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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Sizing Up The Pacific Division: Who Got Better, Who Got Worse?

With the arrival of August, the dog days of the hockey offseason are upon us—and there’s unlikely to be much puck-related news of note from now until the opening of training camps in September.

Specifically—with the already infamous Lucic/Neal swap and the Vegas Golden Knights’ dumping of Nikita Gusev—the Pacific Division looks relatively settled moving forward. There will still be some shuffling, of course—with the Canucks, among other teams, looking to cut excess cap—but we’ve now got a fairly solid idea of what each team is going to look like in the 2019/20 season.

And that’s important information if you’re a fan of the Vancouver Canucks—and particularly if you’re one of those fans dead-set on a playoff appearance in the spring of 2020.

Last season, the Canucks finished fifth in the Pacific with a 35-36-11 record and 81 points. With the overwhelming strength of the Central Division—in which all seven teams have a realistic shot of making the playoffs—Vancouver is going to need to leapfrog at least one of their Pacific neighbours in order to escape the regular season, and quite possibly two of them. They’ll also need to stay ahead of all three of the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, and Los Angeles Kings.

All of which will, of course, depend heavily on how those franchise’s offseasons stack up against the work done by Jim Benning and Co. in the summer of 2019.

Below, we’ll take a look at which Pacific teams got better, which got worse, and which stayed about the same. Please note that teams are ordered by their position in the standings at the end of 2018/19—we’re not making any predictions quite yet.

 

Calgary Flames

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 50 25 7 107 Lost in 1st Round

Incoming Players: Cam Talbot (G), Milan Lucic (LW), Brandon Davidson (D) 

Outgoing Players: Mike Smith (G), James Neal (LW), Garnet Hathaway (RW), Oscar Fantenberg (D), Dalton Prout (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Juuso Valimaki (D), Dillon Dube (C/LW)

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The Flames were the class of the Pacific in 2018/19, but they enter the current season with a slightly diminished roster. Though James Neal didn’t do much during his one year in Calgary, flipping him for Milan Lucic is an undeniable downgrade—to say nothing of swapping out Mike Smith for Cam Talbot. Calgary also lost a valuable role player in Garnet Hathaway.

They’ll still be good in 2019/20, but they won’t be as good—especially not if they have to ditch another player to accommodate their RFAs.

The Calgary Flames GOT SLIGHTLY WORSE.

 

San Jose Sharks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 46 27 9 101 Lost in 3rd Round

Incoming Players: Dalton Prout (D), 

Outgoing Players: Joe Pavelski (C/W), Gustav Nyquist (LW), Justin Braun (D), Joonas Donskoi (RW), Joakim Ryan (D)

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Rookie Arrivals: Dylan Gambrell (C), Ivan Chekhovich (LW)

The Sharks put the majority of their eggs in the 2018/19 basket—and came up just short of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then, they’ve lost their captain in Joe Pavelski and several important depth players including Justin Braun and Joonas Donskoi. They didn’t add anyone of note—unless the rumours of Patrick Marleau making a return on the cheap prove true.

Aside from Pavelski, most of the San Jose core remains intact—but they’ll still have a difficult time replicating their success in 2019/20.

The San Jose Sharks GOT WORSE.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 43 32 7 93 Lost in 1st Round

Incoming Players: Garret Sparks (G)

Outgoing Players: Erik Haula (C/W), Colin Miller (D), Nikita Gusev (LW), Ryan Carpenter (C/RW), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (LW)

Rookie Arrivals: Cody Glass (C), Nicolas Hague (D), Jimmy Schuldt (D)

The Golden Knights took a non-traditional route to building an expansion team, and reaped the benefits in their first season—but now the shine is starting to wear off. Due to their salary cap situation, Vegas bled assets this offseason—and failed to add any players of note. They’re hoping that rookies can enter the roster to fill the gaps, but that’s a gamble that may not pay off.

The Golden Knights look like they could take a major step back in 2019/20—but then again, they’ve surprised before.

The Vegas Golden Knights GOT WORSE.

 

Arizona Coyotes

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 39 35 8 86 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Phil Kessel (RW), Carl Soderberg (C) 

Outgoing Players:  Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW), Richard Panik (RW), Nick Cousins (C), Josh Archibald (RW), Kevin Connauton (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Barret Hayton (C), Kyle Capobianco (D) 

The Coyotes lost a bunch of players in the offseason and only added two of note—but it’s a case of quality over quantity. The addition of Phil Kessel gives Arizona their first real star forward in years, and Carl Soderberg is no slouch, either. Every player who left is replaceable from within the organization.

