2018-19 NHL Season Preview & Predictions: Pacific Division
Pacific Division team previews, odds, and title pick. Let’s take a look at the next Pacific Division champion in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks (+300)
San Jose familiarized itself with Pacific Division foes during last season’s playoffs, sweeping Anaheim in round one before falling to eventual Western Conference champion Vegas in six games. The Sharks earned a postseason spot for the 13th time in the last 14 years with 100 points, good for third in the Pacific and sixth in the West. They boast a young defense that is perhaps the best in the entire NHL in front of veteran goalie Martin Jones.
Anaheim Ducks (+330)
The Ducks finished with101 points in 2017-18, thus getting home-ice advantage against San Jose only to flame out in four games. Thus they took a step back after reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2016-17, and with basically the same veteran roster that is one year older their quack may continue to get softer. That being said, goalie John Gibson compiled a .926 save percentage last season and could single-handedly keep Anaheim in division title contention.
Calgary Flames (+400)
Calgary has missed the playoffs in seven of the last nine seasons and has won just a single postseason series during this stretch of futility. But is the heat being restored to the Flames? Newcomers James Neal and Elias Lindholm will help revamp the offense and Mike Smith is generally strong in goal. Bill Peters is in as head coach following four seasons with the Hurricanes in which they failed to make the playoffs on every occasion and never finished better than sixth in the Metropolitan Division.
Vegas Golden Knights (+450)
In their debut season, the Golden Knights shocked the hockey world with 109 points and a Pacific Division title (third in the Western Conference, fifth in the NHL). They proved it was no fluke by going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Or did they? According to the odds, the jury is still out on Vegas. But adding of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny to the second line only helps and Marc-Andre Fleury has reestablished himself as one of the best goalies in the business. The Golden Knights are my pick to win the division—again—and they are certainly the best value play at +450.
Edmonton Oilers (+550)
The Oilers wasted another awesome season by former No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid, accruing 78 points and not coming close to do anything other than watching the playoffs from the couch. Their defense stunk, forcing goalie Cam Talbot to face a league-high 2,117 shots. Talbot and backup Mikko Koskinen are both in contract years, so perhaps that will inspire them to raise their levels. Can the top line of McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Ty Rattie shoulder a heavy load?
Los Angeles Kings (+800)
With LeBron James taking his basketball talents to Los Angeles, people have forgotten that hockey is also played in Tinseltown. But it is. If they want to draw attention back to the ice, the Kings will have to invoke the not-too-distant glory days when they won the Stanley Cup twice in the span of three years (2011-12 and 2013-14). But they have not won a playoff series since. L.A. was decent in 2017-18 (seventh in the West) and added veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Vancouver Canucks (+1400)
The Sedin twins played their final seasons in 2017-18 and it is safe to say they did not go out on top (Vancouver finished second to last in the Western Conference with 73 points). This new era perhaps belongs to Bo Horvat (22 years old) and Brock Boeser (20 years old). The Canucks would have been better last season if Horvat and Boeser had stayed healthy, but they did not. Other than those two, these Canucks still don’t have any noticeable strengths.
Arizona Coyotes (+7500)
If there is any good news for the Canucks, it’s that they are not going to finish last in the Pacific Division. That distinction will almost certainly belong to Arizona, just as it did in 2017-18. The Coyotes lit the lamp a mere 208 times last season (second fewest in the NHL) and their offense is once again going to stink this time around. Max Domi is gone and recent center additions Derek Stepan and Christian Dvorak probably won’t offset Domi’s absence.