2015-2016 Pacific Division Preview
Last season has proved that the Pacific Division is one of the most volatile and unpredictable divisions in the NHL. There were a lot of surprises coming out of the division.
The Calgary Flames were the most surprising teams in the league when their group of young guns managed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Anaheim Ducks maintained their stranglehold in the division all year and displayed their dominance by making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
A retooled Vancouver Canucks squad made their way back into the Playoffs, only to get outclassed by the Flames. Even with their own set of experienced players, the San Jose Sharks had their fair share of struggles and missed the playoffs. Of course, the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes spent most of the season at the bottom of standings, with the Oilers winning the Connor McDavid Draft Lottery. But the biggest shocker from last year has to be the LA Kings missing the playoffs a year after winning the Stanley Cup.
However, this is a new season and we’re all geared up for another year of lunacy not only from the Pacific Division, but from the rest of the NHL. Let’s take a look at the Pacific Division outlook for the upcoming season.
2014-15 record: 51-24-7 (109 points)
Projected finish: 1st place
Who’s in: D Kevin Bieksa, LW Carl Hagelin, RW Chris Stewart, C Shawn Horcoff, C Mike Santorelli, G Anton Khudobin
Who’s out: D Francois Beauchemin, LW Emerson Etem, RW Kyle Palmieri
Players to watch: Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kessler, Corey Perry, Kevin Bieksa
As mentioned, the Ducks dominated the Pacific and Western Conference. They displayed it by making it all the way to the Western Conference Final. Keeping their core players in tact (Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry), the Ducks added in some depth players. The blue line will be different without Francois Beauchemin but Kevin Bieska has come in place. The Ducks also added in Shawn Horcoff for a veteran presence and could be useful in the long run. Expect them to make another deep run and let’s hope that Corey Perry does not get the mumps.
Los Angeles Kings
2014-15 record: 40-27-15 (95 Points)
Projected finish: 2nd place
Who’s in: Milan Lucic, Christian Ehrhoff
Who’s out: Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Martin Jones, Andrej Sekera, Slava Voynov
Players to watch: Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic
The LA Kings have a lot to prove this season. Missing the playoffs will be a dark cloud hanging over their head and the Kings want to get back into championship form. The main thing going into the season: they will be rested and have the distractions from last season removed. Mike Richards was released, Jarret Stoll signed with the Rangers and Slava Voynov has left for Russia. They added in some grit up front with Milan Lucic and supplemented their defense with veteran Christian Ehrhoff. Expect the Kings to be competitive again this year. But the division is going to be tight, especially with the Ducks and Flames crowding in for playoff spots.
2014-15 record: 45-30-7 (97 points)
Projected finish: 3rd place
Who’s in: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Frolik
Who’s out: Raphael Diaz
Players to watch: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett
The Flames are hoping to keep the fire burning by having another repeat performance from last year. Their main core of players have not changed, which means that the Flames are capable for another playoff performance. The Flames had a lot of comeback victories last season, but if I were the Flames, I would not rely so much on them. I do expect a little regression as the competition in the Pacific is tighter and there will be more pressure on them this year. However, they should be able to handle it. After all, they managed to make it to the second-round where they were ousted by a strong Anaheim Ducks squad. Gaudreau and Monahan both had impressive seasons and the Flames are hoping for them to steer the ship again this season. Dougie Hamilton was a nice pickup this off-season and will help bolster their blue line. Their might be a goaltending controversy, as both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are on their final year of their contracts.
