This is the final part of my NHL season preview. Here’s my preview of the Pacific Division:
Key Additions: Carl Hagelin, Kevin Bieksa, Anton Khudobin, Shawn Horcoff
Key Losses: Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, Jonas Hiller, Matt Beleskey, Francois Beauchemin
2013: Won Pacific Division, but in First Round vs. Detroit; led series 3-2 only to lose Game 6 on the road and then lose Game 7 on home ice.
2014: Won Pacific Division, but in Second Round vs. Los Angeles, led series 3-2 only to lose Game 6 on the road and then lose Game 7 on home ice.
2015: Won Pacific Division, but in Western Conference Final vs. Chicago, led series 3-2 only to lose Game 6 on the road and then lose Game 7 on home ice.
For the last three seasons, the Anaheim Ducks were prohibitive favorites to potentially go deep in the playoffs. They did just that last season, but I don’t know if it’s the Bruce Boudreau effect or not, but the ending to the Ducks’ season the last three years have been the same: they led series 3-2 headed into Game 6 on the road only to lose the game and then subsequently lose Game 7 on home ice. There’s a lot of pressure for the Ducks to go deep again. My guess is it’s probably going to be “Stanley Cup Final or bust” for this team in 2016.
Prediction: Pacific Division Champions
Key Additions: Nicklas Grossmann, Boyd Gordon, Brad Richardson, Zbynek Michalek, Antoine Vermette
Key Losses: Sam Gagner, Lauri Korpikoski, John Moore
In a time of uncertainty for the Arizona Coyotes, the only thing you can look forward to is the influx of youth players. But these players have proven themselves in the CHL: Henrik Samuelsson, Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley. They have made a name for themselves in junior hockey, and they’re about to make a big name for themselves in Arizona. It might take some time, but the future looks bright for these players, regardless of where this team will be playing in the future.
Key Additions: Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton
Key Losses: None
The biggest surprise last season was the emergence of the Calgary Flames. They turned a season in which they had nothing to lose into a season that exceeded expectations. Thanks to the emergence of 2015 Calder Trophy finalist Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames finished third last season in which they were supposed to finish in the bottom-half of the division. This season, the Flames are a team you should keep an eye on, because even though they haven’t lost any big names, they did gain a premier penalty killer (Michael Frolik) and a top-four defenseman (Dougie Hamilton).
Key Additions: Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Mark Letestu, Lauri Korpikoski
Key Losses: Martin Marincin, Boyd Gordon
The Edmonton Oilers should be able to take the next step forward. They got Connor McDavid first overall. They got Todd McLellan as their new head coach. They got Cam Talbot as their new number-one goaltender. It’s been six long years since the Oilers rebuild began. After experimentation and collecting numerous number-one draft picks, the time should be now for the Oilers to get everything into motion. And while it may not be a grand farewell to the old Northlands Coliseum AKA Rexall Place, there should be a lot of optimism as they pack up and move downtown into their new home: Rogers Place.
Los Angeles Kings
Key Additions: Milan Lucic, Christian Ehrhoff
Key Losses: Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Slava Voynov, Mike Richards
Last year, the Los Angeles Kings finished the season with a 40–27–15 record. That record helped them win a Stanley Cup in 2012. That same record hurt them in 2015, as for the first time since 2009, the Kings missed the playoffs, and was the first team since the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes to enter the season as defending Stanley Cup Champions and not defend their title. The news revolving the Kings off the ice was a total distraction. Slava Voynov’s domestic violence charge took away one of the Kings’ best defensemen, and the wrongful termination lawsuit brought up by Mike Richards is nothing more of a legal mess. But there is hope. In the offseason, the Kings acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins and signed veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to stabilize the back-end. The Kings should have a bounce-back season, but are they deep enough to contend for a playoff spot this season?
San Jose Sharks
Key Additions: Joel Ward, Martin Jones, Paul Martin
Key Losses: Antti Niemi, Matt Irwin
It has been trying times in in San Jose. For the first time since 2003, there was no playoff hockey at the Shark Tank. It may not have been a true “scorched earth” process that was used in Toronto, but the writing on the wall was very clear: the Sharks were going nowhere as long as Todd McLellan was head coach. After mutually agreeing to part ways, the search to find a new head coach was clear: find one that would bring out the best from every player. Enter Peter DeBoer. The writing also said they need to go in a different direction in net. So after trading Antti Niemi to Dallas, they got their new starting goaltender from Boston via Los Angeles in Martin Jones. Add the addition of Joel Ward from Washington, and the Sharks could have a bounce-back season….only if DeBoer gets the absolute best out of every player.
Key Additions: Brandon Sutter, Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski
Key Losses: Kevin Bieksa, Nick Bonino, Eddie Lack, Zack Kassian
The Vancouver Canucks indeed had a bounce-back season in Willie Desjardins’ first year as head coach, but now questions loom ahead after a couple of big names were dealt away, such as Kevin Bieksa going to Anaheim or Eddie Lack headed to Carolina. Can a young defenseman, such as Matt Bartkowski or Frank Corrado, find a way to fill as a top 4er? And if Ryan Miller gets dinged up, can Jacob Markstrom — the goaltender that was traded for Roberto Luongo in 2014, and more recently, backstopped Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, to a Calder Cup Final — deliver in net? Only time will tell for a team that isn’t getting any younger.