The State Of The Pacific
You know about the Flames because that’s what we write about here. But we figured it was time to reach out to our friends within the Pacific Division to get their takes on their respective teams. We reached out to everyone and most people played ball (Vancouver and Arizona don’t like us apparently) and responded with answers. So set aside some time and read up about what’s happening with the Oilers, Golden Knights, Sharks, Kings and Ducks!
Edmonton Oilers (@copperandblue)
The Oilers have been a pleasant surprise for the majority of the season so far. There are plenty of things that the fans can be happy about, like the top drawer play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Fans can get happy about the emergence of Ethan Bear on the blue line, who looks to be the real deal. The power play has been chilling out at the top of the leaderboard since day 1. Also: the Oilers are hanging around a playoff spot and it’s nearly February. I can think of exactly two times in the last fourteen years that we could say such a thing. So far, so good, yeah?
There’s plenty of areas to show concern as well. Goaltender Mike Smith played lights out to begin the season, but fell into some old ways into November and December. Mikko Koskinen looked to be a hit out of the gate, though his play has cooled off recently . Secondary scoring is touch and go at best, and we’re in year 5 of the Connor McDavid Experience without a permanent fixture on either side.
Fortunately, things have worked out for the better so far. 97 and 29 are playing lights out, and the club is scoring more goals to cover most of the questions in goal. I don’t care how the club gets to the playoffs as long as they at least have a ticket to the dance. Right now, they’re right in the thick of things in the Pacific, which is more than I could ask for from this club.
San Jose Sharks (@fearthefin)
Going into the All-Star break, the Sharks have made it clear that they need to fix on the fly. Unfortunately, with the Ottawa Senators holding on to their first-round pick, the Sharks don’t have a ton of options — tanking does no good, so they’ve got to keep pushing to get to playoffs, even if by the skin of their teeth, just to avoid the embarrassment of Ottawa using their pick in the top three.
That said, coming into the second half of the season, the more interesting story will likely be off the ice, as Doug Wilson is a known tire-kicker and incredible salesman. He makes big, smart moves under pressure like this.
LA Kings (@jewelsfromthecrown)
The current state of the Los Angeles Kings is decidedly mediocre. While they’re playing with more structure and, generally, more urgency than we saw last season, the sad truth (for Kings fans, at least) is that absolutely no one on the team, outside of Anze Kopitar, can finish. The depth scoring that helped drive the Kings to success years ago is gone, the role players in the lineup can’t ever produce with any consistency, and most of the top six have gone ice cold. Jonathan Quick at least has bounced back from an atrocious start to his season, but he’s also not always able to come up with that one last miraculous save when the defense in front of him falters. Todd McLellan is working to position the team for future success, but even he has admitted that the team’s issue right now isn’t effort, it’s skill. It’s a “win one, lose two” kind of season for the Kings, which seems about right in line with expectations. As the trade deadline approaches, look for players like Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, and perhaps Derek Forbort (if he can stay healthy) to get bigger minutes in a showcase for a trade. After the deadline, we’ll probably see a lot more of Martin Frk (unless a contender wants to make a deal for a very hard-shooting depth player), Kale Clague, and possibly Jaret Anderson-Dolan once roster spots open up.
Anaheim Ducks (@anaheimcalling)
Most Ducks fans saw this season as the start of a new era. An era of hope with a new coach, new Ducklings, and new aspirations. While no one thought they would be true Stanley Cup contenders, the fans believed this year would be the first year back to the path of relevance.
So much for that.
At this point, pretty much all Ducks fans have resigned themselves to the fact that they will be missing the playoffs for the second year in a row and have taken up the timeless hobby of simulating the draft lottery on Tankathon. The kids haven’t played to the expectations many had of them, though there have been occasional flashes of brilliance. The goaltending has regressed, as Ryan Miller seems to be truly at the end of his NHL career and John Gibson has just been mediocre at best.
What was once one of the NHL’s best young defensive corps has been systematically dismantled by General Manager Bob Murray to try and address the lack of offense that said General Manager enabled in the first place. Surprisingly, this current defensive group is actually not terrible, but they’re not great either.
Looking forward to the rest of the season, Ducks fans can really only hope for the ideal scenario of playing good, competitive games while still losing as much as they can stomach for a shot at Alexis Lafreniere.
Vegas Golden Knights (@knightsonice)
Once upon a time, the Vegas Golden Knights were a Stanley Cup contender and the winningest franchise in the history of professional sports.
Now, they’ve fired their coach. What the hell is going on?
Up is down, left is right, and the Golden Knights are in delicate territory to make something happen in these final 30 games. Thanks to their 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, Vegas heads into the break in a four-way tie for second place in the Pacific Division. No lead is safe, and no playoff positioning is safe between now and the end of the year.
It is up to Peter DeBoer, in probably the worst position imaginable, to take this team over with 30 games to go and lead them to the playoffs. Once he does that, he’ll be tasked for winning one playoff series, maybe two. Anything less would be a catastrophic failure on the hands of general manager Kelly McCrimmon and president of hockey operations George McPhee.
Vegas has four more road games after the bye — Carolina, Nashville, Tampa, Florida — and none of them are easy points. Nine of the Golden Knights’ first 11 games out of the bye are against playoff teams; they play Carolina, Tampa and Florida twice. They can’t have a losing mark in those games.
Expect the Golden Knights to be heavily in the market for a puck-moving defenseman, one primarily that fits the mold of what DeBoer wants. Vegas needs to make a move. What it has right now isn’t good to get into the playoffs, let alone win a series. The Golden Knights are not in position to be in wait-and-see mode, either. If they’re going to make a move, they can’t wait until the deadline, especially with the loaded schedule coming up.
For the first time in their short history, the Golden Knights should feel nervous about what’s to come.
by Mark Parkinson