Brace yourselves, hockey fans.
Almost a month removed from the Chicago Blackhawks claiming the Stanley Cup, the ‘dog days’ of the NHL’s offseason are officially here. With more than seven weeks to go until training camps open, and the NHL draft, the opening of free agency, and even the majority of the trade market already behind us, we are in for a long, long summer.
With today being the one day of the year where no MLB, NHL, NBA, or NFL games will be played, it gives fans time to look, in either direction. Being the free-thinking writers that we are, we have decided to look forward. Today, we analyze what each of the 14 Western Conference teams have done to bolster their roster since the offseason began, and where that leaves them moving forward. Behold, our mid-July Western Conference Power Rankings:
No. 14: Arizona Coyotes
Who’s In: Antoine Vermette, Dylan Strome
Who’s Out: Mark Arcobello
It’s going to be a long winter in the desert.
Fresh off picking third overall in the draft this June, the Coyotes look like they’re aiming to outdo themselves next year. Auston Matthews, anyone?
The Coyotes will continue to lean on their aging core, and even re-added Antoine Vermette to the fold, signing the free agent after trading him to Chicago at last season’s trade deadline. The likes of Vermette, Shane Doan, and Mike Smith will play the role of ‘mentor’ this season, as the Coyotes have failed to take a step in the right direction competitively. They have yet to find a complement to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and failing to qualify advanced-stats-crushing Arcobello just shows you which direction management will be heading this season.
Da Windy City
No. 13: San Jose Sharks
Who’s Out: Antti Niemi
The Sharks made the right move by letting go of Niemi, after being among the league leaders in minutes played for the past several seasons. However, they may not have gotten the best replacement available, in Jones. Jones himself is confident in his ability to be a starter, but will he be able to carry the load himself in the Bay this season, or will we see 50-50 duty with Alex Stalock? With the exception of goaltender, the Sharks are only getting older. Peter DeBoer will have to run a tight ship if the Sharks want to fight back into the playoffs, especially with a limited roster at hand.
No. 12: Vancouver Canucks
Who’s In: Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski
Though the Canucks fought back into the post-season in 2014-15, their first-round exit may be a sign of a trend for the team moving forward. In the past two years, the Canucks have gone from Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider in goal, to Ryan Miller and… Thatcher Demko?
Though the likes of Bo Horvat and Linden Vey provide the ‘Nucks with some upside, it certainly doesn’t look like enough to counter the sharp decline Vancouver has had defensively. If the Canucks want to return to the playoffs next year, Miller will have to have a Carey Price-like season, and/or the Canucks will have to pick up a first-pairing defenseman. Your move, Jim Benning.
No. 11: Edmonton Oilers
Who’s Out: Who cares? McDavid is in!
The Oilers struck gold.
Black gold, that is.
Landing McDavid with the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft would be enough to make any team’s offseason. However, this is the Edmonton Oilers, and they haven’t been in the playoffs since Twitter was invented.
Craig MacTavish didn’t rest on his laurels, and made several solid additions, including the likes of Sekera and Talbot, who give Oilers fans something to look forward to on the back-end, as well.
The Oilers have had one of the best offseasons in the whole conference. However, we’ve been here before. Time will tell if our prediction is just about right, or if Edmonton can make a serious charge up the standings.
Next: Who Are 10 Through 7?
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