The Coyotes made a lot of progress last season, and that looks to continue in 2019/20.

The Arizona Coyotes GOT BETTER.

 

Vancouver Canucks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 36 11 81 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: JT Miller (C/W), Tyler Myers (D), Micheal Ferland (W), Jordie Benn (D), Oscar Fantenberg (D) 

Outgoing Players: Markus Granlund (C/W), Ben Hutton (D), Derrick Pouliot (D), Luke Schenn (D), Ryan Spooner (C/LW),

Rookie Arrivals: Quinn Hughes (D), Zack MacEwen (C/RW)

Of all the teams in the Pacific Division, the Canucks probably made the most improvement to their roster. A trade for JT Miller was followed by three high-profile UFA signings—with the addition of Micheal Ferland to the forward corps being perhaps the most exciting addition of all. The blueline is revamped, and Vancouver managed to do it all without losing any players of any particular importance.

The Canucks will improve in 2019/20—but will it be enough to make the playoffs?

The Vancouver Canucks GOT BETTER.

 

Anaheim Ducks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 37 10 80 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Michael Del Zotto (D), Nicolas Deslauriers (RW), Chris Wideman (D), Andreas Martinsen (C/W) 

Outgoing Players: Corey Perry (RW), Andy Welinski (D), Jake Dotchin (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Sam Steel (C), Maxime Comtois (C/LW), Josh Mahura (D)

You know you’ve had a nondescript offseason when Michael Del Zotto leads your list of acquisitions. Standing pat is exactly what the Ducks were in the market for, however, as they go through the motions of a rebuild and attempt to inject youth into the roster. The buyout of Corey Perry is a case of addition by subtraction, and it opens up more room for their exciting stable of rookie talent.

The Ducks will almost certainly remain in the basement in 2019/20, and may even sink lower.

The Anaheim Ducks STAYED THE SAME.

 

Edmonton Oilers

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 38 9 79 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Mike Smith (G), James Neal (LW), Markus Granlund (C/W), Joakim Nygard (LW), Josh Archibald (RW) 

Outgoing Players: Andrej Sekera (D), Milan Lucic (LW), Kevin Gravel (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Evan Bouchard (D), Tyler Benson (LW)

What to make of the Edmonton Oilers? In the short-term, they improved by swapping Milan Lucic for James Neal—even if they’ll pay for it in the long-term. They also solidified their goaltending situation a bit with Mike Smith and added a handful of depth options—but they’re still a long way from surrounding Connor McDavid with a competent NHL roster.

The Oilers improved—but not by enough to make a difference—heading into 2019/20.

The Edmonton Oilers GOT SLIGHTLY BETTER.

 

Los Angeles Kings

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 31 42 9 71 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Joakim Ryan (D), Martin Frk (RW), 

Outgoing Players: Peter Budaj (G), Dion Phaneuf (D), Brendan Leipsic (C/LW), Jonny Brodzinski (C/W)

Rookie Arrivals: Carl Grundstrom (LW), Nikolai Prokhorkin (LW), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (C) 

The Kings are currently in a tough situation. They’ve committed to a rebuild of sorts, but they continue to have a lot of high-priced veterans on the roster—and few prospects ready to challenge them for NHL spots.

Los Angeles is in a bit of a developmental “no man’s land,” and they’ll continue to wallow there for at least the 2019/20 season.

The Los Angeles Kings STAYED THE SAME.

 

Final Thoughts

Looking at it purely in terms of who got better and who got worse, the Pacific Division seems to stack up nicely for the Vancouver Canucks—they improved, and most of the teams around them did not.

Reality, however, is often disappointing—and it’s never quite as simple as it seems.

For instance, the Calgary Flames got slightly worse during the 2019 offseason—but they also notched 50 wins last season to the Canucks’ 35. Sure, Vancouver got better—but did they improve enough to swing a 15-win gap? Probably not.

The stage is certainly set for Vancouver to jump up a spot or two in the Pacific, but they’ll be in a battle all season to do so. At the very least, the playoffs now look like a not entirely unlikely outcome in 2019/20—and that’s a lot more than could be said about last year’s team.



