Upon feedback I have received, my in depth review team by team around the league was being perceived as too much information. It was suggested to me that I just review the divisions and make some predictions as to how the standings will play out. So here goes!
The Pacific Division was perhaps the biggest and toughest last year and in the new playoff format, most difficult to play out of. In the playoffs, The Anaheim Ducks caught the wild card Dallas Stars and defeated them to earn the right to play the winner of the highly contested matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. In a hard fought seven game series the Los Angeles Kings prevailed and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Surprising almost no one, the immensely talented offense of Edmonton Oilers went nowhere as the defense and goaltending were at best adequate to meet the grind of a full season. We saw the Jerome Iginla-less Calgary Flames start the new total rebuild and also had trouble maintaining headway. The Phoenix, (now Arizona), Coyotes played well at home but seemed lost on the road and the meltdown of the Vancouver Canucks by mid season seemed inevitable and came to pass with the John Tortarella coaching style.
This year I pick the Coyotes to finish last as their best overall offensive weapon signed a contract in Vancouver. They'll be tough at home and can stay in contention as long as Mike Smith and Keith Yandle remain healthy.
Once again in Edmonton the goals will be aplenty and the improved defense and goaltending will help. But with weak coaching and meddlesome management, expect chaos at time and this may be the year the Oilers are good enough not to get a top 10 pick in the next years draft. My pick is sixth here.
The Calgary Flames started the rebuild last year and will see new youthful infusion of goal scoring and playmaking. The team will be lead by Mark Giordano, who has emerged to be a top 10 league wide defenseman. The Flames unloaded a lot of older and salary heavy veterans that were holding back the team and will allow them to compete better on the road. My pick is 5th here.
The SanJose Sharks had the most classic of melt downs during the first round of the playoffs last year and veteran leadship has been stripped of their captains letters. Dan Boyle was let go, Brad Stewart was traded and Brent Burns will return to the blue line from a forward position. The is Antii Neimi last chance to show some of the pop he had in 2010 when he backstopped the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. This team could see significant changes in management, coaching or player movement this year, but there's enough talent to finish 4th in the division.
Last year we saw how the most consistent team over the previous five seasons could come unraveled. New Management replaced the bad coaching staff and disgruntled players. They bought in promising new depth pieces and added a key goal scorer to add depth via free agency. The new coach will find the players receptive to ideas to recapture their winning ways, but the first third of the season will be a getting used to new things period. I expect a strong midseason push from the Canucks and a playoff appearance. I pick them 3rd in the division.
The Anaheim Ducks almost captured the Presidents Trophy for best regular season record during the season. Perhaps goaltending was their undoing and they released veteran Jonas Hiller to give a rookie tandem the reins. They added some bottom six depth and Ryan Kesler to firm up the second center position. I think they are a strong contender for first place in their division, but get nosed out by the Kings and finish second. Bruce Boudreax needs to win a
The Los Angeles Kings are my pick for first in the Pacific Division and they have streamlined themselves moving forward while keeping the strong core of forwards on the team. The late addition and signing of Marion Gaborik was the push needed during the playoffs last year to propel them to the Stanley Cup. My reservation is that after big seasons, Gaborik has had injury filled seasons and a lot rests on the shoulders of Jonathon Quick to be healthy and available all season. Still my pick by a nose for first place.
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. San Jose Sharks
5. Calgary Flames
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Arizona Coyotes
Until Next Time!