We’re getting a little bit closer now! Only 55 more days until the pucks start dropping, and we’re even closer to preseason, but to me, preseason just never feels right. I don’t fully get my fix until things count.
The Pacific Division is full of talent, and it should be one of the better divisions to watch this season. Like the Central Division, the Pacific has only 7 teams, rather than 8 like the Metropolitan and Atlantic. The Pacific Division is full of firepower in Anaheim, flashy goaltending in L.A., balance in San Jose, strength in Phoenix, and style in Vancouver. The Pacific is the complete package, and it should be a great battle to the end.
Like I explained before in my rankings of the Central, the top three teams in each division will get into the playoffs, and of the teams not in the top three, the two teams in that conference with the most points will get the final wild card spots.
1. Anaheim’s skill level in the offensive end may have taken a hit when Bobby Ryan was traded to Ottawa for prospects and a draft pick, but the Ducks are still stocked for a good playoff run. The Ducks are solid all around, and have a great set of goaltenders to share the work load. The Ducks also added forward Dustin Penner in the offseason, and are my favorite to win the Pacific next season.
2. It was a bit of a close call between Anaheim and San Jose, and the only thing keeping me from choosing the Sharks, the road record last year was awful. The home record was outstanding, but the Sharks were unable to play away from the Shark tank and get wins. The Sharks made some resignings, and extensions this offseason, including Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. The Sharks know how to win, and Antti Niemi is as solid as they come in the cage, San Jose is a close second to win the division, but I think they fall to second behind the Ducks at the end.
3. There was something wrong in Vancouver. Maybe it was the Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider never ending drama, or maybe it was coach Alaine Vineault. Either way, I don’t see John Tortorella doing much better with the group. The key to it all, is having a healthy Ryan Kesler in the line-up. The Sedin’s can’t do it all alone. I’m happy to see the great goalie debate end in Vancouver, and I think Luongo will begin to play better now. Vancouver will make the playoffs, and I think they’ll do it with the last guaranteed spot in the Pacific.
4. Los Angeles locked up captain Dustin Brown for an extra 8 seasons this offseason, and now they’re looking at a new division going into this season than got even tougher with the addition of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. The Kings should have a decent season, but I don’t think it will be outstanding. If Jonathan Quick can harness some of his playoff prowess, the Kings have a chance to have a great year, but in this division, I don’t see them doing much better than this through a full 82 game season. It makes for a great Cinderella story in the playoffs when Quick turns it on anyway.
5. The Coyotes seem to be staying put in Arizona now, but I’m not exactly sure how much that is going to help their hockey game. The Coyotes are a pesky bunch that can do some damage, and Mike Smith can be a force in net. The addition of Mike Ribero will help the Coyotes offense that struggled last season, but I’m not sure it’s enough in the division they find themselves stuck in now. The best chance they have is to chase down a wildcard spot, and even that sees a good amount of high level competition.
6.Edmonton moves into the Pacific with the Flames and the Canucks from what was the Northwest last season. Edmonton’s skill players are getting better, but the defense is a question mark, and the consistency is a large question mark. The addition of Andrew Ference in the offseason should help the Oilers stay on top of the offensive skill that this division holds, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to keep them in come seasons end.
7. Finally, bringing up the rear are the Calgary Flames. The Flames are in rebuild mode at this point. They shipped stars Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla to the Blues and the Penguins last season, and long time goalie Miikka Kiprusoff retired from hockey. The Flames saw a few additions in the offseason, but the painful process of building a contender has started and Calgary can’t hope for too much in the coming season.
Topics: Anaheim Ducks, Antti Niemi, Bobby Ryan, Calgary Flames, Corey Schneider, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers, Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Quick, Logan Couture, Los Angeles Kings, Miikka Kiprusoff, Mike Smith, Pacific Division, Phoenix Coyotes, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks