WWYDW(TE): Who in the Pacific Division got better? Who got worse?
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis5 months ago
Last season, the Pacific Division was technically the weakest in the NHL, as it was the only division to send just three teams to the playoffs.
The Kraken, Ducks, and Sharks were nowhere near the playoffs, the Canucks couldn’t climb back after a poor start, and the Golden Knights imploded because of injuries. The Kings enjoyed a breakout season but lost to the Oilers in the first round, and then Edmonton took down Calgary in the much-anticipated Battle of Alberta.
What can we expect this year? Are the Oilers the team to beat? Can any of the non-playoff teams bounce back? Let’s go through the Pacific Division and see who got better and who got worse this off-season…
2021-22 Record: 27-49-6 (8th in Pacific)
Goals For: 216 (29th), Goals Against: 285 (24th)
Notable Additions: Shane Wright, Andre Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Justin Schultz, Michal Kempny, Martin Jones.
Notable Subtractions: Victor Rask, Riley Sheahan, Haydn Fleury, Dennis Cholowski, Connor Carrick.
The inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken was nothing like what we saw from the Vegas Golden Knights a few years ago. The Kraken looked much more like an expansion team should, as they were slow out of the gate and wound up finishing in third last in the league standings.
Their second season should be better. The Kraken significantly added to their forward depth by signing Andre Burakovsky in free agency and trading for Oliver Bjorkstrand. They’ll also get a significant boost with a full season of Matty Beniers in the lineup. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft scored nine points in his first 10 NHL games last season and is a decent bet to win the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie.
2021-22 Record: 31-37-14 (7th in Pacific)
Goals For: 232 (22nd of 32), Goals Against: 271 (23rd of 32)
Notable Additions: Ryan Strome, John Klingberg, Frank Vatrano, Dmitri Kulikov, Olli Juolevi.
Notable Subtractions: Ryan Getzlaf, Sam Steel, Sonny Milano, Greg Pateryn.
The Ducks looked like they were having a breakout season early last year but they quickly started to slow down when the calendar flipped to 2022. Come trade deadline time, the Ducks were in the middle of what wound up being an 11-game losing streak, and new general manager Pat Verbeek gutted the team, trading away veterans Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson for futures.
The goal for the off-season in Anaheim was to reach the salary cap floor, and the Ducks did so by signing Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and John Klingberg in free agency. Those additions don’t compensate for the losses of Rakell, Lindholm, Manson, and captain Ryan Getzlaf, who retired at the end of the season, so the Ducks will look much more like the team that limped to the finish line than the one that started off hot.
San Jose Sharks
2021-22 Record: 32-37-13 (6th in Pacific)
Goals For: 214 (30th of 32), Goals Against: 264 (21st of 32)
Notable Additions: Nico Sturm, Luke Kunin, Oskar Lindblom, Matt Benning, Markus Nutivaara.
Notable Subtractions: Brent Burns, Rudolfs Balcers, Jonathan Dahlen, Ryan Dzingel, Adin Hill.
The Sharks are in an unenviable situation. They just missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season, their longest drought in franchise history. They have a top-heavy roster and aren’t bad enough to tank for high draft picks, but they’re also so bogged down by bad contracts that they can’t make the improvements needed to be competitive.
This summer, new general manager Mike Grier freed up some cap room by trading Brent Burns, one of the few veterans on a big contract who was actually performing to his salary. With the added wiggle room, the Sharks added depth to their roster in the form of Nico Sturm, Luke Kunin, Oskar Lindblom, Matt Benning, and Markus Nutivaara. It’s difficult to imagine that collection of players pushing the Sharks back to the playoffs.
2021-22 Record: 40-30-12 (5th in Pacific)
Goals For: 249 (18th of 32), Goals Against: 236 (8th of 32)
Notable Additions: Ilya Mikheyev, Andrey Kuzmenko, Curtis Lazar, Dakota Joshua, Christian Wolanin.
Notable Subtractions: Jaroslav Halak, Brad Hunt, Juho Lammikko, Jayce Hawryluk, Matthew Highmore, Nic Petan.
The Canucks got off to a very bad start last season and it resulted in general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green getting fired. Bruce Boudreau took over as Vancouver’s coach in December and the team immediately went on a seven-game winning streak. The Canucks were 8-15-2 under Green, went 32-15-10 with Boudreau, and wound up missing the playoffs by just a few points.
