With some simple math, it will be easier to make the playoffs in the Western Conference with 14 teams instead of the 16 in the East.

Also, losing the Red Wings, a team that hasn't missed the playoffs in a couple of decades, should clear up another spot.

But there is still more than enough talent left in the West -- just ask Pierre LeBrun -- to make things challenging.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will return most of last season's core, but the Cup hangover has proved time and again to be too much to overcome.

The nhlhome are still an elite team in the league, but they have played a lot of hockey the past two seasons. Add on that goaltender Jonathan Quick likely will be in Sochi for the Olympics in February and lost backup Jonathan Bernier, and the Kings could fade this season.

It will be interesting to see how the Vancouver Canucks respond to new coach John Tortorella's style. This seems like it will either be a grand slam or a complete strikeout.

Dave Tippett finally has an owner in Phoenix, so the team could get the resources to back the effort it has put out in recent seasons.

The Winnipeg Jets are finally out of the Eastern Conference, but facing the tough competition in the West could make them long for trips to Florida.