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A Somewhat Accurate Pacific Division Preview

For years I’ve put together Pacific Division previews and basically just shared them with family and friends. This year, thanks to the folks here at Oilers Nation, I get to share my Pacific predictions with all of you lucky individuals.

THE STANDINGS

1. San Jose Sharks:

The Sharks made the biggest move of the off-season when they plucked Erik Karlsson out of Ottawa. They also managed to keep Evander Kane around long term and he was excellent after coming over from the Sabres. Kane scored nine times in 17 regular season games and added four more goals in nine playoff games.

2. Anaheim Ducks:

I know the Ducks are slightly banged up to start the season but I don’t see the loss of Perry or the delayed start of Kesler hurting the club in a significant way. John Gibson continues to emerge as an elite goaltender in the league and the Ducks top four on the blue line should only be getting better.

3. Los Angeles Kings:

Father time is not in the Kings favour but the god given ability of their top end talent appears to be holding up just fine. If Jonathan Quick stays healthy the Kings should be in the playoffs, it’s just that simple. I don’t see Kopitar repeating a career year offensively but I do believe Ilya Kovalchuk can still be an impact goal scorer in the NHL.

4. Edmonton Oilers:

The Oilers spot in the Pacific Division comes down to two players, Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot. If McDavid lives up the 120-point expectations I have for him and Talbot returns to a .917ish save percentage the Oilers will most certainly be in the thick of it.

5. Vegas Golden Knights:

Even with the additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty I still believe the Golden Knights will take a step backwards this season. Fleury should be solid between the pipes, I still believe they will have the ability to score goals but I’m not confident in their back end holding up as well as it did last year.

6. Calgary Flames:

If you could 100% guarantee me that Mike Smith was going stay healthy all year I’d have the Flames higher but I can’t believe in the big man’s durability. I really like the additions of Neal, Lindholm and Ryan up front but they weakened a blueline that underperformed last year.

7. Arizona Coyotes:

I’m not as bullish as some others on the Coyotes taking a significant step forward this year. Clayton Keller is a legit weapon to develop an offence around but the rest of this group needs a little more seasoning. Raanta was excellent in the second half of the season but will need to be even more superhuman this year if they are going to be in the playoff conversation.

8. Vancouver Canucks:

Vancouver is going to finish last in the division and that should make Canucks fans very happy. Boeser will take a run at 40 goals, Pettersson will likely be a Calder candidate and Horvat will continue to develop into an excellent top six forward. The top end of the 2019 draft is very talented and with Vancouver hosting the Canucks should be ecstatic to be a part of it.

THE TROPHY ROOM

Jun 21, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid poses for a photo with the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award in the interview room during the 2017 NHL Awards and Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

PACIFIC DIVISION HART TROPHY: Connor McDavid

It doesn’t matter if the Oilers make the playoffs or not McDavid will be the most valuable player in the division and it’s not even close.

Next In Line: Anze Kopitar

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Marc Andre-Fleury

PACIFIC DIVISION ART ROSS TROPHY: Connor McDavid

I have set my sights on a 120-point campaign for McDavid but as Bob McKenzie said on the smash hit Nielson Show this past Friday there really isn’t a reason to put any limitations on the leagues best player.

Next In Line: Ryan Getzlaf

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Clayton Keller

PACIFIC DIVISION ROCKET RICHARD TROPHY: Connor McDavid

McDavid scored 41 goals last year and worked on his shot in the off-season with the end goal being the back of the net on a more regular basis. He should push for 50 snipes with 47 being a conservative expectation.

Next In Line: Brock Boeser/Max Pacioretty (sorry William Karlsson)

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Rickard Rakell

PACIFIC DIVISION NORRIS TROPHY: Erik Karlsson

I’m expecting a huge season offensively from Erik Karlsson, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t finish with at least 75 points. If Karlsson is close to a point-per-game and the Sharks win the division he will take home top defenseman honours, no matter what Drew Doughty does.

Next In Line: Drew Doughty

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

PACIFIC DIVISION VEZINA TROPHY: John Gibson

This was probably the most difficult decision within the Division with the likes of Fleury, Quick, Jones and possibly even Talbot once again being in the mix. Gibson has posted save percentages of .920, .924 and .926 over the last three seasons and there is no reason to expect anything different this year.

