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Pacific Division Power Rankings - Quarter Season Mark Edition
Are they In or Out?
11/26/17 - By Ryan Hall -

Hello, loyal reader, and Happy Thanksgiving! While those of us north of the border don't have today off, we do appreciate your festivities, and thank you for large amount of football we can watch as we try to pass time until the Black Friday deals begin! For the 31 NHL clubs, Thanksgiving is more than just a time to remember all the good things in their lives; it's also the unofficial measuring stick of whether they are going to make the post-season. While there have been some outliers in the previous seasons, generally those in a playoff spot now, are the clubs we'll see come April. So, what does that mean for the Pacific Division, home to hockey's newest, hottest, and pluckiest squad? Join me as we see who's IN, and who's OUT!

NOTE: Power Rankings reflect a teams' performance + expectations + recent play.

#1 Las Vegan Golden Knights (IN!!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce the darlings of the NHL, and the quickest team to hit #1 in the Power Rankings. The Golden Knights came out of the gate on fire, and while they cooled a bit in early November, lately they've found the winning formula once more. Not only is their success impressive as they're an expansion team, but at one point they were down to dressing their emergency 5th goalie due to injuries. For a team, any team, to survive that is impressive. All logic says the Knights can't keep up this pace, but call owner Bill Foley as I've joined him as a believer.

Last Ranking: n/a

#2 Vancouver Canucks (Out)

By the stats, the Vancouver Canucks are a middling team, boasting a true .500 record and even goal differential. However, what the stats don't show is that the Canucks were supposed to be awful this season, and reaching the lofty heights of average is already a success. Driving this surge is the emergence of 20-year-old Brock Boeser, who leads all rookies in scoring as is on pace to pot over 40 goals. He's helped take the pressure off Bo Horvat and the Sedin's, giving Van City decent scoring depth. Unfortunately, question marks remain in net, and the defense corps is too green to be counted on for a full 82 games. Still, props to the Canucks so far; I hope they're enjoying the ride.

Last Ranking: n/a

#3 Calgary Flames (IN!!)

The Flames quietly came out of the gate strong, and have continued to play solid hockey throughout the first quarter of their schedule. While rarely flashy or newsworthy, they have still managed to be the hottest team in the Pacific over the past 10 games, posting a solid 7-2-1 record, including wins over Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Driving their success is the strong play of their stacked defense, and the steadying influence of goalie Mike Smith who appears to be enjoying life in Calgary. Up front, the kids are getting it done, with pint-sized wonder Johnny Gaudreau leading the way. In fact, if it wasn't for the buzzsaw that is Tampa Bay, Johnny Hockey would be leading the league in scoring. All of this points to the Flames being serious contenders, and a lock to make the post-season.

Last Ranking: n/a

#4 - San Jose Sharks (IN!!)

We're at the point in the Rankings where the line between In and Out starts to blur, and the gap between clubs gets razor thin. Currently, the Sharks get the nod for the playoffs, and posted ahead of the other California teams based on their health, recent stretch of play, and consistency. Team Teal has one winning streak longer than 2 games this season, but only one losing streak longer than 2 as well, meaning every night seems to be a crapshoot. Certainly, there are issues when no player is on a 1.0 ppg pace, 38-year-old Joe Thornton is 2nd on the club in scoring, and Brent Burns has yet to find the net, but thus far the team has managed to stay afloat. Even if they keep muddling along, it should be enough to make the playoffs. However, if the above concerns can be resolved, the Sharks could once again be a dangerous post-season squad.

Last Ranking: n/a

#5 - Los Angeles King (Out)

Yes, right now things are looking rosy in LA, as the Kings raced out of the blocks, sport an impressive +13 goal differential, and sit second in the Pacific. However, if you dig deeper, you'll see that this is an extremely streaky club that struggles to score goals. Case in point, they are currently riding a 6-game losing streak and have a total of 6 goals throughout that period. Some of that will be addressed when Jeff Carter returns from injury in the New Year, but until then putting the puck in the net may remain an issue. On the flip side, this is a club that has long relied on Jonathan Quick to shut the door, and cracks are starting to show on the backend as well. Currently, when Quick is in net LA is allowing 32 shots per game, far above their previous seasons average of 26. This can partly be explained by new coach John Stevens attempt to transition the team to an attacking style, however that approach seems to be ripping at the fabric of the club. It all seems like too much to overcome for a full 82 games.

Last Ranking: n/a

#6 Anaheim Ducks (IN!!)

Let's be frank: the Ducks have been decimated by injuries. Not only did Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm both miss the start of the campaign recovering from offseason shoulder surgeries, but Cam Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf have both been absent for considerable periods of time as well. If you add in that Ryan Kesler hasn't even played yet, and Patrick Eaves managed all of 2 games before his Guillian-Barre syndrome diagnosis, it's amazing that Anaheim is tied for the final Wildcard spot. As the roster gets healthy, expect the Ducks to begin surging up the standings as they are simply too good of a club to be held down for long. Whether that will translate into a Pacific Division title, or sustained post-season success is less certain, but one thing is for sure: this will be a playoff team.

Last Ranking: n/a

#7 Edmonton Oiler (IN!!)

That's right, I think the Oilers are going to make the playoffs. It might seem like a sexy longshot pick, but there's a method to this madness, so let me explain. Right now, the Oil are playing about as poorly as they can, getting contributions from scant few players not named McDavid or Draisaitl, and struggling in their own end. However, there are reasons for optimism. First, so far Ryan Nugent-Hopkins alone has been providing secondary scoring, but eventually those other players are going to wake up. Secondly, Andres Sekera is slowly getting healthy, and his return will provide more stability to a blueline that has struggled in his absence. Slotting everyone down one place should allow players to find comfort in roles they excelled at last season. Finally, confidence is a strange thing. This is a young team, and that means they feel the ups and downs of a season more acutely than a veteran club might. Right now, they are down, but once a couple of bounces go their way, or they net a couple wins in quick succession, watch out. Don't sleep on Edmonton just yet, as there's lots of season left to go.

Last Ranking: n/a

#8 Arizona Coyotes (Out, a thousand times Out)

I'm going to try and remain civil as I speak about the Desert Dogs, because this is supposed to be the start of a festive and happy season. However, it's quite clear that the Coyotes are brutal. Historically brutal. Let's leave the fact they didn't win in regulation for the first 20 games of the season, or that they have a rookie coach who looks lost. I won't mention they dumped money on free agents who have been busts, or that they appear to have broken the spirit of otherworldly defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I'll even gloss over the way they ran Shane Doan out of town, dumped Mike Smith, and have set back the development of their young players by not giving them a chance to develop in the AHL. Instead, I'll focus on the bright spot that is Clayton Keller, the 19-year-old shining light in a very dark desert. He represents the future of the franchise, and has been a revelation in his rookie season sitting tied with Boeser for the rookie lead in goals with 11. For a fanbase that is already in 'next year' country, he's the lone thing worth celebrating in the here and now.

Last Ranking: n/a



Contact Ryan at at ryanhall@letsgosharks.com



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