Pacific Power Rankings, Week 1: An early, optimistic look at one of the NHL’s best divisions
Photo credit:© Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
We are now officially one week into the 2023-24 NHL season and wow does it feel good to watch hockey again. Sitting down on the couch and turning on Hockey Night in Canada with a cold beer in hand was when it really settled in. Hockey. Is. Back.
As a new member of the team here at FlamesNation, one storyline that I really wanted to dial in on this year is the Pacific Division. The Pacific has quickly gone from a magnet for high round picks at the NHL Draft to arguably one of the strongest, most competitive divisions in hockey (minus one or two teams, you know who you are).
So what better way to see how each team in the division stacks up against the rest? A Power Ranking! Is it a little crazy to rank teams based on two or three games? You bet it is! So to keep things interesting and not just look at the weekly scores, let us take a look at one point of optimism for each team in the division. After all, it’s the beginning of the year, lets keep things light.
Let’s take a look at how the Pacific Division stacks up through the first week of the season:
1. Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Well, there doesn’t seem to be any Stanley Cup hangover in Las Vegas, at least during the first week of the regular season. The Golden Knights came out firing on opening night after raising their Stanley Cup banner (which was, in typical Las Vegas form, spectacular) and haven’t stopped since, winning all three of their games by a score of 4-1.
One thing Vegas had some worries about heading into last years playoffs was between the pipes. A Laurent Brossoit injury early in the series against the Edmonton Oilers paved the way for 27-year-old Adin Hill to step in and make a historic run to lifting the Stanley Cup. Hill was rewarded for his stellar performance this off-season with a 2-year, $9.8 million deal. Coming out this season, it doesn’t look like he has missed a beat, posting a 1.01 GAA and a .964 SV% in his two starts. It doesn’t look like the Knights will be quite the goalie carousel we saw last season.
2. Vancouver Canucks (2-0-0, 4 points)
There is a sense of optimism on Canada’s West Coast as the Vancouver Canucks have started the year 2-0-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Winning the first two games of the season, especially with the drama surrounding this team over the past couple of seasons, doesn’t mean they’re a shoe in for the playoffs but sweeping the cup contending Oilers has Canucks fans excited to see what level this team can get to under Rick Tocchet in his first full season behind the bench.
Elias Pettersson picked up right where he left off last year and is tied for the league lead in points with six. He has also made yet another jump on the defensive side of the puck, emerging as one of the best two-way forwards in hockey.
3. Calgary Flames (1-1-1, 3 points)
During a very unique off-season for the Calgary Flames, fans weren’t sure what they were getting going into this season. However, trade rumours dissipated, contracts were signed, and holes in the organization were filled with new hires. Things aren’t THAT bad in Calgary.
On the ice for the Flames, the team is looking just as was predicted from them; a bubble team who is going to be fighting for a spot in the playoffs come April. After an impressive first win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Flames have faltered to start a five-game road trip dropping 3 of 4 collective points to the Penguins and Capitals.
The good thing for the Flames is that it looks like they are going to have Jacob Markstrom back to normal after a tough year. Markstrom has had a noticeably better start this year and seems to have regained his confidence. Given the number of close games this team lost last year, he could be the difference in squeezing out an extra point here and there, which could be the difference in making the playoffs or not.
4. Edmonton Oilers (0-2-0, 0 points)
The Edmonton Oilers are winless through two games and have been outscored 12-4, just like we all predicted. Unfortunately for everyone else in the division, the Oilers won’t be going 0-82-0 this season. Despite the lopsided loss on Opening Night and a failed attempt at a redemption game on Saturday, Oiler’s players have not lost confidence in their group.
As Evander Kane sarcastically mentioned when meeting with the media on Monday, “we’re dead last in the league. 32. The sky is falling.”
The Oilers are going to be fine and probably end up at, or near the top of this list by seasons end so let’s give them some adversity to overcome while we can. It’s hard not to be optimistic as long as McDavid and Draisaitl are on the roster.
5. Los Angeles Kings (0-1-1, 1 point)
Running into the Edmonton Oilers in the first round in back-to-back years is just about as bad of luck as you can get. The Los Angeles Kings have been one of the most underrated teams in the league over the past couple years. This season, they want to cement themselves as a contender by adding guys like Pierre-Luc Dubois to the roster to solidify their already very deep roster.
Despite being 0-1-1 to start the year, they battled hard against two perennial cup contenders in the Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes. As their schedule eases up, the Kings should have better results with the depth that they have. I do really worry about their goaltending situation but the key word today is optimism so ignore that last part.
6. Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0, 2 points)
A surprising 6-3 win against the Hurricanes showed that playing the Ducks might not be as easy a two points as everyone thinks. The Hurricanes were on the second half of a classic back-to-back California swing, but any time you can get two points from one the top teams in the NHL, you have to give them a pat on the back.
This year, Duck fans want to see a significant jump in development from some of their high-end prospects, notably centremen Mason McTavish and Trevor Zegras. McTavish looks to have built upon a good connection with Frank Vatrano and despite Zegras laying an egg on the stat sheet so far, he missed most of camp so it’s not shocking he might need a few games to get his footing.
Oh, and they also have 2023 second overall pick Leo Carlsson coming back from an injury this week so this team could be a fun one to flick on during the late slate of games.
7. Seattle Kraken (0-2-1, 1 points)
Coming into this season, I didn’t really know what to expect from the Seattle Kraken. Were we going to get the first-year expansion team that finished near the bottom or the league? Or are we going to get a team that continues to build on a surprising 2022-23 campaign that saw multiple players reach new heights in their careers and knock off the defending Stanley Cup champions in the playoffs?
It would appear, at least so far, that the Kraken have come back down to Earth. Two goals in three games isn’t what this well-balanced lineup was hoping for to start the year and losing Brandon Tanev hurts them even more.
The Kraken will have a chance to break out of their shell and prove last year was not a fluke this week with a homestand against the Avalanche, Hurricanes, and the New York Rangers. It’s a tough slate of games but a great opportunity to show what this team is all about.
8. San Jose Sharks (0-1-1, 1 point)
Even before this season started, we had an idea on where the Sharks were heading this season, so it shouldn’t be a shock to see them in the dungeon to start off the season. There is some NHL calibre talent on the roster, but for the most part, it’s looking like it might be a race for the number one pick for the Sharks.
One of the great feel good stories that game out of week one of the NHL season was that of Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. After being cut loose from the New Jersey Devils, the San Jose Sharks took a riskless gamble in seeing if the once highly touted prospect could turn his career around. In his debut for his new team, Blackwood was outstanding. Despite not recording the win, the netminder turned away 51 of 52 shots, letting only a Cale Makar snipe from the point past him in the shootout loss.
Do you agree with Justin’s rankings? Do you disagree tremendously? Let us know in the comments!
Recent articles from Justin Mackenzie