Previewing the Ducks, Stars, Kings, Coyotes & Sharks for the 2008-2009 NHL season
There is less than four weeks to go before the opening regular season game; it’s time for some divisional breakdowns, analysis and predictions. The NHL has six divisions all filled with five teams doing whatever it takes to win the division, make the playoffs and ultimately, win the Stanley Cup.
Without further adieu, the Pacific Division.
This division holds one of the worst teams in the league, one team struggling to go forward but also the potential to have three teams exceed the 100 point barrier. NHL fans can expect a very competitive season from San Jose, Anaheim, Dallas and Phoenix with Los Angeles being the punching bag of the Pacific.
The biggest news going into the new Pacific Division season is how the Sharks will do with their new coach Todd McLellan. Ron Wilson was fired from the team after leading San Jose to many triple-digit point seasons but no playoff success. San Jose also added a much-needed defensive boost by adding Dan Boyle and Rob Blake. The offense will continue to be lead by Joe Thornton with Milan Michalek being the key accent scorer.
San Jose is loaded with talent but until they get some former Stanley Cup champions in the locker room and their playoff experience; there will be no cup this year.
This may be the year for the Dallas Stars. They signed agitation specialist Sean Avery while Brad Richards will get a full season on the roster. As the highest scoring team in the division and second highest in the Western Conference last season, the goals should keep coming; even playing in a defensive style.
Mike Modano is in his final years of hockey and it is the ten year anniversary since the franchise’s last cup. If the Stars can continue to be one of the best road teams, they stand as top contender.
Wayne Gretzky is heading into his fourth season behind the bench of the Phoenix Coyotes in his five year project plan. Last season was Gretzky’s best showing as a coach but he truly expects the Coyotes to survive the division in 09’ and make the playoffs. Bringing in Olli Jokinen will help Shane Doan and Peter Mueller offensively but the Coyotes will certainly not be a defensive force. Bringing in Brian McGratton completes a solid fighting, grinding and protectors line along with Todd Fedoruk and Dan Carcillo.
Overall, the defence is very weak in Phoenix which means Ilya Bryzgalov will be facing an incredible amount of shots. The five year plan will have to wait for the fifth year since this season will be yet another non-playoff showing.
Now the Kings. They are going to be in for another long season and hopefully the fans stick around. This team is loaded with young skill but they need more time to come around to NHL game. For Los Angeles to have a respectable year, Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar must have 80 point seasons each. It will be exciting to hopefully see Drew Doughty make his NHL debut but otherwise, this team will not be entertaining and is in deep trouble.
It is actually really hard to find something nice to say about the Kings since they have no legitimate goalies or have had any recent success. As I said before, hopefully the fans stick around for the 2010-2011 season because maybe then, a decent team will emerge.
Last but not least are the Ducks of Anaheim. As of now, the future of Teemu Selanne is uncertain and this will affect the team. Anaheim is short on forwards while Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry need the help of the “Finnish flash” since the acquisition of Brendan Morrison will not fill that hole. The main strength for the team is in the back where defensemen Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Francios Beauchemin, Sean O’Donnell and more make J.S. Giguere’s job easier.
The Ducks only allowed 191 goals last season (only Detroit was better) but only scored 14 more then they let in. Simple put, Anaheim knows how to win games; and they do.
Over/under compared to last season's overall points:
San Jose finished with 108 points. Tough to improve on a 108 point season under a new coach; under.
Phoenix finished with 83 points. This is a tough one to call with three big hitters in the division; under.
Anaheim finished with 102 points. A very good team, just not as good as seasons before; under.
Dallas finished with 97 points. Avery will help lead this team to a solid 100 point team; over.
Los Angeles finished with 71 points. It’s probably harder to do worse than to do better; over (to be kind).
Predicted 2008-2009 Pacific Division Standings:
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
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