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Pacific Division Power Rankings
A Dream of Spring Edition
3/9/18 - By Ryan Hall -

Ahh… Spring! Here in Canada, you can tell the seasons are changing by the foot of snow that got dropped on us over the weekend. Even though that was rude of Mother Nature, at least we can shovel and clean things up, all the while reminding ourselves that in a few weeks it'll be melted away. We have something to look forward too, unlike many of the teams currently inhabiting the NHL's Westernmost Division.

For some clubs, all hope was lost before the calendar flipped to 2018, while others have suffered a long, slow, painful descent into irrelevance. For the scant few that remain with something to play for, Spring, and its playoff rebirth, can't come soon enough. All they need to do is hold out a few more weeks, because once the post-season starts everyone's championship dreams get new life.

So, take a walk with me into the future, as we examine the Pacific Division Dreams of Spring…

#1 - Las Vegas Golden Knights

The Knights still hold down the top spot, though there have been some chinks in their armor of late. A subpar 3rd quarter of the season saw Vegas suffer through some losing streaks, as the pace and intensity of the competition ramped up. Despite these struggles they still maintain a healthy 10-point lead in the Pacific, even if top spot in the Western Conference now looks to be out of reach. Fans are dreaming of a deep playoff run, though GM George McPhee may have provided a glimpse of his own mindset when he overpaid to pry Tomas Tatar out of Detroit. It's been a miracle season so far, but is there anything left in the tank for April? That answer, more than anything, will determine whether the Knights dreams will flower or die in Spring.

Last Ranking: 1st

#2 - Anaheim Ducks

What a difference a healthy lineup makes! For most of the season Anaheim was playing without significant pieces of their roster, and the result was a middling team trying to stay alive in the playoff hunt. However, since getting everyone back, the Ducks have gone on a run, posting a 9-4-3 record since February 1st, and finding themselves on the happy side of the post-season bubble. However, while they are trending in the right direction, the club is still hamstrung by their poor first 50 games, and will have to fight the rest of the way to secure their ticket to the dance. Should they manage to do so, this is a team that boasts enough weapons, experience, and toughness to be a dangerous post-season foe. Of course, this assumes their now injury prone - and aging - stars can stay healthy. If they can, Anaheim has the potential to become a nightmare for everyone else in the West.

Last Ranking: 3rd

#3 - San Jose Sharks A team of two natures, you never know which Sharks club will show up. Is it the team that struggles to score, or the fast, dynamic squad that makes opponents pay for every mistake? The addition of Evander Kane seems to tip the balance in favour of the latter, and if that continues San Jose could make some noise in the playoffs; provided they quality. This uncertainty seems to be taking a toll on fans, as the excitement level surround the team has lagged all season, perhaps also due to an emotionally tough offseason split with Patrick Marleau. On the ice, the great unknown is the status of Joe Thornton, who has been less visible than the underside of Brent Burns chin. If he can return and contribute, the Sharks will be able to roll 9 deep at forward, making them extremely difficult to game plan against. While it's hard to make a case that this is a Cup contending team, stranger things have happened in April, and one last deep run may be what it takes to breath new life into a suddenly lukewarm fanbase.

Last Ranking: 5th

#4 - Los Angeles Kings

Will they, or won't they? Are they in, or are they out? Like a cat standing in front of an open door, the Kings just can't seem to make up their mind on where they are going or how to get there! On one hand, they have a solid road record, are +27 in goal differential, and are mostly healthy. Then again, they lose to lesser opponents, and go through obscene goal droughts (they've scored 2 or fewer goals 26 times this season). And then there is the antics of the suddenly petulant Drew Doughty, who seems to have completely forgotten how to control himself whenever things go wrong. All together, to say this club is streaky is an understatement, and they appear poised to either make a run to the finals or implode and completely miss the playoffs altogether. While fans may dream of Springtime glory, it seems anything other than a raging tire fire should probably be considered a success.

Last Ranking: 4th

#5 - Calgary Flames

Putting the Flames in the 5th spot is more a nod to what they've accomplished so far this season, rather than an acknowledgement of anything noteworthy recently. To recap, Calgary has gone ice cold, dropping 3 points out of the playoff picture while posting a 3-5-2 record over their past 10 games. Certainly, the injury to Mike Smith has been a big reason for this, as they are a more fragile team in front of Jon Gillies and David Rittich. That still doesn't explain the lack of offense, or defensive zone lapses that have plagued them of late, as the Flames are too talented to be playing this poorly. For that reason, they remain dangerous, especially with Smith returning to practice on March 7. There's still time to rescue their season, and write a happy ending to this story.

Last Ranking: 2nd

#6 - Arizona Coyotes

Yup, you read that right. The Coyotes are currently tied with Anaheim as the hottest teams in the Pacific Division, which deserves to be recognized. Even if this season has been uglier than a White Walker (you knew a Game of Thrones Reference was coming with this editions' title, didn't you?), there might be, perhaps, maybe some reason for optimism in the future for Arizona. Of course, it's easier to win when you are playing without any pressure, and other teams can't help but look past any squad that will have to hustle to hit the 65-point mark, but still: good on the Yotes for playing out the stretch hard. Looking ahead to the Spring, while everyone else is focused on the playoffs, GM John Chayka will need to decide what to do about UFA Antti Raanta, and suddenly expendable youngster Max Domi. Those two decisions will go a long way to shaping the future for this club, and determine whether the Desert Dogs ever reach the promised land of contention.

Last Ranking: 8th

#7 - Vancouver Canucks

Let's start at the beginning, the Canucks are right where they belong to be, near the bottom of the league standings. Anyone who was clear eyed knew that this club wasn't going to be a factor come March, and that they remained competitive as long as they did deserves a doff of the cap to everyone involved. Now, when it comes to making improvements, Vancouver needs to focus on shoring up their Goals Against (217), which is the primary reason they boast an atrocious -37 differential as their 180 Goals For is near the middle of the pack. To do that, Van City needs a good Spring, by having their NHL youngsters get more experience at the World Championships (hello Sven Baertschi, Alex Biega, Markus Granlund, and Nikolay Goldobin), their AHL affiliate in Utica to make the post-season (they're currently in a playoff position), and their junior prospects to have a deep playoff run (especially Kole Lind from Kelowna in the WHL). If those things can break their way, the Canucks will be able to content themselves dreaming about future April successes in the years ahead.

Last Ranking: 7th

#8 Edmonton Oilers

I've flogged the Oilers in past columns, so I'm not going to do so again. Suffice to say this was a team that had dreams of spring glory, but those will need to be played out on the golf course rather than the ice. In the Board Room, big decisions will need to be made to address the problems on the wings, which is where most of Edmonton's problems stem from. Sure, it's sexy to blame the D, or the goaltending, but any contending team needs to have wingers that can effectively forecheck, and cover their men in the defensive zone. For most of the seasons the Oilers have been lacking just that, which has exposed other areas to scrutiny. While it's unlikely Peter Chiarelli will be able to unload contracts like Milan Lucic, the real challenge will be adding without subtracting, such as the foolhardy rumours of trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a scoring winger. Rather, Edmonton needs to take a deep breath and look at other options, such as perhaps trading what appears to be a Top 5 draft pick for more immediate help. This season has already been a nightmare; Oilers fans need to hope Spring doesn't become a sequel.

Last Ranking: 6th

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