Pacific Division Outlook
October 10, 2016
By Scott Rickenbach
Central Division Outlook
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2016-17 Division Odds
Anaheim Ducks 9/4
Los Angeles Kings 9/4
San Jose Sharks 9/4
Edmonton Oilers 7/1
Calgary Flames 8/1
Arizona Coyotes 60/1
Vancouver Canucks 80/1
2016-17 Point Totals
San Jose Sharks 100.5
Anaheim Ducks 99.5
Los Angeles Kings 98.5
Calgary Flames 88.5
Edmonton Oilers 88.5
Arizona Coyotes 78
Vancouver Canucks 76.5
Odds per Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook - Subject to Change
Anaheim Ducks – Is any team hungrier than the Ducks? After another successful regular season but another frustrating playoff exit, Anaheim sent bench boss Bruce Boudreau packing. In an interesting move, the Ducks re-hired Randy Carlyle who was their coach until the fall of 2011 when he was fired and replace by Boudreau! Carlyle is known as a very demanding head coach but Anaheim has a number of players who have experience with him from his prior time with the Ducks and also even from time he spent coaching the Canucks AHL team. With some aging veterans Anaheim knows the window is closing on their chance to chase the Cup. The Ducks were #1 in the league last season on the power play, penalty kill, and overall defense with just 2.29 goals allowed per game. Watch early for how the Ducks respond to Carlyle. I look for the Ducks to have a big season and they could get off to a quick start depending on how quickly they adjust to having Carlyle back behind the bench.
Arizona Coyotes – Surprisingly the Coyotes won 22 home games last season despite having some of the worst attendance in the league. This team really needs moved to Quebec in my opinion. However, the fact is they’re still in Arizona for at least another season and be careful playing against them at home as they are known for upsets there. Fade the Coyotes when the line value is there on the road as they only won 13 road games last season. Only one team, Edmonton, had less road wins with 12. Upper management changes have taken place with John Chayka replacing Don Maloney as General Manager and Dave Tippett now adding VP of hockey operations to his duties. Mike Smith in goal, when on, is solid but missed a lot of time last season. The Coyotes allowed nearly 3 goals per game - ranking among the worst in the league. Their penalty kill was also among the worst in the league last season. This team is likely to continue to struggle and look for opportunities to grab the “over” if goalie Smith is struggling or the nights he is out. The Coyotes are targeting improvement on their blue line (through acquisitions and the draft) but it is still a work in progress, especially early this season as the blue line needs time to gel.
Calgary Flames – The Flames regressed badly last season so it’s no surprise they made a coaching change as the head man is now Glen Gulutzan and Bob Hartley is out. Not only does the fresh leadership help at the top for a Calgary team that accumulated 97 points two seasons ago, they also should bounce back from last season’s disappointment (77 points) as they made huge changes in goal. Brian Elliott (came over from St Louis) is the new #1 and Chad Johnson (off solid season in Buffalo) is the new #2. This is going to help turn this team around as last season they were worst in the league with a 3.13 GAA but Elliott had a 2.07 GAA and Johnson a 2.36 GAA. The Flames did average 2.79 goals per game last season which was good enough to rank 10th in the league so, the fact is, if they get better goal-tending and have better team chemistry under Gulutzan they are in for a bounce back season and might even make it to the post-season this spring. I am forecasting the Flames to definitely be “right there” come mid-April.
Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers are on the uptick with moves made by GM Peter Chiarelli and certainly are excited about moving into a new downtown arena. Of course having arguably the best young talent in the game (Connor McDavid) plus having signed Milan Lucic in the off-season gives Edmonton a boost heading into the new season. It also helps that Todd McLellan is now in his second season with the Oilers as head coach. The Oilers already showed some improvement last season (went from 62 points to 70 points) but should show even bigger improvement as the Oilers have continued to show progress in the way they are rebuilding. The weakness is still the defense but they have plenty of firepower on offense and they also received good goal-tending from Cam Talbot once he settled in last season. Don’t underestimate the addition of Adam Larsson too as the blue-liner will help on the penalty kill. The Oilers power play has firepower and they just need to execute better but the pieces are coming together and special teams play is so critical to success in the NHL. The Oilers are heading in the right direction and should be a “play on” team in the new season.
