The final division left to preview for the 2020-21 NHL season in the West division, so let’s take a look!
#8 – Los Angeles Kings
The Kings aren’t even close to what they were at the beginning of last decade when they won two Stanley Cups in three seasons (2012 and 2014).
The core of those teams, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty, aren’t getting any younger, and the next wave of Kings are coming into the fold.
That starts with the second overall pick, Quinton Byfield. The big centre has the potential to be the future number one centre on the Kings but will need some time to get there.
This might be the season where we see Cal Petersen start to get more starts over the ageing Quick. Regardless, the Kings are in a transition period and will likely be looking at one of the West Division’s bottom spots.
#7 – Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are similar to the Kings regarding the fact they aren’t nearly the same team they were a decade ago.
The Ducks might have even less goal scoring than the Kings but will finish higher in the standings because of superior defence and goaltending.
Gibson remains one of the NHL’s best goalies; he is just playing for a lousy team. They have some exciting players coming up through the system, but the Ducks are still going to struggle in a division like this with some powerhouse teams in it.
On the bright side, wow, does Trevor Zegras look like a future star.
#6 – San Jose Sharks
This season looks like it could be a long one for the California teams. All three missed the playoffs and were lottery teams last season.
Of all the California teams, though, the Sharks look to be the most likely to have a bounce-back season. They went from being elite to a lottery team very quickly, and last season could have just been a bad stretch.
Injuries didn’t help them last season, so that needs to be taken into consideration. However, their goaltending situation will keep them near the bottom of the division even at fully healthy. Both Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk save percentages last season were below .900, and if that doesn’t change, the Sharks will be in significant trouble.
#5 – Arizona Coyotes
There are two teams in the middle pack of this division, and right now, the Arizona Coyotes look to be the lesser of the two.
The Coyotes had a rough offseason off the ice. On the ice, they lost Taylor Hall to free agency, so not much better there.
Their primary issue is finding ways to score more goals. A better season for Phil Kessel will help in that department, but they need even more. They showed in the playoffs last season that they can be frustrating to play against, but they don’t have enough firepower to keep up with the top four teams in the division. They will miss the playoffs, but not by much.
#4 – Minnesota Wild
Many people continue to talk about the Wild as an always mediocre team, a narrative General Manager Bill Guerin is trying to end.
The Wild were excellent in the second half of last season. This offseason, they upgraded in net with Cam Talbot replacing Devan Dubnyk.
They also got a big scoring boost when they finally signed their fifth-round pick from 2015 in Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov, who is only 23, tore up the KHL last season and is looking to do the same in the NHL. He’s going to get significant minutes in the NHL right away.
The Wild will find a way into the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division, but that’s where they will run into trouble as they will be playing one of these next three teams.
#3 – St. Louis Blues
The top three teams in this division are as close to playoff locks as you will find throughout the league.
The Blues are only one full season removed from winning the Stanley Cup. They have a great group of forwards, led by one of the league’s best all-around players in Ryan O’Reilly. Hoffman will be able to replace a good chunk of the goals they will be missing from Tarasenko.
Even with Torey Krug’s addition, Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester’s loss is why the Blues will be finishing outside the top two in their division. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect them to damage in the playoffs because they very well could.
They have championship experience, and we will quickly see if having their captain walk to free agency will hurt them or motivate them even more.
#2 – Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas landed the prized free agent of the offseason in Alex Pietrangelo but had to trade Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt to make it work under the cap.
Still, the Golden Knights are as complete of a team as any. They can score at will, have outstanding defencemen and two quality starting goaltenders in Robin Lehner and Mark-Andre Fleury.
The only apparent weakness on this team last year was penalty killing, where the Golden Knights ranked 27th in the league at 76.6%.
If they can get that part of their game fixed, they will be as dangerous as any team. The only team standing in their way of first in the division are the….
#1 – Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are arguably the best team in the NHL. If they could have stayed healthy last season in the playoffs, they could have very well been facing off against the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Nathan Mackinnon might be the best player in the NHL, and Joe Sakic has done an incredible job at surrounding him with great players.
They added Brandon Saad and underrated defenceman Devon Toews this offseason to bolster their lineup even more. Cale Makar was almost a point-per-game defenceman last season at only 21. There isn’t an apparent weakness to be found on this team.
Many people are predicting the Avalanche to win the cup; they are that good. Sakic has three more seasons of Mackinnon making a laughable $6.3 million per season. He has to be going all-in during that timeframe to bring a Stanley Cup to Colorado.
Sakic might have a good enough team to get the job done this season.