by PuckStopsHere on 09/29/13 at 10:55 PM ET
With the regular season coming up, I am going to begin making my predictions for the 2013/14 season. We have a new alignment which will make things a little bit interesting and harder to predict than usual. Nevertheless I plan to try to make my pre-season predictions starting in the Pacific Division.
1. Los Angeles Kings - The 2012 Stanley Cup champions have recovered from their Stanley Cup hangover and have a talented team that led the NHL in puck possession last year. Jonathan Quick is one of the top goalies in the game. Drew Doughty is one of the top defencemen in the game. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams lead a solid deep group of forwards. This is one of the best teams in the NHL.
2. Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks window to win the Stanley Cup is beginning to close. In a perfect world Roberto Luongo and the Sedin brothers can lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup but since they are all in their 30s their best days are likely gone. If Ryan Kesler can remain healthy it will really help. On defence, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa lead a group which is solid but is not the Canucks biggest strength.
3. San Jose Sharks - This is another team that is probably on its way down without having won a cup. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are no longer young men. Logan Couture may be ready to take over the scoring lead, but he isn't the player they were in their primes. Dan Boyle remains the top defenceman and he too is getting old. Antti Niemi was a surprise Vezina Trophy nominee last year, but few consider him a truly top goaltender.
4. Anaheim Ducks - This team has some positives in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry but their other key offensive players in Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are a little long in the tooth. Francois Beauchemin surprised us with a top season on defence last year, but I doubt he can repeat it. Jonas Hiller showed signs of developing into a top goalie but his development seems to have stalled. This is a team that overachieved last year under Bruce Boudreau's tutelage. He is not a technical coach but managed to have a good run by creating a positive atmosphere. It will be hard to repeat.
5. Phoenix Coyotes - This is a strongly coached and managed team that has struggled due to a lack of ownership. It isn't clear that their new owners can do anything to change things - but hope exists. Mike Smith is a strong goalie who can keep things close. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle are solid defencemen. The biggest problem is a lack of top scoring forwards. Last year, Radim Vrbata led their forwards in points.
6. Edmonton Oilers - The young forwards in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are a great group to build around and conventional wisdom has been that they are ready to take off and make this team a contender before long (if they shouldn't have already done it by now). The problem is there isn't much beyond their young forwards. Justin Schultz was their top scoring defenceman last year. Devan Dubnyk is not a top flight goaltender but he is the best that the Oilers have. There are too many question marks to go with some good young offensive talent.
7. Calgary Flames - There isn't much to like about this team. Mike Cammalleri was their top scorer last year. Dennis Wideman was the top scoring defenceman. Joey Macdonald is the presumptive number one goalie. What part of that should make a Flames fan optimistic?
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