Ramblings: Finishing up with the Pacific (July 14)

by Neil Parker on July 14, 2017

Ryna Getzlaf - USA TODAY Sports Images


The offseason round up makes its final stop in the Pacific Division. This has been a helpful peruse through the teams, and the feedback has been noted and appreciated. From this point on, the real fun happens, and the more in-depth player analysis will fill the upcoming ramblings leading into draft season.



Following an impressive playoff run, Anaheim brings back a very similar roster with only Jonathan Bernier and Shea Theodore missing. However, the current defense corps could sustain the loss of Theodore, and Ryan Miller in a supporting role is at worst on par with what Bernier brought to the table.

An offensive decline hit Corey Perry in 2016-17, and the 32-year-old winger might not fully bounce back. Could Ryan Getzlaf and/or Ryan Kesler be next to begin slowing down?

That's the real concern with the Ducks. There are solid supporting pieces in place, and specifically, Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg are high-end players. However, Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler still are the driving forces.

Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie both flashed upside last year, and Sam Steel, Troy Terry and Kalle Kossila are interesting potential additions to the roster, but this team is going to lean on its three veterans.

For our fantasy purposes, it's likely that Anaheim attempts to run three lines with Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler all separated. Patrick Eaves worked well with Getzlaf last year, and Rakell spent a lot of time centering Perry. It would be better if Anaheim tried to load up a top line, though, so it's something to watch.



While there are endless positives to discuss, Arizona likely still isn't a playoff team and will probably struggle to meet scoring expectations despite the talented young roster. Massive roster turnover rarely translate to immediate success, and it might be even more true with a new head coach.

Derek Stepan will prove to be a solid addition to help insulate the young Coyotes from daunting matchups, and it will also likely allow Christian Dvorak to slide to the wing. Similarly, Nick Cousins could prove to be an underrated grab, as he has had excellent offensive success at the lower levels but was never given a fair shake with Philadelphia.

Niklas Hjalmarsson was a touted acquisition, and while there is no doubt that he helps, expectations should be kept in check. He's already played 751 games in the league, while also frequently representing Sweden internationally. Hjalmarsson has a lot of wear and tear on his body, and his possession numbers have dipped in consecutive seasons.

Of course, Antti Raanta could prove to be a rock-solid No. 1 goalie and steal eight to10 games this season. If he does put it all together, and the young stars hit the ground running, the Coyotes could make a run at the playoffs. It's asking a lot, and in short order, though.



The Calgary blue line might be the best in the league now, and up front, they've got offensive depth and aren't easy to play against. So, the real question is whether Mike Smith -- and to a lesser extent Eddie Lack -- can propel the Flames from a good team to a great team.

Looking north, there is no doubt that the Flames are eyeing at an answer for slowing down Connor McDavid, and with that blue line and an excellent shut-down line, Calgary has positioned itself well. Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk affirmed their place among the best two-way trios in the league last year, and Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan still have room to grow offensively. Additionally, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland and Curtis Lazar still have upside, and Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg are still sound supporting scorers.

Calgary improved significantly this summer, and the Flames still have some interesting pieces in their system in Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Tyler Parsons.



After a number of offseason moves, the Oilers aren't a significantly different team than they were during the playoffs. Edmonton is deeper up front, but this isn't a dramatically better club.

Edmonton will go as far as Connor McDavid takes it.

Leon Draisaitl is an emerging star, and Cam Talbot has been excellent dating back to December 2015. Oscar Klefbom's continued development will also be important, but it's still on McDavid's shoulders to take this team deep into the postseason.

Jussi Jokinen was an excellent real-world addition. And despite being in the league forever, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Strome are both still only 24 years old. A return to form from either Nugent-Hopkins or Strome would be a huge boost to the secondary scoring.

Everything appears in place for McDavid to lead Edmonton into the playoffs and potentially make a deeper run next spring. Is it a slam dunk, though?



The Kings have missed the playoffs in two of the past three years and had a first-round exit in their last postseason appearance in 2015-16. While Jonathan Quick was limited to just 17 starts last season, Peter Budaj went 27-20-3 with a .917 save percentage and 2.12 GAA for Los Angeles. The problem is that the Kings can't score.

Despite a league-best 55.0 Corsi For percentage at five-on-five, the Kings had the fifth-lowest goals per 60 minutes (1.9), and they finished tied for 24th in overall goals per game (2.43).

Anze Kopitar scored 12 goals, and Tyler Toffoli had just 16 through 63 games. Mike Cammalleri is a nice addition, but he's averaged 58.5 games per year through the past four seasons. Jeff Carter is a year older, and there aren't can't-miss youngsters in waiting -- maybe Adrian Kempe can help.