Los Angeles Kings – The Kings aren’t projected by many to drop off much this season but I feel this team is heading downward quicker than many expect. Remember they recently won two Stanley Cup titles in three seasons but, since then, they’ve won only one playoff game the past two seasons! Will they even make the playoffs this season? The problem is they spent so much money in prior seasons that they have salary cap limitations now holding them back. Of course Jonathan Quick is fantastic between the pipes but he’s not getting any younger and he’s been a workhorse. If he wears down or gets hurt then the fact that former back-up Martin Jones departed in the Milan Lucic trade (2015, Lucic now with Edmonton) could look even uglier than it already did. LA is now relying on Jeff Zatkoff as their #2 goalie. It will be interesting to see if Anze Kopitar taking over as captain (from Dustin Brown) helps spark this team. The offense is all about puck possession under Darryl Sutter but they still don’t score enough goals. This takes away from a strong defense as Los Angeles is consistently in the Top Ten for GAA. Look for a continued drop-off in LA as San Jose and Anaheim remain strong in the division and Edmonton and Calgary are on the way up.
San Jose Sharks – After losing to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, the Sharks saw a few areas to work on. They are a big team that bullied their way through the Western Conference but Pittsburgh’s speed got to them in the Finals. The response for San Jose was the acquisition of David Schlemko and Mikkel Boedker to add some speed on the blue line and up front. The Sharks also struggled on the penalty kill (the power play is their strength in special teams) but they are hopeful a 2nd season under Peter DeBoer helps bring continuity there. Also, Chris Tierney (center who led team in ice time on penalty kill) will now be entering his third season with San Jose. The concern for the Sharks is that when head coach DeBoer stepped in and had success with Florida and New Jersey in his first season as the head coach his teams then regressed in future seasons. Will this be a repeat in San Jose? The Sharks have too much talent to regress too far but I do expect some drop-off this season after the huge playoff run last season. The Ducks could take the division this season and other divisional foes like the Oilers and Flames will provide tougher competition this season too. Look for a drop-off for the Sharks and if Martin Jones gets hurt or drops off at all in level of production, the drop could be even quicker. This is still a very strong team but I do not expect this team to have the same regular season success or post-season success that we saw last season. Look for spots to fade them particularly at home where they only won 18 of 41 games in the regular season last year. They were much stronger on the road – 28 wins in 41 games to lead the NHL.
Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks could end up being the worst team in the NHL this season. They were one of the worst last season and unfortunately (for Vancouver fans) it looks like another tough season is on tap. It was a surprisingly quick drop for the Canucks last season but it was no fluke. Vancouver dropped from 101 points to 75 points and more struggles are on tap for this season. Keep in mind this is a Canucks team that scored 50 less goals last season in comparison with the prior season. Yes they added a big goal scorer in Loui Eriksson (was with Bruins) in free agency but one man won’t player won’t solve all that has impacted this team. The Sedin twins will form a formidable first line with Eriksson but they are now 36 and Henrik’s campaign was impacted by injuries last season. Simply put, they are not getting any younger. The 2nd line features players who had “career years” last season so will there be a repeat? Unlikely, and after that there is a big drop-off in terms of production from this offense. The loss of right winger Radim Vrbata also hurts the Canucks offense. The defense of the Canucks has some good size but this team allowed 2.91 goals per game last season and they blue line didn’t provide much offense either. Only 23 goals from the defensemen last season and that ranked near the bottom of the league. The Canucks still have solid goaltending with Ryan Miller and back-up Jacob Markstrom but the trouble is they face way too many shots because of the poor play in front of them. The Canucks not only lost Vrbata and defenseman Dan Hamhuis but they also got nothing for those two players. The point is that the roster needs more rebuild before the Canucks are likely to be in the running for a playoff spot again. Vancouver only won 15 home games last season and that was worst in the Western Conference. More of the same is likely on tap for this season.
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