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Pacific Division 2014-15 Preview
By Brett Malamud
Wednesday is finally here! All day long, Dabuzzza will be bringing you the NHL coverage as we approach tonight’s games. If you missed the Metropolitan Division Preview, click here. If you missed the Atlantic Division Preview, click here. If you missed the Central Division Preview, click here. Arguably the league’s top division, the Pacific Division will be highly contested and is currently filled with goaltender stories. Let’s take a look:
Dany Heatley and Ryan Kesler come into a high octane offense that led the league in goals per game. Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm represent youth that will lead the defense that ranked ninth in the league in goals against. John Gibson is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in goal but Frederik Anderson will battle him for starts.
Sure they changed their name from Phoenix to Arizona but the Coyotes will still face the same struggles. The departure of Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata does not bode well for this offense. They brought in Sam Gagner, but the team ranked 20th in goals per game and it’ll be a tough task trying to improve that. The Coyotes ranked 23rd in the league in shots against. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle will attempt to plug that hole in the sinking ship that is the Arizona Coyotes. In goal, Mike Smith and Devan Dubnyk will try to stop the many shots that we know they’ll face this season. It could be a long season in the Desert.
Losing Mike Cammalleri to the New Jersey Devils was a tough one to swallow, but the addition of Mason Raymond was an intriguing one. Raymond comes in after his one year in Toronto. Speaking of additions, Jonas Hiller will take the reigns as the starting goaltender for Calgary after signing a two year deal back in July. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie will take first line defensive pairing. The Flames ranked 24th in the league in goals against and for good reason. They’re really not that good. A midseason trade could change that (Tyler Myers?).
Edmonton looked more like Dead-monton last season. They ranked last in the league in goals against and 24th in goals for. These aren’t the kind of stats that you want to see from a team that had a top five draft pick in four out of the last five years. Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell age huge additions, yes, but will it change the landscape of the team? I’m not so sure about that one. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will take over the first line, with Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov taking the second line alongside Pouliot. The defense isn’t really worth mentioning, but Justin Schultz and Andrew Ference will lead the back line. A goalie dilemma is inevitable as Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth will take the duties. The pair isn’t stellar and could help in leading to their downfall.
Los Angeles Kings
The champs are back! The Kings come off of a magical season that was capped off by a goal from Alec Martinez in overtime to win the Stanley Cup. This year they’ll look to defend their title and it’ll have to begin with the offense. The addition of Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline proved to be the move that the Kings needed to send them over the top and into a deep journey through the playoffs. Kings Captain Dustin Brown will lead the offensive unit, which includes Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar, in trying to put the puck in the net. After watching the offensive attack in the playoffs, it should come as a surprise that the Kings ranked 26th in the NHL in goals per game in the regular season. However, they led the league in goals against average. That’s what carried them last season to the playoffs. Led by Drew Doughty, the defense will look to stop the rest of the league from scoring. Plus, it helps when you have arguably the best goalie in the NHL playing for your team. Jonathan Quick is just that and comes off of a year in which he finished fifth in goals against average and finished second in the league in shutouts. It’ll be a tough task, but the Kings can still be considered as royalty in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau remain with the team for now, but could be on their way out via trades at any point this season. The Sharks would like to trade both sooner rather than later, as tensions will mount each game that the pair is not traded. While they are still in San Jose, the two veterans will be able to teach second year player Tomas Hertl, along with the 25 year old Logan Couture, who still can learn a lot. The team lost Dan Boyle to the Rangers, and the top line now has Marc Edouard Vlasic paired with Justin Braun. Brent Burns is another notable name on the defensive end, a season after scoring 22 goals. In goal, Alex Stalock is going to push Antti Niemi to the brink for starts. Expect a heavy timeshare between the two.
Oh Vancouver. A few years ago, this team was at the top of the West. Now they’re a team that missed the playoffs last season. Well can they get back there the season? Willie Desjardins comes in as the new head coach, replacing John Tortorella. The big addition to the club comes in goal, after the Canucks added goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller will have Alexander Edler and Chris Tanev as the first defensive unit protecting him. The Ryan Kessler trade to Anaheim sent back Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, who will certainly contribute. The Sedin brothers come off of their worst season in a decade, and will look to return to the dominance that we’ve previously seen from them. Everyone should take notice of Radim Vrbata. The 33 year old will sit on the Sedin line and that should put him in the scoring sheet on a regular basis. This season will be a journey, but one that might end with the Canucks back in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy