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Pacific Division Power Rankings
Nothings Happened Yet Edition
10/9/14 - By Ryan Hall -

Well fellow Shark fans, the regular season is upon us! After months of nothing happening, the ice is clean, jerseys are laundered, rosters are set, and 30 teams are ready to set out on their quest for hockey supremacy. This is the 2nd best time of the year (after the playoffs) because right now everyone feels happy; everyone thinks they have a chance.

In the Pacific Division nothing exemplifies this better than the current crop of teams, all filled with that bright-eyed optimism that comes from training camp. For at least a couple squads that won't last beyond the initial body check, but it is fun to dream, isn't it? So, in the spirit of hope, let's look at the best case scenarios for each of our plucky characters.

#1 - Los Angeles Kings (Stanley Cup Champions)

What's better than winning your first Stanley Cup? How about winning your second!! That's that LA did last year, and along the way they left a trail of broken Pacific Division hearts that has some wondering if the Kings talents might extend to mental dominance as well. With a returning core of tested veterans, hungry youngsters, and an all-world goalie in Jonathan Quick LA looks like a team that is just getting used to sipping from Lord Stanley's mug. For Darryl Sutter's squad, anything less would be a letdown.

Last Ranking: n/a

#2 - Anaheim Ducks (Stanley Cup Finals)

Last year was a breakthrough campaign for Anaheim, yet there is still unresolved issues with this club. For example, can the team absorb the loss of leadership from Teemu Selanne's retirement? Will Bruce Boudreau finally shed his image as a coach who can't win the big game? Will young goaltenders John Gibson and Frederick Anderson be able to handle the load? Does the addition of Ryan Kessler push the 'idiot' value of the Ducks (with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) into overload? In a perfect world the Ducks will answer all these queries definitively, and if they do then winning the Western Conference wouldn't be shocking. However, it might be a stretch to see them knocking off Championship calibre Boston or Pittsburgh.

Last Ranking: n/a

#3 - San Jose Sharks (Stanley Cup Finals)

Okay, last year is well known. In fact I've already written my own cathartic piece on it. It's time for all of us to move on, or at least try and see where things could go RIGHT. Thankfully, there is talent on this squad, which should benefit from the injection of more youth, hunger, and speed (such as that provided by Mirco Mueller). While some might question whether moving Brent Burns back to D will really propel the team forward, I expect his time spent scoring goals will only enhance his ability to jump into the rush and allow him to admirably filling the role vacated by the departed Dan Boyle. As experience is not lacking, there is no reason why the Sharks shouldn't be a contender within the Western Conference and a tough out once the playoffs start. If things break their way this is a team more than capable of finally reaching the finals; but the older legs of Thornton and Marleau just might make hoisting the Cup too much to expect.

Last Ranking: n/a

#4 - Vancouver Canucks (2nd Round of the Playoffs)

Since this is just a ranking of potential, the Canucks hold down the 4th spot due to their experience, individual talent, and name recognition. Do I honestly think they'll make it this far? No, but it's hard to say that a squad boasting Ryan Miller, the Sedin twins, and a defense corps of Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, and Kevin Bieksa doesn't have the potential to make some noise in the playoffs. Adding to the hope in Van-City is the arrival of youngsters Linden Vey and Bo Horvat (currently nursing a sore shoulder) which should add precociousness to a rather bland group of forwards. Hope rides high, but will the reality live up to that hype?

Last Ranking: n/a

#5 - Edmonton Oilers (1st Round of the Playoffs)

For years the Oilers have teased observers with high draft picks and talented forwards, but each year they plummet to earth due to holes on the back-end or in net. Well, this season will be different as GM Craig MacTavish spent all summer recruiting defensemen by adding Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne, who will be joined by last year's #7 overall draft choice Darnell Nurse. Is that going to be enough? It certainly will be close, as for the first time in years the Oil look like a respectable NHL team, and one that is poised to finally play meaningful April hockey.

Last Ranking: n/a

#6 - Calgary Flames (Top 10 Draft Choice)

Let's be clear: the Flames will be better than last season. While no one expected much from Calgary last year, they still managed to impress with a gritty workman like attitude. After another year of growth for Sean Monahan and Joe Cobourne, a good draft (Sam Bennett), and decent player acquisitions (Jonas Hiller, Devon Seteguchi, Raphael Diaz) the Flames roster is both deeper and more talented. Despite this, the playoffs remain far away, but at least Calgary is heading in the right direction. Another high draft choice would definitely help speed things along, however building a winning atmosphere is also important. With that in mind the Flames will continue to compete hard, and let the chips fall where they may; probably in the 7 - 10 range come draft day.

Last Ranking: n/a

#7 - Arizona Coyotes (Top 3 Draft Choice)

A shiny new name, a new potential owner, and the same sad-sack club. Actually, that isn't fair: this year's Coyotes squad is FAR worse than previous editions with the loss of Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata. That means the burden falls more heavily on workhorse goaltender Mike Smith, who just happened to see his reliable back-up Thomas Greiss leave and journeyman Devin Dubnyk take his place. All that means is Mr. Smith should see action in at least 70 games this year, while having the honour of watching his offense be led by such luminaries as Sam Gagner, Mikael Bodker, and Shane Doan. Seriously, that is it. Unless Joe Vitale is much better than everyone thinks. At least the defense corps boasts Keith Yandle and Oliver-Ekman Larsson, but with talent in short supply they might find themselves as trade bait - or perhaps just mutiny and demand out. The good news: the draft is stocked with players, and the 2018 Coyotes should be a fun squad to watch.

Last Ranking: n/a

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