Monday, January 14, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Pacific Division

5. Dallas Stars-Dallas brought in Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy to help bolster their top 2 lines. So now, they have 2 solid scoring lines. Problem is, their 3rd and 4th lines will struggle, and their defense doesn't project to be that good. They have Kari Lehtonen in the net, and he has been solid since he arrived in Dallas. The Stars had the worst powerplay in the league last year (13.5%), and ranked in the bottom half of the league in total scoring (22nd in goals scored). The new additions will help, but they still are facing an uphill battle in this division. The Stars come in the cellar, in a close race with Anaheim.

4. Anaheim Ducks-A slow start will doom the Ducks in 2013. They have aging veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. Their stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are set to be free agents after the season ends. So should the Ducks have a bad start, Getzlaf and Perry could end up being traded, so the Ducks dont walk away empty handed if they leave.The Ducks have 2 solid lines, and their defensive core is average at best. A healthy Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes trying to keep the Ducks in games. In an incredibly strong division, the Ducks will come in 4th, but they will battle it out with Dallas for this spott. They just simply wont be able to keep up with the others, even in a shortened 48 game schedule.

3. Phoenix Coyotes-A surprise run to the conference finals, was how the Phoenix Coyotes season went last year. They are a gritty hockey team, that wins games on its defense keeping pucks out of the net. And last year, they saw Mike Smith have a huge breakout year, which was a big help with Phoenix coming in 5th in the NHL in goals allowed. They did lose their leading scorer Ray Whitney, who signed with division rival Dallas, but other than that, they kept the core of last year's team intact. Phoenix will be a tough team to play every night, and scoring on them will not be easy. This will be a team that competes for a low seed in the playoff mix, and with a short season, Phoenix will have plenty of competition to get in the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Kings-Everyone has the Kings pegged to win this division and make a deep postseason run again. Im not denying that the defending Cup champs will make a deep postseason run. They are returning the same roster from last year (The only player the lost or added was Ethan Moreau who retired). But they will be without their star Anze Kopitar for a few weeks to begin the year. They have great depth all around the roster. Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick is set to return after having back surgery in the offseason. But, the Kings finish second in this division. They make the playoffs, but the lack of Kopitar to begin the season will hurt them in the end.

1. San Jose Sharks-San Jose had a down year in 2011-12. They finished 7th in the West, and had a first round exit after two straight years of making the conference finals.The Sharks have good balance all around their lineup. They really dont have any flashy players, they just have guys who get the job done. What makes the Sharks better this year, is that they had 11 players playing overseas during the lockout, and for the first time in a few years, they are no longer considered the favorites in this division. So look for Joe Thornton and company to make one last push before age finally catches up with them. The Sharks get off to a fast start, and it helps carry them to a division title.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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