PACIFIC HEIGHTS 2014-15

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After weeks of ciphering, I have figured out the Pacific Division for 2014-15. Now, if you click-through it will ruin the surprise of the actual season, so consider this a spoiler alert on winter. Up next: where do they finish?

CALGARY FLAMES

  • Pacific Division: No. 7
  • Western Conference: No. 14
  • Overall: No. 28

The Flames added a veteran goalie in Jonas Hiller and Mason Raymond to somewhat make up for Mike Cammalleri flying the coop. The club has a nice rookie in Johnny Gaudreau and could keep Sam Bennett in the NHL, too. Rumors swirl about Kevin Hayes signing in Calgary to form a Boston College line, but this is a lottery team in 2014-15.

ARIZONA COYOTES

  • Pacific Division: No. 6
  • Western Conference: No. 13
  • Overall: No. 24

Arizona has a goal-scoring problem and didn’t improve it over the summer. Adding Sam Gagner and losing Mike Ribeiro is a wash at best, and Radim Vrbata was a big part of this team’s success. The Coyotes often surprise with late-summer additions, but from here I think they fall back significantly in 2014-15.

EDMONTON OILERS

  • Pacific Division: No. 5
  • Western Conference: No. 10
  • Overall: No. 21

The Oilers made improvements in goal during the season, and added quality and depth on the blue line over the summer. I think they could be playoff contenders with a veteran 2C, but he hasn’t arrived yet and management is burning daylight. As it stands, they are improved but shy of the postseason in 2014-15. Taylor Hall may kick out the jams and push through anyway. 

VANCOUVER CANUCKS 

  • Pacific Division: No. 4
  • Western Conference: No. 8
  • Overall: No. 16

The Canucks traded Ryan Kesler but received pretty good value. And they added Radim Vrbata and for my money that was their best move all summer. Ryan Miller was signed to stop pucks and he should do the job. I think they squeak into the playoffs.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

  • Pacific Division: No. 3
  • Western Conference: No. 6
  • Overall: No. 10

The Ducks traded for Ryan Kesler, but lost underrated Mathieu Perreault. Defensively, I’ve never been convinced of the quality of their blue, and Anaheim is less proven in goal than they’ve been in quite some time. I think they make the playoffs, but do not have the same season as one year ago.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

  • Pacific Division: No. 2
  • Western Conference: No. 4
  • Overall: No. 6

San Jose’s offseason was beyond weird. Having said that, they remain a stunning team in terms of talent and absolutely capable of winning Stanley. The biggest hurdle for this team might be ownership and management getting out of their own damn way. Weird. Real weird.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

  • Pacific Division: No. 1
  • Western Conference: No. 1
  • Overall: No. 1

I think the Kings have a good chance to win two Stanley’s in a row. Reason? That Gaborik trade was exactly what they needed: Another impact offensive player who could also play the game. Jacques Lemaire should be getting Christmas cards from Dean Lombardi.

  • TDM

    That is probably a fairly accurate depiction of this team. It’s been beaten to death 9000 times this off season but the lack of centre depth will be the downfall of this team. We have to hope that Arco and Drasaitl can both handle top 9 line duties and that none of our centres get injured. Instead of focusing on acquiring a 2nd line centre, as of right now I would be satisfied bringing in a 3rd line guy who can take some pressure off Gordon.

  • DCR

    Without making too many predictions, I expect the Canucks to do better this year than last.

    Too many players had career worst years; take Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin for example: Burrows scored 5 goals last year, 21 fewer than his lowest total of the previous 4 full seasons.

    Daniel Sedin scored 16 goals last year, 13 fewer than the lowest total his previous 4 full seasons.

    Even if we split the difference between their 2013-2014 totals and the lowest of their last 4 full seasons that would still give the team 18 more goals with both players playing well under their previous expectations.

    Last year was far too much of an outlier to make any sort of serious predictions based on those results.

    Kesler’s loss hurts, but probably not enough to offset the natural bounce-back of the rest of the team.

    • Actually I think your analysis is understated. Throughout last year I heard analysts and the media lamenting the overuse of the Sedins, I don’t think that will happen this year and that will improve their numbers and they have a legitimate sniper on the wing in Vrbata. The other thing I would disagree with a bit is the impact of losing Kesler. Here are my reasons: 1) It is widely reported that he was a whiner and complainer in the dressing room when things did not go his way; 2) His numbers the last two years are not what they were before his injury in the Nashville series, he is not a 40 goal scorer; 3) He seems to have lost a little of his speed edge, not a lot but it is starting; 4) The way he plays he is going to pile up injuries as he gets older; 5) He has never been a good puck distributor and does not improve his linemates. I think the three players that they got in return more than make up for his loss and have more potential to grow. The other factor not in your analysis is having a good coach who likes an uptempo game instead of a despot who did not care about his players and wants to play as style that pre-dates the first work-out and has been a failure since Tampa Bay.

  • TDM

    I think the Flames will not do that poorly. They have a no skill but crazy hard working team. They finish 22-24 I think. But this is a good thing. If they keep grinding their way out of the lottery then we get to watch them flounder out of the playoffs for years to come.

  • TDM

    When the Flames finish ahead of the Oilers this year, are we going to discuss the real problem of Lowe and Mac T running the team or are we going to continue to look the other way like the past 9 years?

