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Pacific Division Power Rankings #6
Mid-Season Blues Edition
2/16/15 - By Ryan Hall -

Well, here we are in February, and the NHL season continues to drag on. The trade deadline is still a month away, and with the All-Star game in the rearview mirror there isn't much happening to get the blood pumping. Sure, there might be a small outdoor game taking place soon, but that's about the only blip on a very quiet radar. These are the dog days of the campaign, where the league takes a collective breath before plunging headlong into the playoff push and the post-season itself. For the denizens of the Pacific Division how well you struggle through this phase sets the table for future success, or failure. So, let's take a look at what keeps each team ticking, as they count down the days until March.

#1 - Anaheim Ducks

It's hard to find something to criticize about a squad that is tied for the league lead in points and wins, so it might be tempting to say the Ducks are just riding things out until the playoffs start. However, that doesn't tell the whole story, as despite boasting a 33-12-6 record Anaheim is only +14 in goal differential this season. That seems to indicate that this is a club that only wins close games, and tends to lose badly when they are defeated. Obviously, it doesn't matter if you win by 1 or 3 goals, as the post-season is a sprint to 16 wins. But, it is something Coach Bruce Boudreau can use to keep his team focused; though the rest of the league would probably wouldn't mind if the Ducks dozed for a little while.

Last Ranking: 1

#2 - Calgary Flames

Thus far, the Flames have been a great story in the league, showing that hard work and responsible hockey can coexist nicely with youth and talent. This magical season doesn't show any sign of slowing down, as the Flames currently sit 2 points back of second place in the Pacific Division. When you factor in that this is a young squad, there is no doubt that they should be pleased with what they have accomplished so far. With that being said, there is at least one problem area in Calgary: their lack of size. While Johhny Gaudreau, Sean Monohan, Kris Russel, et al definitely have skill, they are also on the small size - and in the Western Conference that is dangerous. Now, there isn't a way to make these players physically grow, but the Flames could work on standing up for each other. A united front makes everyone feel bigger, and if the Flames plan on sticking around into April they may need those couple extra inches.

Last Ranking: 3

#3 - San Jose Sharks

Let's be honest: whether it's in the Standings, or on the Power Rankings, the Sharks are virtually tied with the Canucks. They get the nod at #3 due to better wins in the past few games over quality opponents like Anaheim, Chicago, and LA, but it's these victories that highlight the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this team. Simply put: when they play good teams San Jose puts in a full effort and usually wins. Conversely, when the Sharks play weak teams, they coast and usually lose. That inconsistency has to drive management crazy .and it only adds to the sense of nervousness surrounding the squad. After all, while the Sharks will be judged solely on how they perform in the playoffs, they still need to qualify and look like a quality team in the process. Solving the consistency problem would definitely help pass the February blues.

Last Ranking: 5

#4 - Vancouver Canucks As mentioned above, there isn't much to choose between the Canucks and the Sharks. For Van City, things continue to progress nicely, as they prove that last year was just an aberration caused by goaltending controversies and bad coaching. This season, the sailing has been smooth, with only small hiccups along the way. While that might seem like a great formula to the season, Coach Willie Desjardin has to be wondering exactly how his players would respond to some genuine adversity - and he would probably prefer to find out before the playoffs start. Obviously, you can't create problems for your team, but with only 49 games played (as of this writing), the Canucks have a busy 2 months ahead of them. Preparing for that challenging stretch, and making sure they are mentally tough enough to handle adversity when it comes, should be the focus in Vancouver.

Last Ranking: 2

#5 - Los Angeles King

What a difference a year makes! While the Kings have mastered the art of lying in the weeds until the opportune moment to strike, something seems different about this club from past iterations. Maybe it is the lack of intensity, or the inability to score goals? Or is it the suddenly porous defense, and an off year by Jonathon Quick? Unfortunately, there is a multitude of places to put the blame, and despite his best efforts Darryl Sutter can't seem to jumpstart his team. All of this means that right now Los Angeles finds itself on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason play, and the question is: should they buy or should they sell? Certainly, a couple additions might get this team into the dance, and they've proven to everyone that they have championship mettle once the calendar flips to April. However, there's a strong case to be made for moving out some older, reduced veterans and setting things up for the next 2 or 3 seasons to come. Solving this dilemma is going to take time, and that's something LA is rapidly running out of.

Last Ranking: 5

#6 - Edmonton Oilers

So, it has finally come to this. Through a mixture of their own improved play - and the descent of another club - the Oilers have officially moved out of the basement in the Power Rankings. While they shouldn't get used to their new position yet, they have shown a new tenacity under interim coach Todd Nelson including a greater interest in playing cohesive, NHL level hockey, It's sad that this is the best compliment that can be paid to Edmonton, but still it's progress forward! Since the playoffs are out of reach, the best thing for the Oilers to do is work on getting better as a team and setting the table for next year. It might be tempting to tank for McDavid of Eichel, but at some point you need to win with the players you have. Besides, rushing another teenager will only set them back further. Rather, creating a winning culture, and ensuring any drafted player has the chance to develop properly in the minors, would be a major accomplishment.

Last Ranking: 7

#7 - Arizona Coyotes

Welcome! Put your stuff in the corner, and take your time unpacking - there's no rush. While I never want to say that a team is going all-in on losing, Arizona is doing the closest thing possible by the way they are playing. Not only do they have a worse goal differential than Edmonton, but they simply look like a team that is already stopped caring. Adding to the problems is that Dave Tippett continues to play his veterans, either to showcase them to others (not working), or because he refuses to stop trying to win. Unfortunately for him, his team isn't as motivated, which means that he's basically a passenger watching the ship go down. As a result, he needs to swallow his pride and start getting the young players some ice time so that they are ready in the next couple of years. If he won't, then perhaps a change behind at the helm is needed, as his current decisions are only setting an already large rebuild back even further.

Last Ranking: 6



Contact Ryan at at ryanhall@letsgosharks.com


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