The defense remains stout behind Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez, but a significant step forward from one of Derek Forbert, Kevin Gravel or Paul LaDue is probably needed.

Los Angeles won a pair of Stanley Cups recently, and now the Kings are dealing with the aftermath of overpaying a few cogs from those championship runs and the plundering of assets (prospects and picks) it took to contend.



San Jose brings back nearly an identical roster this fall with just Patrick Marleau and David Schlemko missing from its playoff lineup. However, that club was handed a first-round exit, and the Sharks didn't make any notable offseason additions.

After underachieving for most of 2016-17, there probably shouldn't be significant expectations that San Jose will be anything more than a middling team again in '17-18. Martin Jones posted a pedestrian .912 save percentage last year, and Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all 30 or older, which leaves Logan Couture (28) as the lone core piece still in his prime.

The Sharks will need Timo Meier, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Hertl and Jannik Hansen to all take a step forward, and with Marleau gone, a couple of them probably will. Additionally Kevin Labanc and Daneil O'Regan are promising young forwards, and Tim Heed has a chance to crack the roster on the blue line.

San Jose should be a solid team again, but the Western Conference is always tough, and this team's best shot was probably in 2015-16. Jones will have to improve dramatically if the Sharks are going to be a serious contender again.



Vancouver is icing a low-end club on purpose, and the universal question is why the Canucks aren't building for the complete tank. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are both in a clear decline, and Loui Eriksson is coming off his worst season since breaking into the league as a rookie in 2006-07 at 19.

The offseason acquisitions are really just stopgap players until the next wave of talent is ready for the NHL, but it's still likely lessening Vancouver's odds of landing a top pick in the draft. Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto are mediocre players with lots of talent, so they might help buoy the Canucks above a lottery position.

However, the goaltending situation alone could plummet Vancouver into last place. Jacob Markstrom hasn't shown enough consistency to qualify as a No. 1 goalie, and Anders Nilsson fits the same bill, albet it with less pedigree. However, it is worth noting that Nilsson is coming off a nice season (.923 save percentage through 26 games) with Buffalo.

The Canucks are collecting a nice stable of prospects, but are probably still lacking the superstar to put them over the top. Olli Juolevi, Thatcher Demko, Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Jonathan Dahlen, Jake Virtanen and Elias Pettersson are nice pieces to surround Bo Horvat with going forward, so the forecast isn't all doom and gloom.



Expansion teams have never had a lot of success, and while the Vegas roster has some bright spots, there isn't too much to get excited about. Despite having the pieces to dress two scoring lines, there are way more passengers than drivers, and Vadim Shipachyov is unlikely to step into the league and be a go-to scorer.

There's also the makings of a serviceable blue-line corps in front of Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard, but it's definitely missing a shut-down pair. With that said, Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb are all capable defensemen that can skate and move the puck. McNabb -- and maybe even Merrill --could prove to be able to slow down the opposition's top scorers, too.

The Golden Knights aren't going to be run out of the rink, and they could surprise enough and earn enough wins to make Fleury and a handful of players serviceable fantasy assets.Tthe best is still to come, though, and especially if the brass continue to stockpile picks and prospects. 



Thanks for checking in, Dobberheads.





  • Tim Stout

    First I would like to say I think the canucks will be the underdog team that turns heads this coming season. Vancouver has some young talent looking to make ( and looks like they can) make a positive impact right away such as boaser and goldobin. The goalies need to prove what one is are number one but good competition between the 2 can bring out the best in them. I also don’t think a rebuilding team needs a top 5 pick every year and tanking ends up getting you 4th pick so why bother trying for that. As for edmonton I don’t think they got better at all and the d on other teams like Calgary and Vancouver got much better same with a few other teams.

    • Damon Bailey

      I respectively disagree. Boeser and Joulevi are a couple years away (from having an impact) and I’m not sold (at all) on Goldobin (or Virtanen, for that matter). Horvat will be an great #2 centre. I know nothing of Pettersson but from what I’ve read, he seems to be a high risk, high reward type of prospect (again…a couple of years away). The Canucks, right now, just seem to be a bunch of 3rd and 4th line/3rd pairing (Tanev…meh) players built around Horvat and maybe the Sedins (a big maybe nowadays). As for their goalies…I am a bit excited about Demko, but that’s about it. He needs to have a bit of a bounce back campaign this year, though. It would have made complete sense to me had they signed all those FA’s to one year, ‘tradeable’ contracts. But they didn’t and I continue to scratch my head a bit at what, exactly, Benning and Linden are doing. I will agree with you, however, that I don’t think they have to tank to dead last to effectively accomplish a rebuild. They are building the prospect cupboard. As a life long Canuck fan, though…I’d just like to see a few ‘home runs’/’diamonds in the rough’ that we’ve missed out on for SO FRICKING LONG! *sob