Ian Lusher is back for his second article with RobTheHockeyGuy. Follow Ian on Twitter at @IanLusher
It’s that time of year where the experts prognosticate where teams will end up in their respective divisions for the upcoming season. I’ve never been called an expert, but I have been labelled an unbiased homer from time to time. For what it’s worth, here is how I see the Pacific Division shaking down.
1. Vancouver Canucks
Seriously! Canuck Nation may have low expectations for the Canucks this year, but the fact remains that the Canucks have a very good team. A lot has been made of John Tortorella’s remake of the Canucks into a “stiffer” team. The talent is there. I have a feeling that Torts may show that AV was holding this group back a bit. Add to this a bevy of key Canuck players who will be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder (Kesler, Luongo, Sedins) and you have a team that will outperform most people’s expectations.
2. Los Angeles Kings
Most everyone’s pick to win the Pacific this year will finish 6-8 points behind the Canucks (yes, I just said that). I really like the makeup of LA’s team and winning tends to breed winning, however, I think Darryl Sutter’s coaching style becomes less effective over time. Sutter has been aided by 2 short seasons with the Kings, coming in part way through the 2011-12 season and then coaching a shortened season last year. A full 82 games of Sutter will be a different story. Let the tune-out begin!
3. Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim is a team that I believe over achieved in the shortened 2012-13 season. That being said, they will challenge the Kings for the #2 spot likely until the last day of the season. I like the one-two punch of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth in net. Any team with the likes of Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne should challenge for a playoff spot in any given year. Jakob Silfverberg, picked up in the Bobby Ryan deal, is a player on the rise and will fit in nicely.
4. Phoenix Coyotes
Shoot me if I’m right. The world should be subjected to the lowest amount of Coyotes games possible in any given season. In an unfair world though, the 2013-14 ‘Yotes make the playoffs. I personally think Dave Tippett should be banned from coaching in the NHL, but he gets wins out of a team that has no business winning. Entertainment value = 0.
5. San Jose Sharks
I don’t understand the praise bestowed on the Sharks for their so-called rebuild. I don’t think it was a remake or rebuild at all. The Sharks were simply dumping players last year because they felt they weren’t good enough and then they went on a run for no particular good reason. The Sharks are one team that benefited greatly from the shortened season. They got off to an amazing start, then sucked for an extended period, then caught fire again at the end. I call it blind luck and it won’t happen in 2013-14.
6. Edmonton Oilers
Craig MacTavish spoke of big changes, instead he has provided very little other than copious amounts of hot air. The mix in Edmonton is just not right. Too many small, talented forwards mixed in with a weak defence and unproven goaltending. Oilers fans will be shocked to find out that their team still sucks. Eakins was a good hire, but it will take him some time (2 full seasons at least with a few major trades) to get this team into the playoffs.
7. Calgary Flames
Disaster. The Flames will come last overall, but Jay Feaster will have a “different” interpretation of the standings. I’d be shocked if Feaster and Bob Hartley make it through the season.