2013-14 Pacific Division: Projected Standings

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the Edmonton Oilers’ new division. Now the pivotal question: will they snag one of the four playoff spots in this group?

The Contenders

1. Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are my choice for the top spot in the division; this team won the Cup in 2012 and went to the Conference Finals in 2013 and the roster hasn’t changed much. They fell down the standings last year thanks to an abnormally poor regular season from Jonathan Quick, and that isn’t likely to be repeated. They should be well clear of Edmonton.

2. Vancouver Canucks. This roster doesn’t look as good on paper as previous editions of the team, but the same stars are there up front and the defence might be the best in the Western Conference despite the lack of a superstar number one. A lot hinges on Roberto Luongo; the Canucks have gambled that after wanting to leave he’ll be able to come back and contribute at a high level. It’s a risk, but they’re probably right.

3. San Jose Sharks. This is a very good team; they’re smartly coached and smartly managed (given my choice of NHL general managers, there aren’t many I’d take ahead of Doug Wilson) and they have great depth and talent down the middle.

The Bubble

4. Anaheim Ducks. The loss of Sheldon Souray to injury and the addition of Mark Fistric on defence have changed the picture a little bit since our comparison, weakening the Ducks’ defence. This is a catchable team for the Oilers but not one I’d care to bet on Edmonton being ahead of.

5. Edmonton Oilers. We’ve analyzed Edmonton’s strengths and weaknesses to death this season. Up front they have solid top end talent but questionable depth, particularly at centre. On defence, they have exceptional depth but a dearth of proven top-two defencemen. Devan Dubnyk provides solid goaltending. Put it all together and this is a team on the bubble, one I have projected to be in the playoff race until the bitter end (though they could snatch a crossover spot in the Central). (Others feel more optimistic about the team’s placement).

6. Phoenix Coyotes. A forward corps that leans too much on Mike Ribeiro and Shane Doan is the Coyotes’ primary weakness, and what might make them vulnerable to the Oilers this season. Any of the three teams listed here could snag that final playoff spot in my estimation; there isn’t a night-and-day difference between Anaheim and Edmonton and Phoenix.

The Cellar

7. Calgary Flames. The roster was gutted last season and it seems likely to take a few more vicious kicks in the lead up to the 2013-14 trade deadline. The forward group lacks top end talent, the defence is suspect and nobody knows who the starter is. Welcome to the rebuild.

Recently around the Nation Network

A new picture has been making the rounds in Winnipeg, one showing a much leaner version of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. At Jets Nation, Travis Hrubeniuk writes about what Jets fans can expect from the oft-criticized defenceman:

I believe that he has the chance to be a truly successful top pairing D-man with the numbers to back it up, should a couple things happen. First, he needs some help in net. It’s been the story for this team for years now. People refuse to believe that the Jets have been a solid defensive team with poor goaltending behind them, and choose to inaccurately accuse the blue line of inadequate play. Byfuglien may as well be the poster boy for this myth, as he and Enstrom are truly an effective top pairing duo.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

  • DSF

    I agree that we need more centre depth and forward depth overall. But part of the solution to that is giving more minutes to the top 6. I think a better and more mobile defense will translate to more offensive zone faceoffs and less defensive zone faceoffs. That should translate to more ice for Hall, RNH, Eberle. It’s going to be a fine line between playoffs and no playoffs for the Oil. But a couple more minutes from Hall & co. a night, the better the overall results.

  • Spydyr

    If I learned anything last year it’s that predictions are tough. I maybe got one or two right in terms of order. Now with the realigned divisions, it only gets harder. Who knew Anaheim was going to have the season they did last year? Who saw the Kings goal tending letting them down all regular season long? Who new Nashville was going to be so bad without Sutter? Actually I did call that one as they have nothing up front for scoring and Rinne is not as good as everyone thinks he is.

