Analysis

NHL Western Conference: 2016-17 Regular Season Preview, Predictions

By Colin Likas
Oct 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville sits with his players during the third period of a preseason game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville sits with his players during the third period of a preseason game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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September 27, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks forward Kevin Labanc (62) is congratulated for scoring the game-winning goal in overtime during a preseason hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

How are things going to go in the Wild West?

The Pacific Division actually produced the Western Conference champion last season with the surprising San Jose Sharks. The team that was struggling to find an identity not long ago is apparently good with where it’s at now.

Meanwhile, the Ducks and Kings continue to be in contention mode. The rest of the division is either in rebuilding status or just straight up dumpster fire status.

Offseason moves

Anaheim Ducks — Added: F Antoine Vermette, F Mason Raymond, G Jonathan Bernier, F Jared Boll; Lost: G Frederik Andersen, F David Perron, F Brandon Pirri, F Mike Santorelli, F Chris Stewart, coach Bruce Boudreau

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Arizona Coyotes — Added: D Alex Goligoski, F Radim Vrbata, D Luke Schenn; Lost: F Antoine Vermette, F Alex Tanguay

Calgary Flames — Added: F Troy Brouwer, G Brian Elliot, F Alex Chiasson, G Chad Johnson, F Kris Versteeg, F Matthew Tkachuk; Lost: F Mason Raymond, G Jonas Hiller, F Joe Colborne

Edmonton Oilers — Added: F Milan Lucic, G Jonas Gustavsson, D Adam Larsson; Lost: F Taylor Hall, F Nail Yakupov, F Teddy Purcell, D Nikita Nikitin, G Anders Nilsson

Los Angeles Kings — Added: F Teddy Purcell, F Devin Setoguchi, D Derek Forbort, G Jeff Zatkoff; Lost: F Milan Lucic, G Jhonas Enroth, F Kris Versteeg

San Jose Sharks — Added: F Mikkel Boedker, D David Schlemko; Lost: G James Reimer, D Roman Polak

Vancouver Canucks — Added: F Loui Eriksson, D Erik Gudbranson; Lost: D Yannick Weber, F Radim Vrbata, F Chris Higgins, F Brandon Prust

A decent bit of in-division movement among players this offseason in the Pacific, which was also a landing ground for some former Central Division athletes. San Jose went with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy, and it should serve them well.

Los Angeles got stronger by losing guys like Lucic and Versteeg and made some solid, if not major, improvements at forward. Anaheim had a really turbulent offseason following another early playoff exit. They went back to Randy Carlyle at coach, which … hasn’t worked that well in the past.

Edmonton made two baffling moves in moving former first-overall picks Hall and Yakupov for essentially nothing. The Flames and Coyotes made some nice little improvements, but seem focused on their youth as well. Why Vancouver signed Eriksson is anyone’s guess, considering how bad the Canucks are going to be for the entirety of his six-year deal.

Projected standings

x-Los Angeles Kings, 102 points

x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points

x-Anaheim Ducks, 97 points

Calgary Flames, 85 points

Arizona Coyotes, 84 points

Edmonton Oilers, 82 points

Vancouver Canucks, 55 points

x-qualifies for playoffs

I see the Pacific shaking out as a battle of “meh” again this season. But don’t be surprised if these teams make noise in the postseason, as they always seem to. There’s just no reason to go from the same three playoff teams as came out of the Pacific last year, and there’s also no reason to assume one or two of the others will snag wild-card spots.

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Calgary, Arizona and even Edmonton (despite it’s desire to purge Hall) are on the slow rise. Vancouver, meanwhile, is going to be horrible. Maybe the Canucks will actually shop the Sedin brothers this season. Or maybe they’ll just opt to retire, if they don’t want to be split up and can’t take anymore of the team’s mediocrity. I wouldn’t blame them.

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