2014-15 record: 48-29-5 (101 points)
Projected finish: 4th place
Who’s in: Adam Cracknell, Brandon Sutter, Brandon Prust, Blair Jones, Matt Bartkowski
Who’s out: Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, Shawn Matthias, Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson, Kevin Bieksa, Eddie Lack
Players to watch: Radim Vrbata, Brandon Sutter, Daniel and Henrik Sedin
The Vancouver Canucks believe that this team is capable for another 100 point season. That rests sorely on the shoulders of the Sedins. The lifelong Canucks are another year older and if one of them gets injured during the season, expect a decline. I am not too sure why they got rid of Eddie Lack, who was arguably their best goalie throughout the season. Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack were perfect combo, but Lack wanted to be a starter and the Canucks opted to go with the more experienced Ryan Miller. Given they stay healthy, I expect the Canucks to battle for a wildcard spot this season.
San Jose Sharks
2014-15 record: 40-33-9 (89 Points)
Projected finish: 4th place
Who’s in: Paul Martin, Joel Ward, Martin Jones, head coach Peter DeBoer
Who’s out: Head coach Todd McLellan, Matt Irwin, Antti Niemi, Scott Hannan
Players to watch: Joe Pavelski
The Sharks are going into the new season with a different look after the they missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Todd McLellan was fired and replaced with Peter DeBoer. DeBoer does not have a what some would call a decent coaching record. 2012 is the only year that DeBoer’s team made the playoffs and that was with the Devils, where they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost their starting goalie (Niemi) and are relying on the services of Martin Jones, who was the backup in LA. Nothing against Martin Jones, but it’s quite a leap from being a backup in the shadow of Jonathan Quick to a starter in San Jose. We will have to see if he can handle the pressure. Also the team seems to have some dressing room issues. Logan Couture described the culture of the team as “not great” and that is something you want to hear from one of your top players. The team still needs to pick a permanent captain. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were both stripped of the captaincy and it looks like the Sharks want to go with someone else this season. So far, I have a feeling that all these things will be a distraction going into the season and the Sharks could be a troubled team this season.
2014-15 record: 24-44-14 (62 Points)
Projected finish: 6th place
Who’s in: Eric Gryba, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu, Anders Nilsson, Griffin Reinhart, Andrej Sekera, Cam Talbot, Connor McDavid
Who’s out: Richard Bachman, Viktor Fasth, Matt Fraser, Boyd Gordon, Martin Marincin
Players to watch: Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov
Once again, Oilers fans are ready to start up the season with renewed hope. Connor McDavid will be joining the team and that is getting everyone excited again. The veteran young guns like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have a renewed sense of optimism after playing in the World Championships. The Oilers went through a complete overhaul this summer, changing players, coaching and management. In the past five years, there’s always been a lot of question marks and hope going into each season. For the first time in a very long time, the Oilers and their fans feel like they are going in the right direction. With that being said, the Oilers need to keep their expectations at bay, especially with McDavid. There’s also a lot of questions surrounding their defense and goaltending. Even though they brought in Andrej Sekera and Cam Talbot, it does not necessarily make them a playoff team overnight. Don’t forget, there’s a lot of young guys on this team. The Oilers main goal this season should to be competitive throughout the season. A push for the playoffs would be nice, but as long as they’re not out by Christmas time and looking forward to the draft lottery like they have been in the last few years.
2014-15 record: 24-50-8 (56 points)
Projected finish: 7th place
Who’s in: Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek, Nicklas Grossman, Stefan Elliott, Brad Richards, Boyd Gordon, Anders Lindback, Dylan Strome
Who’s out: Sam Gagner, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Arcobello, John Moore, Martin Erat, Brandon Gormley
Players to watch: Max Domi, Dylan Strome
After another summer of arena issues with Glendale, the Arizona Coyotes are ready to hit the ice. The Coyotes are in rebuild mode with Dylan Strome, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Nick Merkley, Maxim Letunov, Christian Fischer and Christian Dvorak leading the youth movement. Oilver Ekman-Larsson notched up 23 goals last year and is going to be the go-to-guy on the blue line. This team is young and will be impressive to watch, but they will go through some growing pains. Don’t forget the old cowboy Shane Doan. He is sticking around to help out this young team. Perhaps all the struggles that they will go through this season can land them Auston Matthews in next years draft.