    Anyway, my point is that all it takes is a significant injury, or an off season for a goalie to really change the fortunes of a team. I would say for Edmonton to make the playoffs, a lot has to break their way. First and foremost is that Ferrence has to provide some steady and solid defence. Second is one of Belov, Grebbie, Phillips, or perhaps Klefbomb has to come out of nowhere and be our diamond in the rough. If those two things can happen, I think we have a shot.

    If on top of that our stars stay healthy and our second line is able to click, then maybe we got a playoff shot.

  • DSF

    This seasons schedule is brutal due to the olympics. At least 8 three games in 4 nights, a couple of 6 games in 8 nights. The teams that handle that work load will move on to the next round (playoffs). The best thing for the Oilers might be if Hall and Ebs don’t make the Olympic team (as starters). Eakins fitness strategy should help if the team has the work ethic.

  • DSF

    In spite of the skill difference between Calgary and Edmonton……….I’m thinking Calgary will surprise a few people.

    If Sean Monohan makes the team ( all indications are he will) this will give them a definite advantage. I say they will give us a run for our money and may finish ahead of us.

    Without Nuge starting the season…….our lines will be all mixed up with players playing out of position. This is a recipe for disaster, followed up by the Nuge returning and re-calibrating the lines once again, and then waiting for the momentum to carry us.

    If we have a losing record to start the season……..it will be a long season to try and play catch-up. Maybe next year will be the breakout season we have all been waiting for?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Kinda like to see this happen. Turn that friggin burner on high under this management group.

      Keep firing coaches and GM’s till your hearts content Kevin.

    • OilClog

      As Oiler fans, I think we’re all familiar with knowing that even star studded rookies cannot change the fortunes of a team in their first year. Even Crosby did not turn the Penguins around hi first year on the job. Nuge was a Calder Nominee, Yak should have won it, and yet these individual players did not make a lousy team into a surprising playoff contender.

      I have no doubt that Monahan will one day be a great two way centre, but I just can’t see it being nearly enough on such a depleted team at all positions to surprise anyone. Even last year when TJ Brodie did surprise everyone, it still wasn’t enough.

      Finally, I haven’t seen anything but flashes from the all might Sven Bertchi. Nuge, Yak, Hall, and Eberle this kid is not. As for Monahan, if he gets close to becoming an O’Reily, that would be huge. I can’t see him progressing much further than that.

      Speaking of O’Reily (sort of) in the same vein that Monahan won’t change the fortunes of Calgary, I can’t see Mckinnon single handily changing the fortunes of Colorado either.

    • DSF

      I still think Grabovski will land in Calgary which will change the dynamic of that team significantly.

      If they add both Grabovski and Monahan at C, they will look a lot different.

      Their goaltending, though, is a complete mystery.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Not sure if you’re compensated for your efforts here, but if you are, you’re grossly underpaid DSF. Your Legend here grows with every pot shot tossed in your direction. Well done sir.

        Flip of the coin as to who finishes last in the Pacific this season. The Oil have as much a chance at that last spot as the Flames do. Every one of us here figured we’d be in loading up mode, instead of still trying to fill significant roster spots. 4 holes still remain in the bottom of the Oilers boat. How much longer will these kids continue to put up with this “Edmonton” management problem. Another difficult year on the horizon no doubt.

      • DSF

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Calgary snag Grabo for 5 years, at a price they’d probably regret when it’s all said and done, but one that instantly makes them better this year.

    • Stud Muffin

      1.The flames are terrible
      2.RNH will be back to start the season
      3.flames are rebuilding this year and probably will try to be as bad as they can this season and next

  • DSF

    @mr common sense

    Hanzal and Vermette are good #3 Centers. But just look at their forwards not good enough. Oilers only real problem is their bottom 6 but someone can step up from their system to improve that. They will not “easily” make the playoffs. They could but it’s not a smooth ride bro

  • 24% body fat

    Personally I would like wild cards every year even if there where 16 teams for the west .There has been years when you look at final standings and you feel team X got screwed as team Y made it with fewer points .