  • TheRealPB

    I think Vegas will still be the class of the division – they’ve got a ton of players in their prime and an exceptionally strong top nine in forwards (Tuch is only 23 and I think the dark horse along with Glass and Hague on that roster). I cannot for the life of me fathom why neither Calgary nor Edmonton would make every move they could to improve their goaltending; even with the Oilers being hamstrung with Koskinen, how is an ancient Mike Smith going to improve things? Is Calgary really going to roll with Rittich and Talbot? I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for us to make the playoffs but not sure if we’ll make any noise.

  • J-Canuck

    I honestly believe that Calgary had one of those surprising seasons, but weren’t as good as their record. Hence the first round loss in the playoffs. Also goalies are a mess. Sharks will miss Pavelski more than they realize and Jumbo Joe will be one year older, so don’t see them being near as good as last year.
    I see the Canucks battling with Flames and Sharks up until the end to finish second behind Vegas.
    The Canucks were in the playoff hunt until injuries left them like a good AHL team. The defense, PP and secondary scoring will all improve a lot, so this will be a different team from the past 5yrs!

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Mike Smith to Cam Talbot is not a downgrade, it’s trading one bad goalie for another. The real point is that Talbot will be the backup, not the nominal starter. Neal for Lucic may seem like a downgrade, but he scored 7 goals last year and got scratched in the playoffs. At least when Lucic isn’t scoring, he’s still useful. So, I don’t think, practically speaking, the Lames got any worse at all, certainly not to the level that we would compete with them.

    Similarly, the Knights and Sharks got worse but are still significantly better than us, and the Coyotes are probably still slightly ahead too. Let’s not be too rosy with our predictions here: while the new adds will help, we’re talking about mid-roster players here, not major game changers. Our team is still in very tough to make the playoffs this year, no matter how “all in” management is.

    • J-Canuck

      The adds are mid level support group for the game changers we already have! EP Brock and Bo had no support last year, now they do with Miller, Ferland and Meyers and Benn will improve zone exits which will support the game changers.
      BTW Quinn Hughes will be a game changer

      • Chris the Curmudgeon

        Our problem is, we don’t have enough game changers. Stacked up against the best teams in the division and conference, our top roster don’t look good enough. Calgary has a better supporting cast, but their top forward group is Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk and Lindholm. Every single one of those players scored more than every single player on our team last year. Each member of their top line scored more goals than Miller and Ferland combined. Their #1 defenceman won the Norris Trophy. The Sharks have two Norris Trophy winners on their power play, and return 3 guys who scored 30 goals last year and a 4th who potted 14 in 3 rounds of playoffs. Instead of trying to continue to improve our team where we need it (the top), this group continues to think they can build up the middle of the roster to contend, at the expense of the top. It’s a wrongheaded and counterproductive strategy that’s going to neuter the potential our existing game changers would have had to be part of a true contender in the future.

        • J-Canuck

          You are correct but I believe
          Bo 30 goals
          Brock 35 goals
          EP pushes 40 goals
          Miller 20-25
          Ferland 20
          Pearson 25
          That plus the the much improved scoring potential of the Dmen over the last 5 years will keep the Canucks neck and neck with Flames and Sharks
          Flames goaltending is crap and Sharks lost their Captain. Canucks made improvements Flames and Sharks didn’t.
          Again! To me the Flames has a stellar season that they won’t repeat.

          • Chris the Curmudgeon

            So basically, everyone on the team will have a career season in the same year? OK, that’s likely.

            The Flames finished 26 points ahead of us in the standings. Even a slight decline wouldn’t but them in our echelon. They won the conference last year with the same crap goaltending (and let’s be very clear, Talbot will be the backup to Rittich, who went 27-9-5 last season). The Sharks have the depth to be able to afford losing Pavelski. They prioritized keeping Karlsson. They are still MUCH better than us.

  • CanuckRealist

    Nonsense article and fairytale commenters.

    Sharks have locked up Erik Karlsson, who will be fully fit and dominant alongside Burns. Playoff lock.

    Vegas have their first full season of elite Mark Stone plus stud draft picks coming to fruition. Playoff lock.

    Oil don’t just have McDavid they have Draisatl too and that pair are the
    Crosby/Malkin of their generation. With a new top notch GM/coach they are and will be better than the Canucks. Playoff possible.

