The Pacific division has been dominated by the Anaheim Ducks for the past five seasons as they have won the division in each of those seasons. It has been a relatively strong division with powerhouse Californian teams. Up until recently the Sharks, Kings, and Ducks were all making the playoffs from that division. Aside from San Jose’s disappointing 2014/2015 campaign, they had been right on Anaheim’s tail for the division lead. Los Angeles had always been a constant threat in that division after winning two cups. Since recent decline however the Kings have missed the playoffs twice in the past three seasons.
With resurgence from the Albertan teams, the Pacific division could have a new champion in the 2017/2018 season. The Oilers are relevant again and they are becoming one of the powerhouse teams in the league. Along with the Flames looking how they did in the 2014/2015 season with one of the best bluelines in the NHL. With that, here are my predictions for how the Pacific division will shape out this season.
8.) Vegas Golden Knights (54 points)
The knights do not have a single first liner or top defender. The only thing they have going for them is a solid starting goaltender who is in decline. They are a team of bottom 6 forwards and top 6 defenseman. Unless Marc-Andre Fleury plays in 2008 Marc-Andre Fleury form I don’t think Vegas is going anywhere but the bottom.
7.) Vancouver Canucks (75 points)
Vancouver had a decent offseason after getting screwed out of a top 3 pick once again. They signed a couple veterans to decent deals which they will be able to flip at the deadline for picks and prospects. Michael Del Zotto, Sam Gagner, and Thomas Vanek are decent adds who will more than likely contribute. Goaltending is going to be a major issue for the Canucks. A tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson does not sound like a recipe for success to me. I am under the influence that the Canucks are rebuilding, so you should not expect much from them this year.
6.) Los Angeles Kings (83 points)
The Kings cup window is far over. They made two “go for it” moves at the deadline this season by bringing in Ben Bishop and Jarome Iginla and still missed the playoffs by a significant margin. The bad contracts are eating them alive at this point and I am afraid it’s only going to get worse for them from here on out. New appointed GM Rob Blake has his work cut out for him, that’s forsure.
5.) Arizona Coyotes (85 points)
I think I am with many others in saying the Coyotes had a great offseason. I think this will be the year they finally take the step to becoming a team who can push for a wild card spot. They finally have a number one center in Derek Stepan and a cheap goalie looking to prove himself as a starter in Antti Raanta. They also found a D-partner for OEL in Hjalmarsson. Young guys like Max Domi and Dylan Strome are always looking to make an impact as well. I think the Coyotes will be in the race until at least March.
4.) San Jose Sharks (93 points)
I think it’s finally over for the Sharks. Last season was their last chance with Marleau and Thornton and they exited in the first round. Losing Marleau is a bigger blow than you think. The guy scored 27 goals last season. There is a huge lack of depth on forward in San Jose and I believe it bit them during the playoffs. They are an aging and slow team with many players who are in the twilight of their careers. The team has found a way to consistently make the playoffs despite being older and slow, but I think this is finally the year their run ends.
3.) Anaheim Ducks (100 points)
The division title streak ends this year. The Albertan teams shall take the one and two spots in the division. The Ducks blueline has been solid over the years as they are one of the better shot suppressors in the league. I do believe this is the year people will begin to see just how good Hampus Lindholm is. I believe he is bound to break out offensively which will add to his already excellent defensive game. The one thing Anaheim is lacking is scoring up front. Hopefully Patrick Eaves can be as good as he was last year offensively as well as Rickard Rakell. Even though I placed Anaheim third in the division, it won’t be as much of a step back as it is the Oilers and Flames taking large steps forward.
2.) Calgary Flames (102 points)
The Flames got back on course in 2016/2017 after a very disappointing 2015/2016 season. Adding Travis Hamonic to a blue line of Mark Girodano, TJ Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton will only help them even more. Monahan and Gaudreau continue to develop into one of the best duos in the NHL. Matthew Tkachuk is looking to be one of the best young wingers in the NHL as well. Mike Smith is looking to revamp his career in Calgary and could be an upgrade over Brian Elliott from last season. Calgary like Anaheim is missing a scoring presence outside of Gaudreau and Monahan. Troy Brouwer needs to be better along with former 4th overall pick Sam Bennett. I do believe the young talent on Calgary will boost them to a dominant season backed by their excellent d-corps.
1.) Edmonton Oilers (106 points)
The Oilers young, talented, high octane offense, backed by Cam Talbot, boosted them to their first playoff appearance since 2006 in 2016/2017. McDavid and Draisaitl has potential to be the biggest 1-2 punch in the NHL. With the contracts they were given this summer, they should be. I believe Ryan Strome will live up to his once high potential playing alongside McDavid this year. Hopefully the loss of Andrej Sekera doesn’t effect them too badly and he returns to form quickly. Someone will have to cover for how bad Kris Russell is. All jokes aside I am excited to see how the Oilers play this season and hope they take a step forward as I have projected them to.