This is the final part of my 2014-2015 NHL season preview. Here’s my preview of the Pacific Division:
Key Additions: Ryan Kesler, Clayton Stoner, Dany Heatley
Key Losses: Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jonas Hiller, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Mathieu Perreault
Yes, the Ducks did win the Pacific Division, but they were ousted in the second round by their rival, the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. After the retirements of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, I thought the kings would lose their luster. That all changed when the Ducks traded Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler. Kesler will fill in that second-line center role vacated by the departure of Koivu, and with the signing of former Wild winger Dany Heatley, the Ducks top-six forwards look much better than what they were last season. Also, I’d expect a breakout season from both Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem this season.
Key Additions: Sam Gagner, B.J. Crombeen, Joe Vitale
Key Losses: Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro
It’s a new era for the renamed Arizona Coyotes, and the acquisitions of Sam Gagner and Joe Vitale will help the Coyotes at forward, but once again, the Coyotes’ success will have to depend on the health of goalie Mike Smith and forward Martin Hanzal. If the both of them remain healthy, the Coyotes could potentially play the role of dark horse this season.
Key Additions: Mason Raymond, Deryk Engelland, Jonas Hiller, Devin Setoguchi, Brandon Bollig
Key Losses: Mike Cammalieri, Shane O’Brien, TJ Galiardi
This is year two of the Flames’ rebuild, and I don’t expect much from Calgary this season, but I do expect Sean Monahan to build more momentum after a breakout rookie season, and, if he makes the opening night roster, Sam Bennett making an early impact in his first year playing in the NHL. Also, the addition of Jonas Hiller did solve the Flames’ problems in net after Reto Berra carried the load last season before being traded to Colorado at the deadline last season.
Key Additions: Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne, Teddy Purcell
Key Losses: Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth
If you take a look at the checklist made famous by legendary NBA coach Pat Riley, the Edmonton Oilers should be considered an “upstart” team. But after finishing the 2013-14 season with the worst record in the Western Conference, the Oilers ended up with a top-three draft pick for the fourth time in five seasons. Leon Draisatl was selected, but will probably be headed back to Prince Albert to keep on honing his skills. As for the current Oiler team, Darnell Nurse will probably start the season in Oklahoma City. The addition of Teddy Purcell will help fill in the role vacated by the trade of Sam Gagner. And can Ben Scrivens build on a season where he was entrusted to be a no. 1 goalie? Other than those questions, like their provincial rival, I don’t expect much from Edmonton this season.
Los Angeles Kings
Key Addition: Adam Cracknell
Key Loss: Willie Mitchell
Last year, the Kings went through three Game 7s, including the improbable first-round comeback against the San Jose Sharks to win their second Stanley Cup championship in the last three years. Now they’re looking to do something that hasn’t been done since the Edmonton Oiler dynasty: win three Stanley Cups in a four-year span. Most of the players from last season’s team are still there, and I don’t see any reason why my prediction for the Kings from the last couple of seasons is going to change this year.
Prediction: Pacific Division Champions
San Jose Sharks
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat, Brad Stuart
Don’t let the losses fool you.: the Sharks have been waiting over five months for their chance at redemption after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Playoffs last season. Everyone knows the Sharks’ window of oppurtunity to win a Stanley Cup is rapidly closing. Joe Thornton an Patrick Marleau are both not getting younger, and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski need to step up and fill those shoes properly. With Dan Boyle out, expect Mirco Mueller to step in his role as a top-four defenseman. Believe me, the Sharks are a good team, but can they deliver when it matters the most: in the playoffs? only time will tell
Key Additions: Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, Derek Dorsett, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa
Key Losses: Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, David Booth, Jordan Schroeder
Much like the 2012 Boston Red Sox, the 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks were an absolute disaster. The John Tortorella experiment failed miserably, the Sedin twins underperformed, and Roberto Luongo finally got his wish and left Vancouver to “take his talents and return to South Beach”. Once the season ended, the Canusks had a major front office shake-up. Canucks legend Trevor Linden was named team president, General Manager Mike Gillis was fired and was replaced by Boston Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning, and John Tortorella was replaced by former Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins, who led the Texas Stars to a Calder Cup last season. The shake-up continued on Draft Day, when the Canucks traded Ryan Kesler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, traded Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay for a draft pick, and acquired Derek Dorsett from the Rangers in another Draft Day trade. On the first day of free agency, the Canucks made a bold statement and signed free-agent goaltender Ryan Miller and veteran forward Radim Vrbata. I expect a huge bounce-back season from the Canucks in 2014-15, and who knows? They might just be a playoff contender once again.