    Flames were TWENTY SIX points clear of the Canucks and are therefore still a lock for the playoffs.

    Yotes will easliy be better the Canucks with a legit point per game star like Phil Kessel leading the way. Playoff lock.

    Pacific shakes out like this…
    Vegas
    Calgary
    Arizona
    Edmonton

    back on the golf course come playoffs
    Vancouver
    Los Angeles
    Anaheim

    Book it.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      Arizona a playoff lock? Doubtful. I would say that Vegas and the Sharks are playoff locks, but I think Flames (terrible goaltending) Edmonton (ditto) Arizona (Kessel is a support piece, not a leader) and Vancouver ( but only if Markstromm is awesome) fight for the 3rd seed. Central division will have 5 playoff teams.

      • Defenceman Factory

        Kessel is in rapid decline and his attitude and sense of entitlement are capable of derailing any positive chemistry the yotes might have developed.

      • CanuckRealist

        Yeah – 82 points in 82 games last term and 27 goals on the 2nd/3rd line and hasn’t missed a game in NINE seasons – massive decline lol… u always were a [email protected] Dunceman and this joke ignorance proves it.

        Hahaha Kessel ‘rapid decline’ – hahahaha.

    • CanuckRealist

      L-o_L!!!! Kessel was a support piece on the Pens, he is a legit iron man, two time cup winning leader on AZ!

      What part of twenty six points clear of the Canucks don’t you get Beer?
      I don’t care who is in goal in Cowtown, the Flames aren’t dropping that many points with their excellent D, including Norris winner Giordano…. plus Johnny Hockey and superstar Matty Tkachuk lighting the lamp with his shiny new contract.

      I agree it’s three teams from the Pac… and the Canucks ain’t one of em by adding Miller, Benn and Myers lol.

      Two hopes… Bob Hope and No Hope.

      Crack one open beer, drown your sorrows now. :-p

      • J-Canuck

        In a vacuum Kessel is a good pick up but life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Anytime you need a coach that is called a “whisperer” means you are difficult to deal with. He probably believes no one gets him and who cares! Is it 25 guys jobs to fit into 1 guys personality or…. the opposite. Young team pain in the butt older “star” coyotes go no where fast

  • Kanuckhotep

    Giordano whilst good will not repeat his career season of last year nor will the Flames go anywhere significant with that goaltending. Sharks lost a lot of key guys but CAL and SJS will still be play off teams. VGK are rolling the dice with this, on paper, impressive roster and may well succeed. I’d like to think VAN can be the dark horse but possibly ARI will. EDM is just too mysterious. Vegas to win the division and the Canucks May squeak in but it’ll be uncomfortably close right til April IMHO.

  • KGR

    Agree with the over/under for the Canucks being about 91 points. Just out of the playoffs. Hopefully the year after pushing a 100 points.

    A lot will depend on how the teams in the Pacific shake out. Vegas is in a class of their own..after that the remaining teams are at best good; but not serious cup contenders. Open door to the playoffs if they can stay healthy and modestly exceed expectations for the up coming season.

    • liqueur des fenetres

      If you look compare the records of Arizona and Vancouver last season you see Vancouver faring better against the top ranked teams (Tampa, Boston, Washington) whereas Arizona had a better record in games that were basically coin flips. Both teams improved in the off season, but for Vancouver just to match last year’s record they’re going to have to add a whole bunch of wins against weaker teams because they won’t be surprising the better teams any more. At this point I’m thinking they finish in the high 70s to low 80s.

      • Defenceman Factory

        I can’t follow the logic to your comment. Do you actually believe the Canucks had a bunch of wins last year because their opponents weren’t ready? I suppose that means the coaches of numerous good teams were unaware of improvements the Canucks had made. They didn’t watch the standings, they didn’t watch any game tape in advance and did little to prepare for the Canucks.

        The Canucks have made many roster upgrades. Odds makers and every other prediction by knowledgeable people is for significantly more points this season. You believe the Canucks will show no improvement in the number of wins or even get worse because good teams will be better prepared. Do I understand your position?

