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2013-14 NHL Season Predictions: Pacific Division

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Well, everyone, we’ve arrived. The offseason is past and the preseason is drawing to a close, which means the grind is about to begin. 82 games (Yay, no lockout shortening!) await our teams, with the best fighting for the honor of having their names engraved on one of sports’ greatest trophies, while the rest go golfing and fire people. Here at NOTSC, we fancy ourselves to be experts on our respective sports, which is why I’m here to break down this season. New divisions, new teams (just kidding. Suck it, Quebec), and new faces are ready to be judged like Miley Cyrus. We start with the Pacific Division, since this division has the highest number of potential playoff teams in the Western Conference, and I’m working west to east (East coast bias, ha!).

 

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks: Well, Ducks fans (and about 99.97% of hockey fans in general), Teemu Selanne is coming back for one more year. While I am happy to see the Finnish Flash return, I can’t help but wonder if he has it in him to make it through the season with meaningful production. Face it, he’s old. Considering the rest of the squad, the team traded away Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, which is… interesting, and they have Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf locked up to long term deals. However, their defense is kinda bland. The big question is really in goal. Jonas Hiller is entering a contract year. Viktor Fasth will keep trying to pull fasth ones in net (I couldn’t resist), and they have like eleventy billion goalie prospects waiting behind them. This team will do well, but will it be good enough to make the playoffs? In this division, I think so.

Calgary Flames: First off, I wish to offer my condolences to Flames fans. This season is going to suck. Bad. Like, worse than having your stadium flooded. The team has finally entered a rebuild, hiring Brian Burke as Jay Feaster’s eventual replacement, so there’s nowhere to go but down this year. Miikka Kiprusoff has called it quits, leaving the goaltending job to Karri Ramo, a Finnish goalie who has spent the last 4 seasons in Russia, so he will have to deal with the changes in ice as well as Vladimir Putin’s creepy, 3 AM phone calls begging him to go back to Russia. Jarome Iginla is gone, too. On the bright side, the team started the rebuild by drafting Sean Monahan, a center who will try to anchor a line with Sven Baertschi and…someone else. Seriously, it’s almost impossible to name 5 people on the Flames roster. It’s gonna be rough. I predict a bottom of the division finish this year.

Edmonton Oilers: While one Canadian team looks to be firmly entrenched at the bottom of the league, another is looking like they are close to the playoffs. Yes, people, the Oilers are close. The team has intriguing talent in Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Darnell Nurse (who looks to avoid becoming the NHL version of Donovan McNabb.), a new coach in Dallas Eakins, and a deal with the NHL that gives them the #1 draft pick for the next 5,000 years, regardless of where they place (it’s in the new CBA, I’m sure of it.). However, fans shouldn’t be too excited. The Western Conference only has 14 teams, and many of them are perennial playoff contenders, so a playoff spot for these Oilers will almost assuredly have to come in the form of a wild card. Remember, I said they are close. I never said they would make it. All in all, I think they will fall 1 point out of a playoff spot. It’s gonna be close.

Los Angeles Kings: I’m writing this prediction in fear. After watching Jordan Nolan almost succeed in reducing Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla to nothing more than a red smear on the ice, the Kings now have three players (Dustin Brown, Nolan, and Daniel Carcillo) who can show up out of nowhere, murder you in cold blood, and get away with it. Jonathan Quick is one of the top goalies in the league, and now that he finally has the starting job without any meaningful handcuff, it makes me wonder if he will get even better. Anze Kopitar and Slava Voynov will look to continue to score, while Drew Doughty will anchor the blue line. This team will make the playoffs. There, a good prediction. Will it be enough to keep them from hurting my family? (Probably not.)

Phoenix (soon to be Arizona) Coyotes: Well, another season without steady ownership looms for the…wait, they have owners now? Really? Huh. Well, that’s one positive for the team and its fans. With the team’s future secure (for now), the focus now switches to the on-ice product. The defense is shaping up to be the bright spot of this team, with Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson posing a 1-2 punch that will not only help them win games, but also contend for the Norris Trophy. However, Mike Smith is still inconsistent, and the team’s decision to give him a 6 year extension could backfire horribly. On offense, the team brought in Mike Ribeiro to help get Radim Vrbata back to the 30 goal point, but the offense will still come by committee. While incosistent offense and goaltending will be hanging around, the sturdy defense and effective coaching of Dave Tippett will make this team a contender. A return to the playoffs seems likely.

San Jose Sharks: If I may borrow the lyrics of a classic Aerosmith song, this Sharks team is the “Same old song and dance, my friend.” There have been practically no meaningful roster changes all offseason. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski both received 5 year extensions, so fans can look forward to keeping them around, but the quartet of Thornton, Havlat, Boyle, and Marleau are facing the end of their deals and it will be curious to see if the team keeps them around. After all, a franchise can only handle so many early playoff exits before a change occurs. Antti Niemi still stands between the pipes, and the defense is solid. This team will be competing for a playoff spot all year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see them trying (and most likely failing) to advance deep into the playoffs again.

Vancouver Canucks: Finally, we reach the most exciting team of the Pacific division. Now, I know some of you will disagree, but my counter is only one word: Tortorella. Our favorite insane, profanity-spewing coach has a new team, and oh how the culture is changing. The Sedin twins (who are entering the final year of their deals) are being asked to do more work, and Roberto Luongo is trying to not only adjust to playing in a city he doesn’t particularly care for, but also deal with a coach who won’t tolerate his occasional bouts of ineptitude. This team has the potential to turn into a dumpster-fire faster than the literal dumpster-fires during the riots after the team lost the Stanley Cup to the Bruins a couple years ago. This team will still compete, though, and a playoff berth is not out of the question. The real question is how entertaining will it be to watch this dysfunctional squad. I’m guessing very.

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