They added Ilya Mikheyev and Andrey Kuzmenko to provide scoring depth and Curtis Lazar to help the team’s defensive game but the biggest difference between the Canucks this year compared to last year is kicking things off with Boudreau behind the bench. Boudreau has a great regular-season record and should be able to get this flawed-but-skilled Canucks team back into the playoffs.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Vegas Golden Knights
2021-22 Record: 43-31-8 (4th in Pacific)
Goals For: 266 (12th of 32), Goals Against: 248 (15th of 32)
Notable Additions: Phil Kessel, Adin Hill, Michael Hutchinson.
Notable Subtractions: Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Mattias Janmark, Dylan Coghlan.
The Golden Knights came into the 2021-22 season as Stanley Cup contenders and then became favourites to win it all in November when they traded for Jack Eichel. The challenge for Vegas was that Eichel and his $10.5 million cap hit would take some serious financial maneuvering. Eichel returned to action in February following surgery but the Golden Knights were never able to ice their ideal roster and they wound up missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The cap casualties this summer for Vegas were Max Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov, who finished third and fourth on the team in goals last season. The Golden Knights also lost goaltender Robin Lehner for the season as he underwent off-season hip surgery and they didn’t have enough cap space to replace him with a real starter. While healthy seasons from Eichel and Mark Stone would be a huge boost, the Golden Knights took some major hits this summer, so getting back to the playoffs is far from a guarantee.
Los Angeles Kings
2021-22 Record: 44-27-11 (3rd in Pacific)
Goals For: 239 (20th of 32), Goals Against: 236 (8th of 32)
Notable Additions: Kevin Fiala.
Notable Subtractions: Dustin Brown, Andreas Athanasiou, Martin Frk, Olli Maatta, Troy Stecher, Christian Wolanin, Brock Faber.
The Kings got off to a terrible start last season but steadily improved as the year went on and wound up capitalizing on the Golden Knights’ meltdown and grabbing their first playoff spot since the 2017-18 season. Though they lost to the Oilers in the first round, the young Kings doing as well as they did with Drew Doughty out following wrist surgery was very impressive.
They made a major splash in the off-season, acquiring Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild following a 33-goal, 85-point season. Adding Fiala made the Kings better this summer but they could really become a dominant team if they get some breakout seasons from first-round picks such as Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, and Gabe Vilardi.
2021-22 Record: 49-27-6 (2nd in Pacific)
Goals For: 290 (7th of 32), Goals Against: 252 (16th of 32)
Notable Additions: Jack Campbell, Ryan Murray, Mattias Janmark, Klim Kostin.
Notable Subtractions: Duncan Keith, Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Derick Brassard, Josh Archibald, Kris Russell, Dmitri Samorukov.
The Oilers had an up-and-down first half of the season but finally started to hit their stride when Dave Tippett was fired and Jay Woodcroft took over as the team’s coach. They went 26-9-3 with Woodcroft behind the bench and reached the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2006.
They re-signed mid-season additions Evander Kane and Brett Kulak over the summer so the 2022-23 Oilers are coming back largely as the same group that went deep into the playoffs in the spring. The big difference will be the goaltending tandem, as Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner have replaced Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen.
2021-22 Record: 50-21-11 (1st in Pacific)
Goals For: 293 (6th of 32), Goals Against: 208 (3rd of 32)
Notable Additions: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri, Kevin Rooney.
Notable Subtractions: Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Erik Gudbranson.
The Flames put together their second-best season in franchise history last year. They finished first in the Pacific Division with 111 points, they had three different forwards reach 40 goals, and their goaltender led the league in shutouts. Come playoff time, the Flames edged out the Dallas Stars in the first round and then lost to the Oilers in the second round.
The off-season was a rollercoaster in Calgary. Johnny Gaudreau left the team in free agency to sign with the Blue Jackets and then Matt Tkachuk said he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal with the Flames. They traded Tkachuk to Florida for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar and then dumped Sean Monahan on the Habs to free up room to sign Nazem Kadri. It was an incredible result given how bad things looked for them in July.
Predictions for 2022-23…
8. Anaheim Ducks
7. San Jose Sharks
6. Seattle Kraken
5. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Vancouver Canucks*
3. Calgary Flames*
2. Los Angeles Kings*
1. Edmonton Oilers*
The Kraken will jump the Ducks and Sharks but still won’t be close to a playoff spot. The Golden Knights will again miss out because of poor depth and goaltending. The Canucks will squeeze in with a full season of Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. The Flames will take some time to gel and won’t do as well as they did last season. The Oilers will edge out the Kings and win their first division banner since the 1986-87 season.
How do you think the Pacific Division will shake out this year? Let us know!
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