Next In Line: Marc-Andre Fleury

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Antti Raanta

PACIFIC DIVISION CALDER TROPHY: Elias Pettersson

Pettersson is an easy pick and will likely run away with the title of best rookie in the division. As I mentioned in my Hot Takes piece last week I’m projecting Pettersson to be close to 65-points this year. Overall it’s not a strong year for rookies in the division, in fact the second and third best freshmen may be playing right here in Edmonton. 

Next In Line: Evan Bouchard

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Kailer Yamamoto (I wanted to say Dylan Strome but it looks like he has struggled in Coyotes camp)

PACIFIC DIVISION JACK ADAMS AWARD: Peter DeBoer

I’m expecting a huge year from the Sharks and in those situations the coach is usually recognized as the best among his peers.

Next In Line: John Stevens

Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Todd McLellan

YOU’RE WELCOME

So there you have it, now you know the exact opposite of how things will end up breaking down in the Pacific Division this year. Enjoy the season!

P.S. I don’t care about the damn Pacific Division Lady Byng.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I stil say San Jose is first, Edmonton second, with Cegas and LA battling for 3rd. Calgary downgraded their blue line and Mike Smith’s injury history is well-known in the league. Plus, they don’t have a reliable backup to step in (as was evident last year). Anaheim is done. No Perry, no Kesler. They’re done. Arizona will miss, but not for much longer. They got some good young talent coming up, and Raanta looks good between the pipes. As for Vancouver? Give it a few seasons yet.

    • MrBung

      Edmonton is placed about right at maybe 4th. Their struggles against the Flames last season and outplayed in the last preseason game does not bode well. I think think the Oil fall short of playoffs.

      • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

        Struggles? What struggles? We handily outplayed them in all 5 games. Mike Smih had to steal them two wins. As for being outplayed, they were boarding a plane to Germany 2 hours after gametime. Do you expect to focus with a beautiful European trip ahead of you? Get your head out of the sand man.

        • MrBung

          No. The Oilers played mostly AHL line ups. The Oil were generally outplayed this last game which most closely represented an actual NHL line up. They won because Smith played terrible.

        • OilerForLife

          I would say that one of LA, ANA, OR VEG will fall off, probably Anaheim, due to major injury to Perry, and an injury and age to Getzlaf. Of course Calgary won’t do much better, goaltending will be a real problem with $mith. Most analysts are predicting this..

          • HOCKEY83

            It’s true when it’s predicted in regards to the flames but the analysts are also predicting the Oil have no chance as well due to lack of Defense and only having 2 function lines on the team. Do you believe this as well because most analysts are predicting this. It’s my hope that both teams surprise and both make the playoffs…Alberta needs this in a big way. Both teams have been giant losers for far too long.

      • HOCKEY83

        Just having them 4th on the list has them falling short of the playoffs because the central division will take their 3 spots plus 1 wild card spot for sure and have at least 2 other teams fighting for the second wild card spot.

  • Rusty

    Seems possible. I have Anaheim lower. Getzlaf has those slow starts which then turn into red hot steaks down the stretch. I think a slow start/injuries will kill their season. I also think cal, la and edm all have the same narrative, if things go right they will be in the playoffs, if things go wrong it will go really wrong. One team out of these three will separate from the pack this season. I think your bang on for SJ, Vegas and van.

  • 18% body fat

    boeser isnt scoring 40. injury to his wrist and likely hood to continue to shoot 20% makes regression more likely than linear or exponential progression which everyone expects from young players.

  • Opi

    Is there a larger homer around than Dustin Nielson … ? Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees, wowza … Chia made zero improvements to a 78 point squad & Looch & Talbot are a year older now … this will be a typical 75-ish points Edmonton campaign …

    • maxedison

      I think the argument is that many of the players who were on the Oilers playoff team two years ago had a down year last year and can rebound this year. I think it’s a high variance year where the Oilers could finish anywhere between 1st and 7th, just like the other teams in the division not named Vancouver (I even give Arizona a shot at surprising).

