With the 2013-2014 season right around the corner, Blackhawk Up takes a look at the Pacfic Division and gives some predictions for the upcoming season.
7) The Calgary Flames are in rebuild mode, and they can thank their GM Jay Feaster for their lack of success. It’s been said for a long time that they needed to shop Iginla while his price was high, and he failed to do that. Now the Flames are without their franchise star forward, and their franchise goalie has decided to retire instead of being part of a trade. From top to bottom the Flames don’t have much going on. While they kept team point leaders Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak, they traded away Alex Tanguay for “gritty” David Jones and Shane O’Brien. Now, as a few teams have experienced in recent years, the Flames will learn this upcoming season that toughness doesn’t win you games. Jones and O’Brien will not be the key pieces to any puzzle, and they won’t even be players that you can rely on. As previously stated, the Flames are rebuilding, and no one is expecting them to do much this year. Prediction: They will be at the bottom of the division, and that might be the goal for the Flames. Tanking a season for a draft pick isn’t a sure thing anymore, but it can’t hurt.
6) The Edmonton Oilers have been the team everyone predicts to do well, but they never seem to measure up to the expectations despite their very deep offense. They made a few smart moves with the pick-up of Andrew Ference and Jason Labarbera. Andrew Ference will bring cup experience to help stabilize the Oilers’ blueline which was sorely needed. One theory that I believe to be accurate is that the Oilers learned a losing mindset from being so young, and Ference could be the answer to that issue. With the addition of Labarbera, the Oilers get a seasoned backup goalie that can still step up when he is called upon. Dubnyk is still a question mark in my eyes. He shows signs of being a strong goaltender, but he still seems to let in one extremely soft goal per game. In his defense, Corey Crawford had a similar stigma that he erased in one short season. With all the offensive talent you can expect the goals to come fairly easily; this team will need to learn two-way play if they want to succeed. Prediction: This will be another tough year, but their rank is due to a high level of competition rather than bad play. They will fall short, but it will be a key year for the strengthening of this team.
5) The Phoenix Coyotes had a rather victorious offseason after having a somewhat disappointing regular season. They gained some stability by finally finding an owner, and they were able to resign Coach Dave Tippet. They pretty much kept everyone of importance through all the ownership struggles, but they weren’t content with just adding depth. The Yotes picked up free agent Mike Ribeiro who was scoring at a point per game rate. Ribeiro brings some quickness and great ice vision to a team that could use exactly that. I don’t expect to see him being the main scorer on the team, but I do expect him to continue his role as a playmaker. Mike Smith is looking to have a bounce back year after struggling with injuries and inconsistency. While I feel that Ribeiro was a solid pickup for the Yotes, I still think that a pure goal scorer would have been more effective. Perdiction: The Yotes could pick up the extra wildcard spot, but I think that the addition of the Canucks will push them into fifth place within their division. To be fair, they could easily overtake the Canucks if the Torts experiment fails.
4) The Vancouver Canucks will be losing the luxury of playing in a “weak” division as well as losing Alain Vigneault. Despite being a bitter rival of the Hawks, I am extremely excited to see what comes out of the mess that Gillis has created for the Canucks. The addition of Torterella is a risky move. If he isn’t there for an extended amount of time then this move could be for the best. He demands a lot from the players, and that seems to work for him for a few seasons. He might be able to pull some extra defense out from a few of the “softer” players which will greatly help Kessler over the course of the season. If more people are doing the dirty work, the less Kessler will need to destroy what’s left of his tattered body. A healthy Kessler will do wonders for this team. Torts’ new system might cause some problems for the offense at first, but that shouldn’t last too long. Luongo and Lack should also reap some of the benefits of the new system. I have a feeling that Loungo will have a strong season after regaining the number one title. The Canucks defense has never been impressive in my eyes. I know that they have some talent, but outside of Hamuis and Garrison, I don’t see the defensive responsibilities being handled very well. Prediction: I see the Canucks sitting in fourth place and grabbing the wildcard spot. The new division and new coach will be a factor in their position.