  • 24% body fat

    @DSF

    AVS improved yes! But their Defense is still as bad last year maybe worse. And to make the playoffs you have to have good depth at every position, Forwards, Defense and Goalie

    • DSF

      Yeah, I’m not to thrilled with their D either.

      I imagine they are hoping Erik Johnson finally lives up to his billing and they did add Cory Sarich, for what that is worth.

      Their goaltending was sub par last season so it’ll be interesting to see if Patrick Roy and Francois Allaire can have an impact there.

      I would expect Varlamov should be somewhat better since his .903 last season was his worst ever and his career average is .912.

      • Stud Muffin

        Erik Johnson could be good or bad. Hejda is their most consistent player in D. Barrie was good last year and Cory Sarich is not really a Top 4. Varlamov is good though. so let’s say I’m not thrilled either

  • DSF

    why is everyone underestimating Phoenix? they will be unreal, ribeiro is a legit #1C and Hanzal can now slip to #2 and Vermette #3. Ekman-Larsson is a year better and Mike Smith will be posting shuouts every other game behind Tippet’s system. Write it down, Phoenix will easily make the playoffs. The Oil are in trouble…they do not match up well in this new division.

    • DSF

      I agree to some extent.

      Phoenix has great goaltending, a fantastic D and Dave Tippet.

      Their forward group is pretty pedestrian but, as you say, adding Ribiero will have a trickle down effect on Hanzal and Vermette in terms of ice time and matchups.

  • DSF

    @JW

    Since you’re looking at teams the Oilers might be battling for a playoff spot, it would be interesting to see your take on Dallas, Colorado, Nashville and Winnipeg.

    To my eye, Dallas is likely the most improved team in the conference and managed to finish ahead of the Oilers last season.

    Colorado has had a major makeover in management and coaching as well as adding Nathan McKinnon and will be getting full seasons from Ryan O’Reilly and Steve Downie.

    They could be much improved.

    Nashville is always hard to get a good read on so who knows.

    But Winnipeg has added Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi so their offense may get a bit of a boost.

  • DSF

    My opinion

    The Contenders
    1.) LA Kings- Solid depth on forwards and defense that goes along with an elite goalie and a good backup.

    2.) San Jose Sharks- Great Depth up front, Defense is kind of bad especially if Burns is gonna play RW

    3.) Anaheim Ducks-Great Depth up front Just missing a 2nd line C but those are rare. Defense is a worry but they have one of the best goalie duos in the NHL

    The Bubble
    4.) Edmonton Oilers-Great Top 6, Decent Defense, Bad Bottom 6 and bad depth at C could be their downfall. Dubnyk is good

    5.) Vancouver Canucks- aging team but still has a good Top 6. Bottom 6 could be bad or decent. Defense is decent with an elite goalie

    6.) Phoenix Coyotes-Forwards are really bad at least offensively. Defense is Great and Smith is really good

    The Cellar
    7.) Calgary Flames- This is too obvious

  • Mantastic

    i really don’t think Vancouver will make it top 2 due to their equally poor depth in every position. they don’t have enough actual NHL talent to fill out their roster to begin with and being an older team playing under Torts, they’ll be digging deep for players to fill in for injuries. and those depth players are complete garbage.

    • DSF

      At what position are they “lacking depth?

      Their goaltending is fine.

      Their D is one of the best in the NHL.

      LW: Sedin, Booth, Higgins, Sestito, Shinkaruk

      RW: Burrows, Hansen, Kassian, Weise

      C: Sedin, Kesler, Richardson, Shroeder, Gaunce, Horvat, Lain

      There are some question marks at C since it appears the Canucks are hoping one of Gaunce or Horvat can grab the #3C spot so they can move Richardson to wing but they’re in far better shape than last season when they had to play the first 31 games without Kesler.

