Don’t expect big things out of the Pacific this season. Once considered the deepest division in hockey, featuring the valley of death in California, its now regressed to what I predict will be the lowest point total out of any of the leagues four divisions. Regardless, here’s how I feel things will go down in the Pacific, including every teams adds and subtractions, notable professional tryouts heading into camp, candidate to have a breakout season and my thoughts on what the coming season holds. Enjoy!
Last Year: 51 Wins/109 Points (1st in Pacific, Lost in WCF)
Additions: Carl Hagelin, Chris Stewart, Shawn Horcoff, Chris Mueller, Kevin Bieksa, Joe Piskula, Anton Khudobin, Mike Santorelli
Departures: Matt Beleskey, Francois Beauchemin, Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri, James Wisniewski, Tomas Fleischmann, Sheldon Souray
PTO’s: Brendan Burke (G), Vishnevski (D), Sheldon Brookbank (D)
Breakout Candidate: Jakob Silfverberg, I talked about him in my earlier article, but Silfverberg was a beast in the playoffs and this is the year he shows the league what a dominant two way forward he is.
The Scoop: I liked the moves they made this off-season. Kevin Bieksa gives them a strong shutdown option while Carl Hagelin makes their top six quicker. Jakob Silfverberg also looks ready to breakthrough. They have some interesting rookies coming too, in Shea Theordore and Nick Ritchie, both looked solid last year in junior and could push for roster spots this coming season. They lost a good amount of impact players, but in the end they did a great job replacing them.
Prediction: They’ll win the Pacific with 52 wins and 111 Points. A similar regular season compared to last year. I do have them as my pick to make the Stanley Cup Finals out of the West. This is the year for the former Might Ducks of Anaheim.
Last Year: 45 Wins/97 Points (3rd in Pacific/Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs)
Additions: Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton,
Departures: Raphael Diaz, Brian McGrattan
PTO’s: Ryan Wilson (D), Douglas Murray (D), Sergei Kostitsyn (W)
Breakout Candidate: Sam Bennett, tough to call it a breakout after the impression he made at the end of last season, but I’m expecting big things from the former Kingston Frontenac.
The Scoop: After the complete shock that was last season, I had originally pegged them as a team that will regress heavily. But after the moves they made this off-season, I could see them advancing upwards in the Pacific division. The addition of Michael Frolik gives them a legitimate secondary scoring option. While stealing Dougie Hamilton from Boston makes their defense one of the best in the west. Things could turn out better then expected again in southern Alberta.
Prediction: I expect forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and defenseman Dennis Wideman all the regress in terms of point production, and I don’t believe their goaltending can carry them for stretches like it did last year. But the Pacific division is a rather weak one so I have them pegged at 44 wins and 93 points, good enough for second in the division.
San Jose Sharks
Last Year: 40 Wins/89 Points (5th in Pacific/Missed Playoffs)
Additions: Joel Ward, Paul Martin, Mark Cundari, Martin Jones
Departures: Antti Niemi, Matt Irwin, John Scott, Taylor Fedun
PTO’s: No notable PTO’s
Breakout Candidate: Melker Karlsson. No sophomore slump for him. He’ll put up 40 points on the Sharks second line.
The Scoop: I liked the Sharks off-season, adding Joel Ward will help offensively and his veteran presence should also help. Martin Jones is inexperienced but his numbers were essentially on par with Niemi’s last year and they still have Alex Stalock as insurance. Another aspect of the Sharks that I feel doesn’t get enough credit is their defense. If Mirco Mueller or Matt Tennyson can take a step forward this season then they really could have one of the deeper back ends in the west.
Prediction: I’ve always liked Pete DeBoer and I feel he can get this Sharks team going in the right way. They got a solid group on defense and I feel like this is going to be a big year for the likes of Logan Couture, Melker Karlsson and Tomas Hertl. The Sharks will return to the postseason this year. I have them putting up 43 wins and 90 points, which will push the Flames, but keep them 3rd in the Pacific.
Los Angeles Kings
Last Year: 40 Wins/95 Points (4th in Pacific/Missed Playoffs)
Additions: Milan Lucic, Jhonas Enroth
Departures: Justin Williams, Andrej Sekera, Mike Richards, Jarrett Stoll, Robyn Regehr, Martin Jones
PTO’s: P. Budaj (G)
Breakout Performer: Tyler Toffoli, he was third on the Kings with 49 points last year. I’m expecting him to skyrocket to 70 points as ‘That 70’s Line’ will carry the Kings.
