And so now we move west, young men and women to the hellhole that is known as the Pacific Division. Once the place where Vancouver collected 100 points by merely having a pulse, the division has seen a bit of a makeover since realignment. The Kings, Ducks and Sharks have all taken turns setting the coast on fire while Canada weeps. Where does this year leave us? Follow the jump, suckas.
15-16: 46-25-11, 103 points
Projected Cap Space $7.52 million
- Acquisitions – Jonathan Bernier, Randy Carlyle, Mason Raymond
- Losses – Jamie McGinn, Frederik Anderson, David Perron, Chris Stewart, Bruce Boudreau
- 16-17 Outlook – We do talk about the Hawks window probably more than any other humans combined. But the Ducks window slammed shut last season with Coach Hagan-Daaz’s fingers caught squarely under it. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler (he of the new 45 year, $504 million contract) are all the wrong side of 30 and with so much tread on the tires that Mike Rowe is going to do a new Dirty Jobs episode to show how they put past their prime NHL stars out of their misery. Jakob Silfverberg is sort of intriguing but already 25 years old. Defensively, the Ducks have let it be known through sources they’re not interested in Jacob Trouba because they feel they don’t need him. Let’s run through the gamut – Cam Fowler, decent. Sami Vatanen, ok. Kevin Bieksa, RUN. Simon Despres, a really good second pairing. Josh Manson, bad. Clayton Stoner, real bad. Hampus Lindholm, unsigned. Yeah, it’s real hard to see where Trouba would fit. It’s also real hard to see why Bob Murray might be one of the worst GM’s in modern NHL history.
Los Angeles Kings
15-16: 48-28-6, 102 points
Projected Cap Space $1.154 million
- Acquisitions – Teddy Purcell, Tom Gilbert, Jeff Zatkoff, Zach Trotman and Michael Latta
- Losses – Milan Lucic, Vincent Lecavalier, Kris Versteeg, Luke Schenn, Jamie McBain, Jeff Schultz and Jhonas Enroth
- 16-17 Outlook – The strength of the Kings remains on their blue line. Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez combine to create a very solid (and very ugly) top three. Unfortunately, they’re asking to Tom Gilbert to anchor their bottom three along with Brayden McNabb, the corpse of Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and whatever other old slobbering bum they can find. Offensively, they lost Marian Gaborik for awhile thanks to the World Cup. Though, if we’re being honest he would’ve broken his foot in a skate sharpening accident had he been at training camp. As seen just a mere week ago, Anze Kopitar is still capable of dragging a team full of has beens, rejects and refugees across the finish line. So the Kings should still be a force until proven otherwise. Oh, and Jonathan Quick will still post a sub.900 save percentage and somehow get credit for every Kings win.
San Jose Sharks
15-16: 46-30-6, 98 points
Projected Cap Space $378,000
- Acquisitions – Mikkel Boedker, David Schlemko
- Losses – Roman Polak, James Reimer
- 16-17 Outlook – Fresh off their best finish in franchise history, the Sharks come back a year older with not many new reinforcements from the outside. Sure, Tomas Hertl will continue to improve, as will Nieto and Tierney. But are they good enough to make the difference in the expected drop off from Jumbo Joe, Marleau and Pavelski, who is somehow 32 years old? Maybe. They brought in Mikkel Boedker, a player who is allergic to possession and replaced one former Blues bustout defensemen with another – Polak for Schlemko. As you can see, there’s not much cap space to maneuver around to the point they haven’t even named a backup goalie. Though with Martin Jones, that’s not really a problem. Defensively, it’ll be Brent Burns and Marc Eduard-Vlasic that carry the brunt of it. Paul Martin is another year older. Justin Braun may or may not be good. But again, Martin Jones is here so they may not have to worry about any of that nonsense.