        • Plus the fact Burrows and Kesler are total douche bags and am sure you can relate. start your own blog and move on dude … I would read it for the sheer enjoyment of folks picking it apart like you do on OILERSNATION – you could prob charge as we would pay to se it …

      • Mantastic

        every position.

        Goalies: Luongo, 2x players that have never played in the NHL, one of them never played on north american ice

        D: Solid top 4 but if Bieska and Edler played like last year, not so solid. outside of the top 4 they have a combined NHL games played of 80? hardly deep.

        C: Sedin, Kesler (health?), Richardson (is a much better winger than C), Schroder (lol?) and a bunch of rookies not named Sean Couturier, not shaking in my boots there.

        W: Sedin, Burrows solid top 6. Hansen, solid middle 6. everyone else is a question marks and rookies with the inability to move up and down the line up. Higgins is on the decline, Booth doesn’t actually score, Kassian can’t produce without the Sedins and the Sedins can make anyone score. Weise? seriously? Setisto?!

        their forward depth is complete crap.

        any injury to either their top 6 forwards, #1 goalie or top 4 D, they are in serious trouble.

        • DSF

          Really?

          Last season they had Kesler, Booth, Malhotra, Bieksa and Tanev all miss significant time with injuries and managed to finish with the 6th most points in the entire NHL.

          With Kesler in the lineup, taking the hard matchups, the Sedins get a lot more room to score.

          I wouldn’t count them out.

          • 2004Z06

            I think the unknown here is the Tortorella factor. I can’t wait to see the Sedins blocking shotsand back checking. Kesler will be injured at some point.

            I suspect the Tortorella act wears thin and this team tunes out by the stretch.

            Too many egos on that team and the biggest ego is the coach.

            Phoenix and San Jose will finish ahead of Vancouver.

          • DSF

            Okay.

            Daniel Sedin’s Corsi ON last season was +24.71.

            Henrik’s was +22.84

            Their Corsi Rel was 30.7 and 28.7 respectively.

            By way of contrast, Jordan Eberle led the Oilers with a Corsi ON of +3.47 while Taylor Hall was second at 2.79.

            Their Corsi Rel was 21.9 and 20.3 respectively.

            (Kesler only played 17 out of 48 games)

            Are you sure you want to discuss this in public?

          • Mantastic

            am i wrong? Canucks with Kesler had worse corsi than without him.

            and why are you comparing them to the Oilers? a team that was heavily outshot, period? earth shattering news, players on a team that gets outshot has worse corsi than a team that doesn’t get outshot!!!!

          • DSF

            LIkely, but I don’t know how to separate that.

            In an event, Kesler only played 17 games and their season long Corsi was still through the roof.

            As for your last point, this whole series has been about comparing the Oilers to the other teams in the Pacific.

            If you don’t like the facts, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

          • The Soup Fascist

            The Canucks were 18th in goals last year. They lost two offensive players in Raymond and Roy – and added no one. The Sedins are 33 and have hard miles on them. Kesler has yet to show the same pre-injury form from 2 years ago. How Booth never got bought out is a complete mystery to me. Although Ballard was even more abyssmal a signing and had to be dealt with.

            I just don’t see where the goals are coming from.

            While I understand the Sedins are in the last year of their contract and are very motivated, the offensive production of players (not named Teemu Selanne / Martin St. Louis) start to deteriorate pretty rapidly, right about ….. now.

            Top 4 is solid on D, with little depth and the (only) goalie is a guy the organization has tried to tie a can to for 18 months. It may not be this year – though I suspect that Torts could expedite things – but I see a steep fall for the Canucks in the near future. I don’t see 2nd in the division.

          • DSF

            The Canucks downward trend in scoring was mainly attibutable to 2 things:

            1) Kesler missing most of the season allowing the opposition to key on the Sedins.