      • 10 jersey collection

        There is also the argument that the Oilers all had career years 2 years ago and a down year last year. Should be in the middle of the two years and in the hunt.

      • HOCKEY83

        That is a true statement Maxedison. There are 12 teams that are positive they are making the playoffs in the west right now with only 8 spots available. 5 of which will probably go to the central division. So the pacific will be fighting over 3 spots. teams will be missing the playoffs by a very small margin…maybe 1 or 2 wins.

    • Oilfan_81

      Yes you’re a bigger homer on FlamesNation and Sportsnet OPI. Don’t be sad because Nielson placed the Flames right where they should be. Maybe even lower with that below .900 we’ve witnessed from Smith since coming back from injury last season.

  • Spydyr

    The Oilers will be in a struggle all season to secure a playoff spot and they will only be in the thick of things if McDavid stays healthy and Talbot plays like a mid level starter or better.

    The defence and wings has very little depth one injury to a top defenceman would really hurt the team.I’m still holding out hope for a waiver wire pick up to supplement the defencive depth.

    On the wings if players like Caligula and Aberg are on your team, your team is hurting on the wings.

    Lucic has showed that he is still slow and has trouble with the puck.Spending six million on a third line winger hurts the team.

    The Oiler have had a good preseason run but many of the games where against AHL level competition. Having a good start is paramount this season unfortunately the schedule in October is a Murderers’ row.

    It is not all sunshine, rainbows and kool-aid. It should be an interesting season and we have the immense pleasure of watching a in his prime McDavid play. That alone makes it worth watching every game.

    • LordVallko

      And if there powerplay finishes in the top 10. If the oil don’t stay above 500 at evry months end, get Todd the hell out of there immediately or suffer the same fate as past Todd performances.

    • ed from edmonton

      Agree that the OIl D depth is the most concerning aspect at this point. It appear that they will start with both Bear and Bouch on the roster. I expect to see Garrison signed. I continue to hope PC can find a way to use the Sekera cap space to bolster the D.

      You obviously hadn’t heard that Aberg (and Jerabek) have been put on waivers. I don’t think a 4th line winger like Cagullia is a make or break guy for this years team. Given the pre-seasons by Rattie, Yam and JP, I;m actually optimistic about wingers at this point.

  • Opi

    Edmonton finished closer to the Nucks than the Flames last season then made no changes yet are vastly improved according to Nielson … wonder no longer why Oil Nation is so over-the-top, grandiose & off the mark every season with media types like Dustin around …

  • CMG30

    As soon as the puck drops on the regular season things may change, but at this point the addition of Karrlson makes San Jose contender for top spot in the division if not the league.

    With Vancouver hosting the draft, if there was ever a year to finsh dead last it’s this one. Of course I expect them to screw it up by going on a few win streaks over the season but just falling short of playoff territory but not before a good chunk of their fanbase starts to insist that this is really a legit team.

    As for Calgary, so much of their season will come down to goaltending. The moves they made in the off season, though popular with their fanbase, have downgraded the team. If they get solid goaltending it will more than make up for it though.

  • OILERSORDEATH

    Sounds like Opi needs a hug and a Capri Sun. Poor little Flamer still mad the Oil came back and stole a preseason win? We know how important those are for ya.

    • Bills Bills

      Sure, and the Flamers are so much better. Last year they couldn’t score to save their lives. How did they address it? Trade their top scoring defenceman. Cool, then add an aging winger that has always proven that he truly needs someone to drive that line. Double cool. Of course don’t forget your overpriced goalie that is incredibly talented at being unreliable in his aging years. Triple cool. Did I mention that you completely downgraded the coach to one who in four years was not able to improve the Hurricanes even marginally. He was consistently mediocre. Quadruple cool.

      I don’t see the Flamers burning many people this year. But good luck.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    Talbot makes me nervous. He seems like a solid guy and he can be a great goalie at times but he’s lost that swagger he had 2 seasons ago. He looked leaky against Calgary. If he doesn’t have a good start this season the Oilers will have to address the goalie situation.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      “Looked leaky against Calgary”

      Which would explain that he stopped EVERY shot after it was 3-1 for the Flames. But yeah, it’s Talbot’s fault for being down 3-1 and not the team in front of him showing up.