15-16: 35-39-8, 78 points
Projected Cap Space $2.347 million
- Acquisitions – Alex Goligoski, Jamie McGinn, Ryan White, Luke Schenn
- Losses – Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, Kyle Chipchura, Nicklas Grossmann
- 16-17 Outlook – Now we’re starting to get into some of the more intriguing teams of the division where the question marks aren’t health or age. The Coyotes feature some of the same top-end talent that would look familiar to Hawk fans about 8 years ago. Max Domi, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair are all 21 or younger and all ready to set the world on fire. Combine that with a defensive unit that features Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski and Connor Murphy and you can see a team that’s going to give a lot of teams fits. Unfortunately, they’re stuck paying Mike Smith for another three years and through the age of 37. Shane Doan is back for another year of lighting ants on fire and shooting his bb gun at his neighbor’s dog. With the help of the NHL’s black hand, the Coyotes look poised to make a big leap in this division. Even if they can’t find a way to find an extra $200k for Tobias Rieder’s new contract. (Which they’ve now done.)
15-16: 35-40-7, 77 points
Projected Cap Space $7.35 million
- Acquisitions – Troy Brouwer, Chad Johnson, Alex Chiasson, Brian Elliott
- Losses – Joe Colborne
- 16-17 Outlook – Here’s another young and upcoming team with so much money to spare and yet, terrified to do so. The Calgary Flames are currently in the midst of playing chicken with their franchise cornerstone (and already a point per game player) Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames, in their infinite genius, expect Gaudreau to accept a contract like that of fellow young gun and good Canadian boy Sean Monahan. He, of the $6.375M cap hit, and career high of 63 points. Meanwhile, Gaudreau expects to come in somewhere around $8 million. The Flames have more explosive talent upfront than probably anyone in this division. Yet, they’re letting Gaudreau dangle all for the sake of an extra million or so. The longer this holdout continues, the less chance Gaudreau wants to spend any extra time in Calgary he has to. Giordano, Hamilton and Brodie are a very formidable top 3. And Brian Elliot takes his talents to Western Canada where he will do just enough to break another fan base’s collective hearts.
15-16: 31-38-13, 75 points
Projected Cap Space $2.71 million
- Acquisitions – Loui Eriksson, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Anton Rodin and Jayson Megna
- Losses –D Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, Radim Vrbata, Jared McCann and Linden Vey
- 16-17 Outlook – We continue on the western Canadian front with an organization I have lovingly begun calling the Vancouver White Sox. They were good once, they forgot what made them good, they have the wrong idea of what them good and dammit, they’re going to try like hell to be good again. The Canucks, like the White Sox, are in the midst of a real identity crisis. To everyone else, this franchise is in desperate need of a full on tear down with a solid three to four years of lottery picks. By their own reflection, the Canucks see themselves as just a couple pieces away from contending. The Sedins are well past their expiration date. Loui Eriksson will find scoring to be a bit more difficult when he’s not facing Toronto 6 times a year. Erik Gudbranson is not a good defenseman; he only looks like one. Brandon Sutter is signed until Christ returns. Last but not least, much like the White Sox, the Canucks are putting a ton of responsibility on unproven young talent with no safety nets. Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen are all expected to play a major offensive role despite none of them ever topping 15 goals in the NHL. This only ends one way.
15-16: 31-43-8, 70 points
Projected Cap Space $8.916 million
- Acquisitions – G Jonas Gustavsson, LW Milan Lucic, D Adam Larsson, RW Jesse Puljujarvi
- Losses – LW Taylor Hall
- 16-17 Outlook – Had the Oilers hung to Taylor Hall, they’d probably be a real pain to the Western Conference elite. Instead, they chose to go with Milan Lucic and Adam Larsson in another White Sox-ian move. The sight of Connor McDavid waiting for Lucic to cross the blue line after he single-handedly cycles the puck to himself may draw the entire nation of Alberta into a depression. This Oilers team, even without Hall, has some real giddy up. Nugent-Hopkins, Drasaitl, Eberle and Puljujarvi (if he makes the team out of camp) can cause some real matchup problems for teams. Not to mention, Todd McClellan is clearly the best coach this outfit has had in at least 15 years. Unfortunately, Cam Talbot won’t be confused with a starting goalie any time soon and their defense is just ok on a very good night. They’re getting closer, though. But in true Oilers fashion, they will most definitely get real good when can they no longer afford everyone and will have to purge their good players because they overpaid for Adam Larsson and Milan Lucic.