3) The San Jose Sharks were a bit of a rollercoaster team last season but that should change this year. I think Joe Thorton’s production will go down, but I expect Couture, Marleau, and Havlat’s production to go up. The Sharks aren’t missing anything in the depth department with a skilled gritty composition of players. Torres got an extension which means you can expect at least one suspension to be heading the Sharks’ way this season. We can assume they are going to leave Brent Burns on wing where he seemed to really help spark the Sharks’ offense. The Sharks are another team that seemed to need a little something at the blueline, but moving Douglas Murray is enough to keep me content. Murray was way too slow to be an effective defenseman for the Sharks. Finally, in net we have Antti Niemi back for another tour of duty. Niemi was the heart and soul of this team last year and should be in the running again for the Vezina. Prediction: The Sharks will place third in their division, locking up a spot in the playoffs.
2) The Anaheim Ducks were the sleeper team of the previous season. This time around, they won’t have the luxury of avoiding the spotlight which last season was focused on the Blackhawks, and teams will be gunning for them. The obvious change over the offseason was the Bobby Ryan trade. While they didn’t exactly get an instant replacement for him, I feel that they still got an excellent player in Jakob Silfverberg. He is the type of player that you can expect a lot from, and I predict a bright future for the kid. Anaheim has the offensive talent to really help him grow. The Ducks also have Selanne for one more season, and I would suspect that Selanne will be looking to make this last year count. We also saw the emergence of Viktor Fasth as another premier goaltender that will be wearing the Ducks jersey. With basically two starters to choose from, the Ducks should have little problems in net. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a fairly even amount of games played between the two goalies. I expect to see Corey Perry come out a lot stronger this year. I know that he ended up 2nd on the team in points, but he wasn’t as dominant as he has been in previous years. Prediction: The Ducks will snag second in their division. They won’t be as dominate as they were last year, but that won’t stop them from making the playoffs.
1) The Los Angeles Kings struggled badly on the road, which was the main reason they weren’t first in their division, but they started to find a way to win during the playoffs. Well, until they ran into the Blackhawks. The point is, they should have picked up a bit of confidence from their post season road wins and will be eager to repair that aspect of their game. The big game changing move the Kings made was the acquisition of Daniel Carcillo… clearly I’m joking. Don’t misunderstand the situation though; Carcillo isn’t as bad of a player as a lot of people make him out to be. The usual suspects will continue to be the star players for the Kings and the blueline only looks to be better. Voynov has a lot of potential, and I expect a lot from this youngster over his career. Quick should be at the top of his game with the departure of Berneir. When your backup is chomping at the bit to usurp you, it can become distracting. Scrivens will be a strong backup for Quick without any of the extra drama. Prediction: Kings will come out on top of the Pacific and will relearn how to win on the road.