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Pacific Division Power Ranking 8
Where do we go from here?
4/14/14 - By Ryan Hall -

Well, the 2013-2014 NHL regular season is in the books, and for more than half the residents of the Pacific Division that means golf, holidays, and watching the playoffs on TV. As the post-mortem begins in Western Canada and Arizona, the most pressing question will be: Where do we go from here? Charting a course for success will undoubtedly lead to very different paths, but the end result is always the same: Make the Playoffs and Win the Stanley Cup. So, with that in mind, in this curtain closing edition of the Power Rankings, we'll look at what each squad needs to do so that next year they can achieve regular season success.

#1 - Anaheim Ducks

Despite faltering down the stretch, the Ducks found a way to not only secure the Pacific Division, but also take home the top seed in the Western Conference; all told not a bad campaign. Using a mixture of solid goaltending, stifling defense, and just enough offense, Anaheim overcame all the obstacles put in their way and showed that last season wasn't a fluke. However, that doesn't mean they can't improve! One troubling aspect was the lack of road success, which often placed added pressure on the squad to protect home ice at all costs. Effort also was concern, as far too often the Ducks were playing from behind and relying on frantic 3rd period comebacks to steal points they might not have deserved. These two problems will probably work themselves out as the youth movement continues to gain experience and learns how to compete consistently at the NHL level; while removing long in the tooth players like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne (yes I said it) won't hurt either.

Last Ranking: 2

#2 San Jose Sharks

The men in teal fell just short of stealing away the Pacific title from Anaheim, with injuries and inconsistent play causing them to finish second. While this campaign featured a resurgence by Joe Thornton, the way forward for the Sharks depends on someone other than Pavelski and Couture becoming a reliable scoring threat. The Sharks are well positioned for that to happen with Tomas Hertl showing flashes of brilliance and Brent Burns bearing the marks of a 35 goal, 70 point player. Until that becomes a reality though, San Jose will too often be forced to rely on aging veterans.

Last Ranking: 1

#3 Los Angeles Kings

What a difference one player can make!! Ever since they acquired Marian Gaborik the Kings played like a team reborn, showing that perhaps there is room in LA for skilled players after all. After years of grinding checking, Gaborik seemed to light a fire that made many of the Kings remember that you can win a game by something other than a 2-1 or 1-0 score line. This path forward marks the best hope for LA as they seek to remain an elite team within the NHL, as the continuous wear and tear of 82 games (plus playoffs) is starting to show on the frames of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, and Mike Richards. Lessening the physical toil inflicted on their stars will not only mean that core group can contend for longer, but more goals might relieve the pressure on Jonathon Quick, leaving him fresher and extending his own shelf-life.

Last Ranking: 3

#4 - Phoenix Coyotes

In the end, the Coyotes fell prey to a very predictable demise: Not enough talent = not enough scoring. The clock appears to have struck midnight for the desert dogs, who got a lot of mileage out of playing an honest effort, all heart, and tight checking game - meaning that changes need to be made to address the ghastly lack of firepower on this team. While many fans might be tempted to say that Mike Smith's injury cost Phoenix a playoff spot, the truth is Thomas Griess played just fine and it was the offense that let the team down. Until the Coyotes find a way to attract more than middling players, the pressure of no margin for error will only beat them down, meaning their path forward lies solely in acquiring some snipers. Thankfully, there are pieces to be moved (such as Keith Yandle) that should help Don Maloney chart a course to success.

Last Ranking: 4

#5 - Calgary Flames

You probably thought this ranking was just a reflection of the final standings, didn't you?! Well, the truth is that it's a reflection of how these squads ended the year, and how easy of a path forward they have. For the Flames, that path is filled with hope and potential after an overachieving season that witnessed the birth of some new stars, including Sean Monahan and Karri Ramo. These two players give the Flames something to build on, as do the stable of picks they've acquired for the upcoming entry draft. When you add in a nice salting of veterans that can still play (looking at you Mike Cammalleri and Mark Giodano), the road back to relevance for Calgary looks fairly straight forward and short.

Last Ranking: 5

#6 - Edmonton Oilers

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me! I drank the Kool-Aid on the Oilers this season, thinking that there was no way a squad with that much talent could perform so poorly again. And boy was I wrong. With that being said, there are some signs of optimism for Edmonton, with the best and brightest being Taylor Hall. Not only did he crack the 80 point barrier, but he finished in the Top 10 of NHL scoring - quite a feat for a player in his early 20's. Additionally, the emergence of Ben Scrivens as a legitimate NHL goaltender means that for once the Oilers can start crossing things off their NEEDS list, and start working on supporting what they already have. That may still mean making a couple trades that parlay youth into veterans (especially defensemen), but when you're lineup includes 5 Top 10 draft choices under the age of 25 (Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins, and Gagner), you've got some assets to work with. A few savvy moves, and Edmonton will contend! (And yes, the Kool-Aid still tastes great!)

Last Ranking: 7

#7 - Vancouver Canucks

Bad to Worse! Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks story, starring… well… no one!! In a single calendar year the Canucks have been swept in the first round of the playoffs, traded BOTH members of their goalie controversy for scraps, fired one coach (soon to be a second), fired their GM, and completed a season that is best summarized as awful. So where do they go from here? Where to start! Without a real identity, the Canucks cannot hope to move forward. Are they a puck possession team? If so they need the Sedin's to be healthy, and they have to acquire players more skilled than Zack Kassian. Or perhaps they're going to be a grinding team? Then it's goodbye Sedin's - but how do you make those trades? And what about Ryan Kessler, who they nearly moved at the trade deadline and then, inexplicably, decided to keep?! Will he even want to be back? These questions are only the tip of the iceberg for a franchise that may not have hit rock bottom just yet, but boy the ground sure is rising up fast!

Last Ranking: 6


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