  • Hockey Bunker

    Canucks will probably be battling SJS for third in the division. Could be as high as #2 if Calgary goaltending is shaky.
    What we need to consider is that not only have the Canucks added players but they have changed their identity with grit on every line and more speed and skill from top to bottom.
    This is a complete makeover. Don’t think any team worried about getting pushed around by the Canucks last year, now it is a distinct possibility and the team which will be rough and tough to play against will get an automatic boost when Roussel returns. A bonus you can count on without a trade.
    So Canucks can beat you with speed and skill or beat you physically. Your choice.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      On paper, the Canucks look better. But unless Markstrom repeats last years performance, they do not make the playoffs. He is the key to the entire season at this point. I believe he is up to it, we shall see.

      • CanuckRealist

        Vegas
        San Jose
        Calgary
        Colorado
        Smashville
        St Louis
        Dallas

        are locks so Edmonton, Chicago, Arizona and maybe Winterpeg are battling for the last playoff spot Arty… Vancouver are 110 per cent out of the equation and that means Benning and Greener are GONE – so win win.

      • Cageyvet

        I agree with this. His goaltending kept us in games where we were outplayed. Given the strength of the Central Division, our clearest path to the playoffs is finishing top 3 in the Pacific, no easy task. Probably miss the playoffs this year, unless everything falls our way, particularly the health of our best players. Still, they should be knocking on the door and in a position to go the extra step (even just as a wildcard) the year after. Calgary, Vegas and SJ probably still have too much in the tank this year, despite setbacks.

        Both Arizona and Edmonton are unpredictable, and could easily rise to challenge us. I expect a solid jump, but you are correct, without stellar goaltending this team doesn’t have enough juice to outscore the opposition, or our own defensive miscues.

        It’s hard to improve the offense, defense and powerplay all at the same time, while maintaining top goaltending, and that’s what it will take to make it this year.

  • Kanuckhotep

    It’s not outside the realm of probability that 5 teams in the Central make the playoffs though no one can know for sure. Winnipeg may not be the studs they were two seasons ago and they have to slap the video game out of Laine’s hands. DAL has always been a goofy club in that they can be very good or they can suck season by season. Canucks though have to stay healthy to get one of the wildcard spots and sooner or later they won’t be overwhelmed with injuries.

  • hm

    The canucks aren’t great yet, but this is a really weak division and that gives them a decent chance. I agree with those who don’t trust Calgary. They have bad goaltending and I think the way they were really not even competitive in the playoffs, getting thoroughly outclassed and outplayed by Colorado tends to wear on the psyche of a team. So i expect them to take a big step backwards. San Jose will still be tough for sure, but you just never know if for instance the injury bug hits them. I still trust Vegas to be tough, and Arizona is on the way up. there is also a small chance of being a wild card team as there could be some downgrades in the central division.
    I agree that the canucks still need more high level talent, but as we have seen from this year, the cap prevents people from holding onto to too many front line players. Look at Winnipeg and to an extent Toronto and Calgary as examples of teams giving up on very solid players because of cap issues. So while I agree they need at least one more stud (preferably a first pairing defenceman) and/or a stud preferably centre, (but really any strong top 6 forward), after one or two more good players, they just like anyone else become cap constrained.

    I actually don’t hate their cap situation, primarily because one year from now, most of the bad contracts will be getting long in the tooth and we will start to be moving into greener pastures. I think having Petey has made it easier to get good free agents. the other issue which could make it easier next year, is that one of the problems this year is that the guys they wanted to move like Sutter and Tanev were so injured that they had no value. So hopefully, with a bit of depth, these guys play less minutes and have decent seasons, making them tradable.

    The one major regret for me is that if they hadn’t signed beagle. they might have picked up nyquist and possibly gusev this year, but the upside is that because of past mistakes maybe they miss the playoffs and get one more lottery pick in a really good draft.

    • Cageyvet

      Adding 10 points to last year and drafting in the lottery range again this year wouldn’t break my heart. One would hope that Hughes comes on as the year progresses and a couple of other kids hit their stride as they continue to develop, giving us ample reason to feel a modest increase the following year would be enough to make it.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    I’m sorry but the signing of UFA Jordie (not Jamie) Benn is most definitely NOT a “high profile” signing. Is this kind of speak just the inevitable result of the toilet drain Benning has taken this team down that the bar is so low that signing a guy who couldn’t even crack the Stars lineup and was regularly healthy scratches before being shipped to an even worse team where he could be a 5/6 dman??? High profile eh?

    Or did you mean Oscar Fantenberg? Cause you know, he isn’t Alex Burmistrov 2.0 or anything…