Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meet The New Divisions: Pacific Division

Today we look at the new Pacific Division:

7. Calgary Flames-The days of Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff are long gone. The Flames have finally admitted they are in a rebuild mode, so expect some long winters ahead in the Saddledome. Whether its up front, on defense, or in goal, the Flames are vastly below average. To show how bad this is, Curtis Glencross is a top line forward, Dennis Wideman is in a top defensive pairing, and something called Karri Ramo will be the goaltender for Calgary. Calgary appears to be the new Edmonton for the next 3-5 years (meaning they will be getting #1 picks year after year).

6. Edmonton Oilers-Speaking of Edmonton, lets see how they can underachieve in 2013-14. They finally fired GM Steve Tambellini and replaced him with...(takes long pause to read name)Craig MacTavish. Head Coach Ralph Kruger was let go after just one season on the bench and was replaced with Dallas Eakins. Up front, the Oilers have two good scoring lines but the lack depth on lines three and four. Defensively, this team is still a mess despite bringing in Andrew Ference via free agency. Seriously, its just awful. Devan Dubnyk had a decent season in 2013 as the number one goalie and looks to build on his success in a full 82 game season. Sorry Edmonton, you still have another year or two (not sorry).

5. Phoenix Coyotes-Phoenix has a terrible follow up season to their run to the West Finals in 2012. Last year, they were without top goalie Mike Smith a few weeks with injury and their offense was rather lifeless at times. So to solve the scoring problem, Phoenix brought in the top scorer on the free agent market, Mike Ribero to man the top line center spot. He gives them a bit more punch up front, but the team is still lacking heavily in the goal scorer department. This looks to be a solid team defensively and should be great in goal as long as Mike Smith stays healthy. Ultimately, the team just doesn't have enough scoring to get in the playoffs this year.

Mighty Ducks Throwback Night!!
4. Anaheim Ducks-Last year, the Ducks were a nice surprise story. They weren't expected to do much, but they ended up winning the Pacific Division and locked down a #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Ducks made a huge move in the offseason, trading Bobby Ryan to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, a prospect, and a first round pick. Silfverberg projects to be in the top 6 for Anaheim this year, as he was a highly touted prospect in Ottawa. The Ducks have a nice mix of youth and veteran forwards, and they are pretty solid for four lines. Defensively, they are not the greatest, but they are not awful by any means either. In goal, the tandem of Hiller and Fasth should provide make life for opponents difficult. This team won't win the new Pacific division, and they arent even a lock in the top 3. Look for them to lock down a "Wild Card" spot.

3. Vancouver Canucks-Since the Wild won the Northwest division in 2008, Vancouver just dominated what became a very weak division. Now, the Canucks move into the new Pacific division, and do not have the luxury of being the best team in their division. The team was a mess this offseason, firing Alain Vigneault and trading G Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. They then hired John Tortorella as the new bench boss giving them a new clearer voice needed to get the team the elusive Stanley Cup the franchise desires. The team is still strong up front, but they are a bit lacking now on the checking lines. Defense looks to be the stronghold of the team, boasting three solid defensive pairings. Goaltending is now in the hands of Luongo, and the team will live and die on him alone now. Canucks are a solid lock to make the playoffs, but they will fall short in the division championship race.

2. San Jose Sharks-Time is no friend to the San Jose Sharks. Their best players (Marleau, Thornton, Boyle) are getting up there in age, and the team has not yet made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their run of 10 straight playoff appearances. The team is very solid from front to bottom and boasts one of the best forward cores in the NHL (their top 12 is rather frightening, minus Marty Havlat), now that Brent Burns appears to have figured out he is better suited up front than on the blue line. Blue line is still good, despite Burns moving to forward and they have a Stanley Cup Champion, Antti Niemi in goal to carry the load. With all the notable free agents next summer, the Sharks could be major players at the deadline to help boost their chances of getting to the Finals. Because after this year, you really have to wonder if they can keep playing at this level.

1. Los Angeles Kings-The Kings will come back strong in 2013-14 after the spanking they received in the Western Conference Finals last year by Chicago (The Kings were the defending Cup Champs at the time). They have the core of their 2012 Championship team still intact, and they are now looking to infuse some young kids in their lineup to give them a fresh spark. This is a very deep, complete hockey team. They look to have four solid forward lines, three great defensive parings, and a good tandem of goaltenders (but Jonathan Quick will handle the majority of the load). You can't ask for much more from this team. Los Angeles wins this division, and will make a strong case not only to return to the West Finals, but the Stanley Cup Finals.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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