Hockey season is officially upon us, and as we’re doing a bit of waiting before the Flyers get going tomorrow, we’re going to take a quick tour around the league and see how things are looking for the teams in not our division. And, well, eventually we’ll get to our division. But we’re going to talk about the Pacific first.
Finished last season: 6th
Notable additions: Michael Del Zotto
Notable subtractions: Corey Perry
Are they going to be good?: If anyone in the division is poised to make a big bounce-back this season, it’s the Anaheim Ducks. They aren’t the deepest up front, but we’ve seen teams with a strong top line and good goaltending drag the rest of their team to the playoffs (last year’s Colorado Avalanche, hello). And, it’s also really hard to overstate how much of a difference a full season away from Randy Carlyle can make. So, what we’re saying here is that while we’re not expecting the Ducks to set the world on fire this season, they may well be improved.
Finished last season: 4th
Notable additions: Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg,
Notable subtractions: Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Cousins, Richard Panik
Are they going to be good?: They might be! They lost a bit of depth this offseason, but the Coyotes seem to be in a similar position as the Ducks, in that they do have a handful of very talented players that may well be the difference makers. It feels like every year, we look at the Coyotes’ developing youngsters and say “this is the year that they put it together and sneak into the playoffs.” And we’re sort of doing that again, but this time we really mean it. They got a nice extra bit of scoring punch with the addition of Kessel, and that’s exciting for them. They could very well be in the mix for one of the wildcard spots in the West this season.
Finished last season: 1st
Notable additions: Milan Lucic, Cam Talbot
Notable subtractions: James Neal, Mike Smith
Are they going to be good?: This feels like a pretty easy yes. They finished first in the conference last season, and are largely running it back with the same crew. Despite strong underling numbers last season, we might expect a bit of regression, but nothing that should outright break them. It would be a much bolder prediction to put them down as locks to go out and win the conference again, even the division, but with the big guns up front like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk remaining in place and looking to replicate some of the magic they tapped into last season.
Finished last season: 7th
Notable additions: Mike Smith, James Neal
Notable subtractions: Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi
Are they going to be good?: Sigh. Probably not. There was a joke floating around on Twitter a few days ago that you very well could put together a better Oilers forward corps by substituting out their wingers for those on the waiver wire that day. And this feels a little mean, but there may well be some truth to it. With top-end talent like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the roster, there’s always the chance that they could just drag this team into the playoffs, but given the weaknesses throughout the roster, it’s a hard thing to feel really confident betting on.
Los Angeles Kings
Finished last season: 8th
Notable additions: Ben Hutton, Joakim Ryan, Martin Frk
Notable subtractions: Dion Phaneuf, Brendan Leipsic
Are they going to be good?: Marginally better? It’s possible. They certainly didn’t get worse this offseason, but it would be hard to say they got much, much better. The Kings are pretty clearly in a rebuilding period, and still remain something of a step behind while the rest of the division is improving. As it seems to go with rebuilding, it’s going to be ugly for a while before it gets better. And we’re in the ugly stage right now.
San Jose Sharks
Finished last season: 2nd
Notable additions: Dalton Prout, Jonny Brodzinski
Notable subtractions: Joe Pavelski
Are they going to be good?: Good chance! Losing Pavelski hurts, there’s really no way around that, but the team is deep enough that they should be able to offset that loss throughout the lineup. Erik Karlsson is finally looking to be healthy, looking more like his old self. And we should expect some upward regression from their goaltending after last season’s sometimes brutal performances. The Sharks were a very good team last year, and they certainly haven’t gotten markedly worse this offseason. We can feel pretty comfortable penciling them back into the playoffs, and there’s certainly also a possibility that they can compete to win the whole division.
Finished last season: 5th
Notable additions: J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, Micheal Ferland
Notable subtractions: Erik Gudbranson, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Hutton
Are they going to be good?: In a way, Vancouver feels like they could have a higher variance of outcomes for their season. Quinn Hughes isn’t an addition necessarily, but he’ll be making the jump to the NHL level this season, and that’s almost certainly going to help them out. And if things break right for the rest of their young core, the Canucks could get themselves into the playoff race. But at the same time, the Canucks haven’t done much to really gain ground on the teams who finished ahead of them last season, and who look like they’re holding onto their positions at the top of the division. The Canucks could take a step forward this season and make a bit more noise during the regular season, but it also wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they fell a bit short again.
Vegas Golden Knights
Finished last season: 3rd
Notable additions: Nicolas Roy
Notable subtractions: Nikita Gusev
Are they going to be good?: It was a relatively quiet offseason for the Knights, and if we’re assuming that they’ll be better next season (which we are), it’s not necessarily because of those moves. The key pieces that should help Vegas is a healthy Max Paccioretty to start the season, and the addition of Mark Stone (traded for at the deadline). Those are two key pieces who they’re set to (hopefully) have for the bulk of the season, and that could be a difference maker for them. They were a good team last season, but still about a half step behind Calgary and San Jose for much of the season. But, with both Stone and Paccioretty in the mix from the start, it’s easy to see Vegas gain ground on those two teams.