If the calendar is approaching October it means…hockey? Yes, it does. Even as the baseball season moves toward the playoffs and college football and the NFL start to heat up, hockey is prepping for an October 1 open to the 2013-14 regular season. And that means TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis is prepping along with them. Today we take a short look at the Pacific Division.
The league is realigned this year, with just two divisions in each conference as opposed to three, so the Pacific is now a seven-team entity. The teams are listed in order of their betting odds to win the Western Conference and make the Stanley Cup Finals.
Los Angeles (5-1): This is just a good, solid hockey team in all phases of the game. They have a good scorer in Jeff Carter, good offensive support in Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, they can lock down on defense and they have a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick backing it all up. There’s a reason they won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and won two playoff rounds in 2013.
Vancouver (6-1): It’s been a busy offseason for the Canucks, who hired John Tortorella after he was fired by the New York Rangers. Then Vancouver traded goalie Cory Schneider, to make clear their commitment to the enigmatic Roberto Luongo. To me, this organization is in disarray, with the Sedin brothers—Daniel and Henrik—no longer elite players and the team’s defensive flaws becoming more apparent.
San Jose (8-1): Antti Niemi is one of the NHL’s better goaltenders and has a Stanley Cup on his resume from 2010 in Chicago, and there are four good offensive players—Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. They need to do a better job defensively, and they rely too much on the power play, but this is a contender.
Anaheim (10-1): The Ducks are a good team, as their #2 seed in last spring’s Western Conference playoff demonstrates. But they are way too dependent on Corey Perry for their offense, and have to hope the signing of Dustin Penner away from Los Angeles might help. But Penner’s only productive run on offense was when he caught lightning in a bottle in the 2012 playoffs.
Edmonton (15-1): Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are good scoring forwards, and Devan Dubnyk is a competent goaltenders. The team defense needs to get cleaned up very dramatically though, if Edmonton wants to take the next step into the playoffs.
Phoenix (30-1): The defense is lousy and goalie Mike Smith, after a magnificent 2012, started to come apart last year. There’s no rational reason to expect the Coyotes to be competitive.
Calgary (50-1): Calgary is rolling the dice on a Finnish import at goalie, at least giving Kari Ramo a chance to win the job over Joey MacDonald. Whomever is in net has a subpar defense protecting him, an offense that can’t generate shots and a team that’s awful in 5-on-5 play. At least their power play execution was decent last year, but there’s not enough of those moments to build a season around.
More NHL analysis…