The Scoop: Last year wasn’t good for the boys from Hollywood, and I don’t expect this year to present a prettier script. They lost a lot this offseason and while Milan Lucic might be an upgrade over Justin Williams, I still don’t feel as though they did enough to keep up with the likes of Calgary or San Jose. Also its looking as though Slava Voynov wont be with the team for the beginning of the year, or possibly at all, and that leaves a massive gap in their defensive core.
A Bright spot for the Kings could come from young wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, if they provide enough of an offensive spark, maybe it could help the Kings compete for the post season in 15/16.
Prediction: Another early exit for the Kings this year. I feel as though they simply didn’t do enough to improve and their defense is simply too weak to keep them in contention. Their offense ranked 18th last year and simply adding Milan Lucic to replace Stoll and Williams wont do. I have them getting 39 wins and 83 points this coming season.
Last Year: 24 Wins/62 Points (6th in Pacific/Missed Playoffs)
Additions: Connor McDavid, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letetsu, Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart, Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson
Departures: Boyd Gordon, Martin Marincin, Viktor Fasth, Matt Fraser, Steve Pinizzotto
Breakout Candidate: Oscar Klefbom, I’m ignoring the obvious choice and going with the Swedish defenseman. He impressed last year and should be even better in his first full NHL season.
The Scoop: It was successful off-season in Edmonton. They added a new staring goalie, grabbed a new top pairing defenseman and a generational talent in Connor McDavid. But it wasn’t just the changed to the roster that have Oil Country exited. They also brought it a new GM, Peter Chiarelli and a experienced head coach in Todd McLellan. The pieces are now there, both on the ice and behind the scenes for the Oilers to be successful, its just a matter of if this is the year it all comes together. They lost 26 one goal games last season, so could the off-season improvements help them pick up those lost points?
Prediction: Experience is definitely going to be a problem, and don’t get me wrong there will definitely be some long nights in Edmonton, but this is the year we see improvement. As I said before, they lost 26 one goal games, I’m banking on the number down this year. I have the Oilers getting 37 wins and 80 points, which would have them 5th in the Pacific. However if Cam Talbot performs like he did last year and the Oil get some breakout performances then I can see them overtaking the Kings for 4th in the division.
Last Year: 49 Wins/101 Points (2nd in Pacific, lost in first round of the playoffs)
Additions: Brandon Sutter, Brandon Prust, Blair Jones, Matt Bartkowski, Taylor Fedun, Richard Bachman
Departures: Nick Bonino, Kevin Bieksa, Eddie Lack, Shawn Matthias, Zach Kassian, Brad Richardson
PTO’s: No Notable PTO’s
Breakout Candidate: Bo Horvat, I don’t see a sophomore slump coming from the second year centerman. A 20-25-45 stat line is reasonable as I feel he will see more ice time later in the season.
The Scoop: I didn’t like this offseason at all for the Canucks. The deal to get Brandon Sutter was bad as Nick Bonino is a very similar player. They undersold on Eddie Lack and lost a key member of their blue line and were only able to bring in Matt Bartkowski to replace him. Things wont be good in Vancouver this year, or for years to come.
Prediction: They grabbed 100 points last year, but this year I see them coming in at 35 wins and 74 points. The ageing Canucks did little to improve and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Last Year: 24 Wins/56 Points (7th in Pacific, missed playoffs)
Additions: Antoine Vermette, Steve Downie, Boyd Gordon, Brad Richardson, John Scott, Zybnek Michalek, Niklas Grossman, Derek Smith, Anders Lindback
Departures: Sam Gagner, Mark Arcobello, John Moore, Lauri Korpikoski
PTO’s: Keith Aulie (D), Joey Crabb (W), Corey Potter (D)
Breakout Candidate: Martin Hanzal, he’s only hit 40 points once and should see a boatload of ice time this year on a weak Coyotes team. That combined with some skill on the man advantage. I see 50 points for the big centerman.
The Scoop: The future is getting brighter in the dessert, even though the future of the team actually staying IN the dessert is unclear, they’ve got good young players in Dylan Strome, Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. A lot of the praise should be given to GM Don Maloney who has made some great rental deals with Antoine Vermette and Zybnek Michalek and has gotten the players back after getting assets for them four months earlier. The offseason was good to the ‘Yotes, but not good enough to turn them into contenders.
Prediction: They’ll turn the corner soon, just not this year. They still have too many holes at nearly ever position and they shouldn’t be expecting their youngsters to carry them far. I have them finishing with 25 wins and 56 points, the same total as last season, which will leave them well in the basement of the Pacific Division.