Jan 31, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley on his bench against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
No. 6: Minnesota Wild
Who’s In: Mike Reilly
The Wild look to be staying the course, and for good reason. Last season, it was good enough to not only get them in the playoffs, but to knock off the Central Division champions in the first round. With another season of playoff experience under their belt, the Wild’s goal should be simple in 2015-16: get back there.
If Devan Dubnyk lives up to the high standard he set for himself last season, it’s almost a given, and the Wild could very easily be searching for a divisional playoff seed this time around, after falling just short of the last Central Division spot in the final week of the 2014-15 regular season.
Between a free-agent signing in Reilly and re-upping Jonas Brodin, the Wild are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel defensively. However, it will be up to the aging veterans to carry the load, paving the way for the likes of Mikael Granlund in the years beyond.
Da Windy City
No. 5: Calgary Flames
Who’s In: Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton
Who’s Out: N/A
The Flames are out to prove that last season’s march to the playoffs, and their second round, was far from a fluke. So far this summer, they have made all the right moves. The Flames picked up a top-six forward and potent penalty-killer in Frolik, while re-signing Mikael Backlund to a well-earned extension.
However, Brad Treliving pulled off the wildest trade of the summer at the NHL draft, picking up soon-to-be-RFA Hamilton from the Boston Bruins for nothing but draft picks, voiding the offer sheet bound to be sent his way just a few days after, from the Flames’ rivals from northern Alberta.
The Flames are officially a bottle rocket, and could do untold things in the Pacific Division next season. It may not have been as easy as getting your name pulled first in the draft lottery, but nonetheless, the Flames have had the biggest and best offseason of any Western Conference team.
No. 4: Los Angeles Kings
Who’s In: Milan Lucic, Jhonas Enroth
If you didn’t like the L.A. Kings before, you really won’t now.
The addition of Lucic was an unexpected move, but one that makes perfect sense, in hindsight. Though a few short weeks ago it would not have been possible, GM Dean Lombardi is now free to move about the free-agent and trade markets, with his hands financially untied.
The Kings were marred by problems no other team had to face in the past year, with multiple players landing in hot water with the law. Not only that, but the Kings saved Richards’ contract from a near-certain buyout, and instead nullified the near-$30 million remaining on his contract due to a “breach of term”
Though that investigation is still ongoing, the Kings look like a team ready to rebound on the ice, after failing to make the playoffs and defend their 2014 Stanley Cup title. With added grit, they will certainly keep up in a tougher Pacific Division, and experience is no problem for this team. They won’t be the best in California next year, but they’ll certainly get some of their swagger back.
Next: Who Are 3 Through 1?
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