    • maxedison

      Yeah I don’t know if a.928 SP is leaky. After the first period he settled in, whereas I would be much more concerned with Mike Smith’s age performance.

  • maxedison

    I think the argument is that many of the players who were on the Oilers playoff team two years ago had a down year last year and can rebound this year. I think it’s a high variance year where the Oilers could finish anywhere between 1st and 7th, just like the other teams in the division not named Vancouver (I even give Arizona a shot at surprising).

    • IRONman

      Vegas is no joke. Not sure why everyone is down on them. They earned the playoffs. Honestly if the Oilers don’t fix the Defence, playoffs are a dream. Thank god Talbot can stand on his head. Need to replace Sekera, don’t joke yourself PC

  • chezzychez

    yikes, judging by some of the comments people don’t seem to have a ton of faith in the boys to start the season. I do. If special teams takes a leap forward the team will be massively improved from last year. On the PK, guys like Brodz and Rieder help on the ice, trent yawney will obviously help and Cam looks ready to go out of the gates this year. I’m less sure about the PP but, we do have Mcdavid and you gotta think he’s going to take a step forward with the man advantage. He’s been shooting a ton more and I think that alone will help us see the PP numbers improve.

  • bwar

    I gotta believe flames make the playoffs this year. They have a loaded up forward group, solid defense group and some questions in goal. With the Pacific division not being amazing they should be in the playoffs barring a major goaltending meltdown.

  • ed from edmonton

    For the Oil to challenge for a playoff position 2 things need to fall into place.

    1. Talbot need to find his 16/17 form. He has been nothing short of outstanding in pre season, lots of reason for optimism on this point.
    2. Goals increased by about 55 last year as compared to 16/17. This was due to a combination of unreliable goaltending, unreliable D and terrible PK in the 1st half. One of the keys to improve this will be the play of Klef and Larssen to return to a true 1st pairing. I would say that Klef and Larseen have looked like vets just trying to get through the pre-season without getting inured. This one could go either way.

    The oil goals for last year was only off by 14 vs 16/17 and this was with a dreadful PP. If PP is only average goals for should not be a problem. I would also say with the promising play of Rattie, Yamo and JP in the preseason we might see a significant bump in goals for.

  • Windrunner

    Dusty, Dusty, Dusty…..Homer much? I think the key in Edmonton will be Draisatl and Lucic. Drai needs 80 pts and Lucic needs 50 pts or it will be out of the playoffs again.

  • toprightcorner

    Ducks will miss the playoffs. Too old and not enough offense. Perry isn’t the reason, they would have missed anyway. Kings are the bubble team. Kopitar will be good, but not like last year and Brown’s points will drop in half. Kovalchuck will not be who we remember will show how the KHL has hurt his game and will be lucky to score 20 goals.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      John Gibson, might be a vezina candidate this year. Young forwards: Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silverberg, Nick Ritchie, Richard Rakell all fast and very skilled. Ducks did have the best record in the 2nd half of the season last year too. I see them 2nd or 3rd in the Pacific this season. (1. SJ, 2-3. Vegas/Ana)

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    If history tell you anything, it should be provide a warning to Oiler fans. McDavid can score as many points as he wants, but the rest of the the team determines where they will finish. Rattie and Yammer scoring loads of meaningless points in pre-season is just that. They add nothing to the win column and do nothing but lead fans to believe their team is invincible.

    Draisaitl running a line for the whole season and defense capable of lining up against NHL players will help the team win. Being able to prevent PP goals will help. Playing a NHL quality defense, not just the best you have available. Bouchard may be the real deal, but not for some time.

  • Peksisarvinen

    Agree about Talbots role, strongly disagree with McDavids role. You can basically bank on him scoring 100+ points with 40+ goals. It’s up to everyone else, and specifically Nuge (who was great last year but still has more in the tank I think), Drai (pretty much the same), Looch and the defensive core who’ll make or break the team. McDavid will do his part, you can’t put anything more to his shoulders.