Season Preview: Pacific Division

It’s that time of year again, to sit down and try to figure out where we all think each team is going to finish in the upcoming season. Predictions are often incorrect, but fun to make non-the-less. It’s interesting to look back at the end of the season and see how wrong you were, or to be able to brag to your friends about how you were correct about some hot-take you had before the season even got going.

Which is exactly why we all do them, so let’s get right into it! Also, most people start in the East, so today we will start off in the West with the Pacific Division.

8. Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were a mess last year, only tallying 71 points on route to being one of the worst teams in the NHL. They also made hardly any changes to their roster this off-season. They will basically be coming back with the same roster as last year (minus Dion Phaneuf, who was bought out) and hoping that key players will have big bounce a back season.

Drew Doughty had a very poor year for his standards, only recording 45 points. Kopitar and Carter weren’t able to carry this team offensively, and new winger Ilya Kovalchuk only recorded 16 goals in 64 games last year. Jonathan Quick also isn’t the superstar goaltender he once was.

This team still has quality pieces on it, but don’t play enough of today’s NHL style of game. They don’t have enough speed in their veteran group to keep up with the rest of the league in an 82 game season. This team has the chance to be better than they were last year if they get some bounce back seasons from key players, but are far away from being a playoff team.

7. Edmonton Oilers

McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins. Those three players will likely be generating the bulk as the offence, as you can argue that every other forward they have is a low bottom nine forward at best. Getting rid of Lucic for Neal was a smart move, as both are terrible contracts but Neal has a much higher chance of having a bounce back season, which would be a huge win for the Oilers. 20 goals this season for Neal would be a massive boost, but it’s still has the Oilers with plenty of holes up front.

The defence has been terrible for years now, and with no key additions to the blue-line besides the possible promotion of youngster Evan Bouchard, it’s hard to believe that defence will be a quick fix. The goaltending duo of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith isn’t going to steal them many games either.

New coach Dave Tippet will have to try to find a way to do what no Oilers coach in recent memory has been able to do. Get this defence figured out.

Until that is fixed, this team won’t be a serious threat to make the playoffs. McDavid might be able to carry this team into the playoff race, but if they can’t keep the puck out of their own net, what good will it be.

6. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks had the league’s worst offence last season at only 2.39 GPG. However, on paper this team looks like it has the ability to score. Rakell, Silfverberg and Kase all has loads of speed and talent, while young players such as Steel and Comtois should be able to start helping out more on offence very soon.

Their Defence is still very strong with players such as Fowler and Manson. Hampus Lindholm might also be one of the most underrated defensemen in the league.

Then there is the main reason I have the Ducks ahead of the Oilers, goaltending. John Gibson is a top three goalie in the NHL on a team that didn’t give him enough offence last year to show in the win column. If he stays healthy for a complete season, he has a very good chance to be in the conversation for the Vezina.

It’s unlikely that the Ducks will be good enough for the playoffs, but if Gibson plays the way he did last season, you never know. Having a world class goalie might just make the Ducks one of the biggest surprises this season.

5. Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes were an amazing defensive team last season, and one of the worst offensively. That was due in part to Clayton Keller having a sophomore slump and Nick Schmaltz (who they got in return for Strome and Perlini) missing basically the whole second half of the season due to injury.

Add in the acquisition of sniper Phil Kessel, who had 82 points in 82 games last season, and this team looks like it can be much better offensively this upcoming season.

If the goaltending duo of Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper can hold their own in net, this team is going to be in the thick of the playoff race all season. Ultimately though, they will fall just short of the wild-card spot.

4. Vancouver Canucks (Wild Card)

The Canucks had a very solid off-season, adding two players into their top six up front, as well as adding Tyler Myers into their top four defence group.

Those two forwards are J.T Miller and Micheal Ferland, two players who add skill and goal scoring ability to this group. Miller is a fast skating winger who can play centre if needed, while Ferland is a solid 20-goal scorer who can be physical in the power-forward role.

Getting Brock Boeser signed to a contract during training camp was huge, as playing catch up all season is never fun (just ask William Nylander). Add those players to a top six that also includes Pettersson, Horvat and Virtanen, and you have yourself a very strong top half of a forward group.

If Quinn Hughes has a solid first season in the NHL like everyone is expecting him to, the defence of the Canucks looks a lot stronger. Then it will be up to the goaltending duo of Jacob Markstrom and youngster Thatcher Demko to perform. If they can, it will give the Canucks a very strong chance to win that last wild card spot in the West.

3. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks made no major acquisitions this off-season while losing a few of significance. Pavelski, Nyquist, Braun and Donskoi are all gone, so this team will try to once again finally lift Lord Stanley having arguably much less depth than last season.

This doesn’t mean the Sharks aren’t still amazing, because they are. They still have a very solid offence and one of the league’s best defence. Having both Burns and Karlsson on your team in an insane luxury, even if they had to pay Karlsson 11 million a season for the next eight years just to keep him from hitting the UFA market.

Martin Jones had a very bad year last season, posting a .896 save percentage. He played better in the playoffs, but the Sharks need to see more of that throughout the regular season.

The Sharks are still a very good team, a playoff team almost guaranteed. The question is can they win a cup with this team, and thats a much tougher question to answer.

2. Calgary Flames

The Flames were a massive surprise last season, jumping up 23 points in the standings and won the Western conference in the regular season. In the playoffs though, it was a five game exit by the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

They traded away overpaid winger James Neal for another overpaid winger in Milan Lucic, a deal most fans still saw as a loss. They were however able to resign pending RFA Matthew Thachuk. The pesky winger scored 34 goals and 43 assists last season and now gives Calgary a much more reliable scoring threat outside their top line of Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm.

They still have an amazing group of defensemen, lead by Mark Giordano. The bigger question for them is still in net. Like last season, they will likely have a 1A and 1B type of situation. Between David Rittich and Cam Talbot, the Flames are hoping for anything above average goaltending.

All those negatives aside, this is a very talented team that will certainly make the playoffs and have expectations to make noise once they are there. Their goaltending will likely be the answer to if they can make noise or not, but the playoffs are a guarantee. This team is good, but very similar to the one iced last season.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights from top to bottom are the best team in the Pacific division. They have an extremely strong forward group, with arguably around 5-7 players with the ability to score 20 or more goals. Mark Stone is one of the most underrated forwards in the league, and if Cody Glass makes the team and becomes another player who can produce at a high rate offensively, the Golden Knights might have the best offensive group in the NHL.

The Defence is solid, not elite, but solid. Nate Schmidt and Shea Theadore do most of the heavy lifting on the back end, but are surrounded by defensive defensemen like McNabb , Engelland and Holden.

Add that in with one of the leagues best goaltenders in Marc-Andre Fleury, and this team has all the weapons necessary to be a serious threat for the Stanley Cup.

So there we go, The Puck Gods predictions for the Pacific division. Again, these likely won’t be correct, but they are fun to make!

Next up will be the predictions for the Central division!

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