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Western Conference: Northwest
Brian Cazeneuve
October 08, 2007
MINNESOTA WILD
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October 08, 2007

Western Conference: Northwest

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If only Vancouver had such a force on offense. The Canucks scored 217 goals last season, second fewest among playoff teams. In the first round they beat the Stars with 13 goals in seven games and then scored only eight in a five-game elimination by the Ducks.

EDMONTON OILERS

LAST SEASON 32-43-7 (12th in West)

KEY ADDITIONS RW Dustin Penner, D�Joni Pitkanen, LW Geoff Sanderson, D�Sheldon Souray

KEY LOSSES RW Joffrey Lupul, D Jason Smith, RW Petr Sykora

Kevin Lowe may want to watch his back at the next G.M. meetings. Lowe loosened the Oilers' traditionally tight purse strings to sign former Ducks forward Dustin Penner to an astounding five-year, $21.25�million deal. Penner may have a promising upside, having scored 29 goals and 45 points as a rookie, but he was also -2 on a Stanley Cup champion. Ducks G.M. Brian Burke called the signing "gutless . . . an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job." Indeed, Lowe had already whiffed on a seven-year, $50�million offer sheet to Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, which Buffalo reluctantly matched.

His fellow G.M.'s should cut Lowe some slack, because he was forced to deal from a position of weakness. A year after a surprise trip to the Stanley Cup finals, Edmonton finished last in the league with 192 goals and won only two of its last 20 games. The Oilers then lost their top scorer, Petr Sykora, to the Penguins in free agency. During the Gretzky era, winning tempered the negative view of the franchise. But those days, and Edmonton's playoff hopes, have passed.

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