The Pacific Division is easily the NHL’s best. Three of the last four Western Conference finalists came out of the Pacific. Current Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings play in the Pacific. Two of its teams has won the Cup in the past six seasons. No other division in hockey can boast such accomplishments or anything even close for that matter.
Given the weighted NHL schedule a winning record in this division sets teams up for a deep playoff run.
The L.A. Kings came together in the second half of last season and rolled to the Stanley Cup. GM Dean Lombardi is bringing everyone back for an encore. Given the short season there’s no reason to believe the Kings won’t be heard from before the Cup is raised in June.
Anze Kopitar is the closest thing to a complete and under-rated hockey player. this side of Pavel Datsyuk. Catch a few bounces and Anze could compete for the Hart, Ross, Richard and Selke trophies in the same year. Drew Doughty sacrificed personal accolades to become a team player. A fact seemingly lost on Kings Nation. The only challenge Jamie Quick faces is maintenance so that he’s fresh for the key games and playoffs.
The supporting cast, led by captain Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and shut down Dman Willie Mitchell provides a nice mix of complimentary.
No reason not to expect the Kings to win the division.
Phoenix Coyotes continue to prove the cliché, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. If this group can find a few more goals they are best positioned to challenge the Kings. It just might happen with defenders Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are two of the hockeys best puck moving Dmen. The ‘Yotes can transition from the backline and arguably the NHL’s toughest to play against team.
Doug Wilson is among the most respected GM’s in hockey but it seems the Sharks window of opportunity may have already shut. The core of Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Philip Marleau is getting long in the teeth. Unless the supporting cast led by Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Martin Havlat and Ryan Clowe take it up a notch, the Sharks will be in trouble. The additions of Brad Stuart and Adam Burrish will help. With only two roster changes the short season should serve them well.
Seems as though Ducks GM Bob Murray retools his blue line annually. This year Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray are added to the top six. Are they enough to help these improve on their 19th best GA? Jonas Hiller returns in net. The big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are again supported by Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu and a bunch of unproven youngsters. Recently, Coach Boudreau said that the Ducks are short one winger. Ducks should improve on their last place finish of last but everything must go right for them to advance beyond fourth place in one tough, competitive division.
Dallas Stars will go so far as Kari Lehtonen, Jamie Benn and Louie Eriksson can carry them. Stars have added Ray Whitney, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr to their top six. That’s a lot of change needing to come together quickly in such a shortened season.