After one season of facing exclusively Canadian opponents, the Oilers will be headed back to the Pacific Division in 2021-22.
The division will be different looking than the last time we saw it, as the Arizona Coyotes have shifted to the Central Division
in order to accommodate their inevitable move to Houston in order to make room for the NHL’s most recent expansion team, the Seattle Kraken.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday THURSDAY EDITION question. How do you think the Pacific Division will shake out? Can the Oilers finish at the top of the standings? How will Seattle do in their inaugural season?
Let’s go through the competition based on how they did in the league standings in 2021, from top to bottom…
Vegas Golden Knights
40-14-2 (82 points), 2nd in West Division, 191 Goals For, 124 Goals Against
The Golden Knights had an excellent season in 2021, finishing in a tie with the Colorado Avalanche for the most points in the league. They wound up not winning the Presidents’ Trophy because Colorado had more regulation wins, but the Golden Knights ousted them in the second round of the playoffs. Vegas would end up losing in the next round to the Montreal Canadiens, who were on their miracle run.
Unlike in every other off-season in their short existence, the Golden Knights didn’t make a huge addition this summer. Their marquee move of the off-season was dealing away Marc-Andre Fleury, the 2021 Vezina Trophy winner, for literally nothing other than to open salary cap room.
Vegas will be rolling with a very similar group this year as they did last, so it’s safe to assume they’ll be good again. The big question is whether Robin Lehner can carry the load without Fleury.
35-19-2 (72 points), 2nd in North Division, 183 Goals For, 154 Goals Against
The Oilers put together a strong season, finishing second in the Canadian Division behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was some skepticism about Edmonton’s success, though, as eight of their wins came against the lowly Ottawa Senators. Edmonton would go on to get swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets, another team they had their way with during the regular season.
This summer featured major changes to the Oilers’ roster, so this is a pretty different group from the one we saw last year. The team added Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Cody Ceci, and Duncan Keith while Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and Jujhar Kahira moved on. The one thing, somewhat surprisingly, that remained the same was the goaltending duo.
Edmonton’s roster appears stronger this year than last, but the wild-card yet again will be goaltending. Can Mike Smith be as good as he was in 2021? Will Mikko Koskinen rebound?
26-27-3 (55 points), 5th in North Division, 156 Goals For, 161 Goals Against
Simply put, the Flames were wildly mediocre last season. The offence that was one of the deepest in the league a few years ago dried up to below league average and the team’s big off-season splash, Jakob Markstrom, didn’t live up to expectations. Bringing back Darryl Sutter for another tour of duty mid-season also didn’t move the needle.
Many expected a big move from the Flames this summer, such as trading soon-to-be free agent Johnny Gaudreau, but that didn’t happen. The Flames’ biggest loss came at the Expansion Draft, as Seattle scooped up captain Mark Giordano. The team’s biggest addition came in free agency as Blake Coleman inked a six-year, $29,400,000 deal.
A huge season from Markstrom could certainly help the Flames rebound, but they aren’t a stronger team this year than last. Not having Giordano will surely be a huge loss for Calgary.
23-29-4 (50 points), 7th in North Division, 151 Goals For, 188 Goals Against
The Canucks’ season in 2021 was nothing short of a disaster. The team carried high expectations after their playoff run in the bubble in 2020, but they failed to build on it. The darkest point of the season for the Canucks was their horrible COVID-19 outbreak, as the team missed nearly a month of play between late-March and mid-April. Outside of Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko, pretty much nothing went well for the Canucks in 2021.
Despite the mess, the Canucks are still riding with Jim Benning as their general manager. He bought out Braden Holtby and dumped Nate Schmidt after just one season with the team, freeing up cap room to make some changes. Benning’s biggest move came when he acquired Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Coyotes. Restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes remain unsigned.
The key to Vancouver’s season in 2021-22 will be how OEL looks in new scenery and how Pettersson, assuming he signs, bounces back from an injury-riddled year. It’s not easy to be optimistic about this group after last year.
Los Angeles Kings
21-28-7 (49 points), 6th in West Division, 143 Goals For, 170 Goals Against
The Kings unsurprisingly missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2021. The team has been navigating a much-needed rebuild over the past few years and it seems they might be ready to turn a corner.
L.A. still has a couple of cornerstones in Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty which is a great foundation for their wealth of young players breaking into the league. Gabriel Vilardi, Tyler Madden, Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, and Quinton Byfield are in the mix to make a difference this season, giving L.A. serious breakout potential.
The Kings also added a few quality veterans this off-season, signing two-way centre Phillip Danault to a multi-year deal and defender Alex Edler to a one-year contract.
San Jose Sharks
21-28-7 (49 points), 6th in West Division, 151 Goals For, 199 Goals Against
The Sharks are a mess. They’ve now missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, and, if they miss again this year, it’ll be their longest drought in franchise history. To make matters worse, their leading scorer, Evander Kane, is currently under investigation for compromising games for the purpose of betting.
Strapped in a tough salary cap situation, the Sharks didn’t make any major additions this summer. The two additions of note are Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano, a pair of quality two-way forwards for the team’s bottom-six. They also bought out the contract of Martin Jones and will be rolling with a tandem of Adin Hill and James Reimer.
It’s difficult to see the Sharks bouncing back with their current group, which certainly isn’t getting any younger.
17-30-9 (43 points), 8th in West Division, 126 Goals For, 179 Goals Against
There isn’t much to say about the Ducks, who finished second last in the league last season, ahead of only the comically bad Buffalo Sabres. Anaheim didn’t do much this off-season so the only way they’ll have a better showing in 2021-22 is if young talent like Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras have huge, breakout seasons and John Gibson is unbeatable in net.
Finally, we have the league’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken.
Seattle didn’t have as exciting of an Expansion Draft as the Golden Knights did a few years ago, as they didn’t make any side deals with other teams, but they seem to have put together a pretty good roster.
They loaded up with a strong blueline, adding veterans like Giordano, Larsson, and Jamie Olekskiak along with interesting young talent in Haydn Fleury and Vince Dunn. They also landed some quality forwards from cap-strapped teams, like Yanni Gourde and Jordan Eberle, but there isn’t much depth up front. One strength here appears to be goaltending with a tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger between the pipes.
How Seattle does in their first year is anyone’s guess. After what Vegas did and has continued to do, I wouldn’t ever bet against an expansion team.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Vegas and Edmonton will be the top two teams in the division while Anaheim and San Jose won’t be playoff teams. The middle will feature a pair of bounce-back hopefuls in Calgary and Vancouver, a breakout candidate in Los Angeles, and a wild-card in Seattle.
Here’s my guess as to how the Pacific Division shakes out…
1. Vegas Golden Knights
2. Edmonton Oilers
3. Seattle Kraken
4. Calgary Flames
5. L.A. Kings
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. San Jose Sharks
8. Anaheim Ducks
What say you, Nation? How do you think the standings will look in the Pacific Division in 2021-22?
WWYDW BROUGHT TO YOU BY DEUCE VODKA
‘In life, there are so many moments to celebrate, I don’t want to waste a great moment on a bad drink. That’s why I choose Deuce Vodka’ – Brett Kissel. Click here to find Deuce Vodka in a store ne