    My challenge to the bloggers. If this happens will you step up with some real journalism like George Johnson in Calgary who questions management and forced change or leave us with same old same old…..

    • Spydyr

      The Oilers stopped a guy from handing out stickers at a bar on Whyte Avenue,stickers.

      What do you think would happen to any media member that stood up to this regime?

      If anyone needs a refresher go watch the “six rings” press conference again.

    • Rob...

      I don’t see Calgary having the pieces necessary to stay out of the basement. Edmonton has the pieces to miss the playoffs while being competitive. With the addition of a decent second line center we could make the playoffs. The only thing Calgary has going for it is a team work ethic that last year far exceeded what the Oilers were able to muster. Hopefully the late-season and off-season additions and subtractions have moved us in the right direction, effort-wise.

  • Mason Storm

    People have really got to start looking at Arcobello realistically. He started out last season with 11 assists in 11 games and finished the year with 7 points in his next 30. He’s not a #2 center, never will be. He’s a good #13/14 forward to put in the line-up for short periods. If he’s in the top 9 too start the year, this team is still outside the playoffs by 6-10 points.

  • DCR

    I think that the balance of power in the conference has shifted towards the Big Muddy. It would not surprise me if 3 teams (CHI, STL, and either COL or MIN) have a higher point total than the Pacific division champs. I also suspect that only 3 teams from the Pacific make the playoffs.

    Like many posters here, I expect LA to find some reason to not finish higher than 4th in the Conference. That will still be good enough to win the division, though. Like many of the same posters, I also like their odds to repeat as Cup winners.

    I fully expect San Jose to blow up. I may be biased, but I just don’t think they are as good as their press suggests. That said, I still think they make the playoffs because, as I said, I think nearly everyone in the division will also be worse than last year.

    Canucks are about right; they could be as high as 6, or as low as 10 for the conference, depending how it breaks. If they’re not better than either San Jose or Anaheim, they don’t make the Show.

    I’m amazed at how confident folks are that Anaheim will pick up where they left off. They have significant question marks at centre, even with the addition of Kesler. And I don’t have as much faith in their blueline as others do either.

    I think the Canucks/Ducks will go down to the team with the best ROW to make the playoffs and, since the Canucks suck at the shootout, that should let them sneak in.

    The Flames & Oil will be in about a dead heat. Edmonton will do it with skilled forwards & an overachieving blueline; Calgary with the exact opposite model.

    Arizona will finish 26th overall, and will still get McDavid. Because even with Buffalo having the #30 and #28 (NYI) picks, they will still find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Because, hey, Buffalo.

  • Here are my projections for the West.

    14. Calgary, A wonderful team of fourth liners. Designed to play the hockey of ten years ago. Clutch and grab. Can’t score and has weaker goaltending than in the past.

    13. Arizona, Problems scoring and an aging core that is getting to use to not scoring. In addition, they have to play such a defensive style that they get lost in the shuffle. Gagner adds very little.

    12. Edmonton, Lousy management almost guarantees failure, if they are in 1st in February, Lowe will trade the top 3 players for futures. Unproven goalies, mediocre d-men, one dimensional forwards.

    11. Winnipeg, Truculent forward who needs to be traded and a goalie who is hot and cold, often in the same game. Not tough enough in their division.

    10. Nashville, A great goalie and one great d-man, but name me a forward on this team, who can score more than 15 goals. See Arizona comments.

    9. Minnesota, Lots of pieces but the whole does not seem to be there and I think the multi-goalie situation is going to hurt them. Everything revolves around Suter and Parise and I think they are weak at center.

    8. Colorado, I think this is a team with a great future, but I expect them to drop back a little this year as they will surprise no-one and Roy’s rah-rah style will not work as well. Lost a few key pieces.

    7. Anaheim, I know, this looks ridiculous, but the goaltending over a season is questionable, the defense is middle of the pack at best, any d with Allen on is has questions. Finally, I honestly think Kesler is overrated, he is not the player of 2010 and 2011, and he does not help his line mates and can be negative.

    6. Vancouver, I believe that the new management will have an impact. The Sedins are still I believe point a game players, especially with a sniper on RW (slowing is not a factor, they were never fast) and they have three other decent lines. Goaltending is strong and the defense is above average and most importantly Torts is gone and that is worth 20 points.

    5. Dallas, this is one of the elite teams in the West. Good but not great goalkeeping, a growing d, and two lines of great scoring.

    4. San Jose, I am not sure of this one. On paper they are an elite team, but I have concerns about the goaltending and defense and I am worried about Big Joe and other forwards who really don’t seem to have the fire in the belly.

    3. Los Angeles, this is a great playoff team with amazing goaltending and adequate offense and a very good defense, but they tend to take some time off in the regular season. However if they lose their goalie at any point for some time, they are vulnerable.

    2. Chicago, a very, very good team, but not as strong as in the past. They still have to get under the cap and this may mean losing Sharp, which will hurt. I see them as Stanley Cup finalists this year, because it will be the last. The two salaries starting next year, plus the two big defender salaries mean they will start having to dump young talent next year.

    1. St. Louis, almost a perfect team. Great defense and a whole group of above average forwards who can score and physically intimidate. They were great last year until the injuries hit and they have the best young forward in the league Tarasenko. Goalie is the only possible question mark, but the defense will help compensate by limiting shots.