya, five other players topped 20 goals in J.P. Dumont (21), David Legwand (27), Steve Sullivan (22), Jason Arnott (27), and Scott Hartnell (22). Polarizing rookie Alexander Radulov was dazzling at times and finished with 37 points. Nashville also acquired Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia Flyers. Forsberg ended up playing in 17 games, registering 15 points.

Nashville’s eighth-ranked defense included an incredible top four, which was composed of defenders Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, and Kimmo Timonen. Suter and Hamhuis were more defensive-minded players while Timonen and Weber both had great offensive sides to their game and were featured on the power play.

Nashville used the tandem of Thomas Vokoun and Chris Mason in net; the two split starts almost down the middle with Vokoun getting a slight edge (44 starts). The two were quite effective, as both posted a save percentage above .920 % and a GAA below 2.5.

 

 

St. Louis Blues – 1990-91

 

Record: 47-22-11

Season Outcome: Lost in Second Round

Head Coach: Brian Sutter

Captain: Scott Stevens

 

Leading the Blues fourth-ranked attack were Brett Hull and Adam Oates, who finished second and third in the league in points with 131 and 115 points, respectively. The two worked perfectly together; Hull served as the goal scorer of the two, potting a league-leading 86 goals, while Oates was the playmaker, finishing second in the league with 90 assists. Other notable players included Geoff Courtnall, who tallied 27 goals, and a 20-year-old Rod Brind’Amour, who finished with 49 points.

On defense, Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens left opponents battered and bruised with thundering hits while also contributing offensively, as he finished sixth on the team in points with 49. Giving St. Louis a solid one-two punch on defense was Jeff Brown, who registered 59 points.

In net, starter Vincent Riendeau finished with a 29-9-6 record, while finishing ninth in goals against average (3.01) and fifth in shutouts with three.  Backup Curtis Joseph – who went on to have a solid career with the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs – got his fair share of appearances in his sophomore season, going 16-10-2 with an .898 save percentage and a GAA of 3.12.

 

 

San Jose Sharks – 2010-11

 

Record: 48-25-9 (105 points)

Season Outcome: Lost in Conference Finals

Head Coach: Todd McLellan

Captain: Joe Thornton

 

With tremendous strength down the middle in a lineup that featured Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture, the Sharks were able to roll out a balanced crew. Coupled with the aforementioned 1-2-3 punch down the middle, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Ryan Clowe, and Devin Setoguchi gave the Sharks plenty of talent on the wings as well.

On defense, offensive defenseman and powerplay specialist Dan Boyle led the Sharks’ defenseman in points with 50. Balancing out Boyle’s offensive game were young defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers, who both played a more stay-at-home game, and finished with just a combined 42 points. However, they both played very well in their own end.

In the Sharks’ net was Antti Niemi – who won a Stanley Cup the year before with the Chicago Blackhawks – was solid, earning himself a nomination for the Vezina trophy (he finished eighth). In 60 games, Niemi went 35-18-6, while posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA.

 

 

Vancouver Canucks – 2010-11

Record: 54-19-9 (117 points)

Season Outcome: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

Head Coach: Alain Vigneault

Captain: Henrik Sedin

 

The Canucks were led by twin brothers Daniel Sedin (104 points) and Henrik Sedin (94 points), who finished first and second on the team in scoring, respectively. Playing on the same line, the Sedin’s chemistry was on display as Henrik served as the playmaker with a league-leading 75 assists, while Daniel was the finisher with 41 goals. Another large part of the Canucks’ top-ranked offense was Ryan Kesler, who scored 41 goals. Rounding out the Canucks’ attack, wingers Alexandre Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson both topped 45 points, while center Manny Malhotra and winger Mason Raymond both chipped in 30+ points.

To go along with a top-ranked offense, Vancouver sported the top-ranked defense as well. The crew was led by a talented top four composed of offensive-minded Christian Ehrhoff, two-way defender Alexander Edler, and shut down defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa.

In goal, the tandem of future Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo and backup Corey Schneider was awarded the Jennings Trophy. For Luongo, the 2011 season was his best ever, as he posted career-highs in save percentage (.928%) and GAA (2.11). Backup Corey Schneider – who has gone on to become an elite goaltender for the New Jersey Devils – was solid in a limited role, winning 16 of his 22 starts.

 

 

Winnipeg Jets – 2016-17

 

Record: 40-35-7 (87 points)

Season Outcome: Missed Playoffs

Head Coach: Paul Maurice

Captain: Blake Wheeler

 

The Jets were paced by the young, talented line of 23-year-old Mark Scheifele, 20-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers, and 18-year-old sensation Patrik Laine. The three were remarkable together, as Scheifele tallied 82 points while Laine and Ehlers both posted 64 points. While the Laine-Scheifele-Ehlers line got most of the attention, captain Blake Wheeler also turned in a great season with 74 points, while Brian Little and Matthieu Perreault both eclipsed 45 points.

On defense, the towering Dustin Byfuglien was the solid two-way defender in 2016-17 that he has been throughout his entire career. With a blistering slapshot and a big frame, Byfuglien is the complete package. After a hold out at the beginning of the season, Jacob Trouba returned to the Jets in early November and turned in a solid 33-point season in 60 games.

In net, the Jets turned to the tandem of starter Connor Hellebuyck and backup Michael Hutchinson. While neither was outstanding last season, both are still young and should improve with time.

 

 

 

 

Dean is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan (note the Carson Wentz photoshop) and an aspiring sportswriter. He is a student at Millersville University where he is studying sports journalism. The primary way of contacting Dean is at this email: deansnock@gnghockey.com.