            2) Their PP went from 1st in the league in 2011/12 (19.8%) to 22nd in the league (15.8%) Much of that is also due to Kesler’s absence since he plays with the Sedin’s on the #1 unit.

            In only 17 games upon his return from injury, Kesler scored 2 PPG and 5PPP which pro-rates to 10 goals and 24 points…just on the PP.

            In the last full season, Taylor Hall led the Oilers with 13 goals and 21 points on the PP.

            If Kesler stays healthy and the Canucks PP returns to top 5, they should once again be among the highest scoring teams in the league.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Right now neither of is wrong – yet. In three months we will have a better idea of where they are.

            I think it is going to be an interesting season for the Canucks. A quick start and they could have a decent year. A slow start, – with the distraction of the remnants of the Luongo soap opera, a coach who has never met a microphone he didn’t like and a finnicky media / fan base – could be a circus.

            I think the Oilers score more than the Canucks do, and by a bit of a margin. Very possible they will end up behind the Canucks in the standings, but I don’t think the gap will be large.

          • DSF

            Oh, I agree it’ll be a very interesting year for them.

            Not only are the Tortorella and Luongo situations something to keep an eye on, but they are also counting on David Booth to bounce back and for Zack Kassian to take a step forward.

            More than a few things could go wrong.

          • Mantastic

            you are awful. you compare a players prorated stats of 17 games last year to a player stats over a year ago.

            and you wonder why no one takes you seriously.

          • DSF

            Well, since you want to compare someone coming off an injury to someone who had a chance to play in the AHL during the lockout and was healthy…

            Taylor Hall’s PP production in 45 games last season was 4G and 14P.

            That pro rates to 8 goals and 25 points.

            Compared to Kesler’s 10 goals and 21 points.

            How do you think the Oilers PP would have fared if Hall missed 31 games last season?

            Seriously?

          • OilClog

            Fancy Stats.. Even with going for it Year after Year for the last 7 years.. Vancouver has acquired an astonishing total of 0 Stanley cups.. Let me repeat myself, the same total of the previous 34 years was met in just 7! 0 Stanley cups, Keslar Sucks, Sedins Suck, Gillis Sucks, Minnesota Sucks.

            Good Grief

          • Mantastic

            yup, thats exactly what he does. If you ever shoot down his argument (easy to do) he ignores you and replies to other comments, or just goes away until the next thread. Straw man, wet paper bag yadda yadda….

            I’ve brought up repeatedly DSFs assertion a few months ago that Peter Mueller is a better player than Nail Yakupov. Or the endless gushing about how amazing of a GM Dale Tallon is before this past season.

            But instead of answering the bell on many assinine crazy guarantees he makes, he just cherry picks stats, tells everyone how smart he is, how dumb they are and uses lots of “good grief”, “book it” and other pompous know it all things like that.

            I hope the Oilers get 120 pts this year and the Canucks get 50 just because its probably about the only thing that would shut him up.

    • DSF

      I’m guessing you were not only the kid who raised his hand first every time but corrected your classmates when they gave slightly inaccurate answers in class instead of allowing the teachers to do so.

      Maybe you should open your own blog so you can write about topics that would blow the minds of us knuckle dragging poser fans. I know I would be in complete awe of your insights and would finally understand hockey and the cosmos as well.

    • Split those hairs, DSF.

      There are four playoff spots per division, with the fourth one in each a wildcard spot. I phrase it that way because the crossover team stays in its new division for the length of the playoffs. Say Edmonton crosses over and plays in the Central – they than stay there, playing Central teams, until the Conference Finals.

      • DSF

        That’s not the way it works.

        There could be two wild card teams from each division.

        The Oilers will likely be battling Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas, Colorado and Nashville for one of two wild card spots.

        You phrased it this way:

        “Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the Edmonton Oilers’ new division. Now the pivotal question: will they snag one of the four playoff spots in this group?”

        There are not 4 playoff spots in this group unless one of the Pacific team wins a wild card spot.