So you’ve seen our take on the Central, Atlantic, Southeast and Northeast divisions. With just hours to go before the puck drops on a new season, our in-depth (heh…) coverage continues with a look at the Pacific.
In 2008-09…um, they were just a little better than Los Angeles.
This season…don’t expect much better. While the Coyotes won’t be headed for Hamilton anymore, the future looks uncertain for this unprofitable franchise. Not helping matters any: their low-profile head coach decided to pull the chute days before the start of the regular season.
Former Stars coach Dave Tippett is now at the helm, but it’s a shame that the off-ice business has overshadowed the efforts of the team in the preseason. They haven’t been completely awful: 3-2 with 3 OT losses in eight games. They’ve also made a number of moves in the offseason, adding among others defenceman Adrian Aucoin and Radim Vrbata. They won’t end up in the basement, but don’t expect a playoff appearance either.
Hottie to watch: crappy teams are always worth watching when you have a guy like Scottie Upshall playing for them.
In 2008-09…finished second in the Pacific, knocked off the Sharks in the playoffs and took the Mighty Red Wings to a seven-game series.
This season…the Ducks will remain a force to be reckoned with. I would expect strong seasons from sophomore player Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. Former Habs captain Saku Koivu will add experience and leadership to the locker room (but let’s just hope he stays healthy – he has a reputation for being brittle) He’ll be linemates with Teemu and Joffrey Lupul, who was acquired in the Chris Pronger trade. I could think of a worse number two line.
Hottie to watch: Edmonton native Joffrey Lupul, no question!
San Jose Sharks
In 2008-09…won the President’s Trophy, then got promptly knocked out of the first round by aforementioned Ducks.
This season…the Sharks hope to improve their postseason underachieving ways with the addition of Dany Heatley. But let’s face it – goaltending is key and Evgeni Nobokov has to have a good season to bring these guys to the next level and perhaps even hang on to his starting job. I can’t see San Jose winning another President’s Trophy – Anaheim seems to have the edge over the Sharks this season.
Hottie to watch: Joe Thornton is expected to improve his numbers with Heatley as his linemate. Now if only he would ask me for my number…
In 2008-09…the Stars hobbled to a 12th place finish in the West.
This season…it doesn’t look great. Gone are Sergei Zubov, Brendan Morrison and Mark Parrish. They have to get used to a new coach in Marc Crawford. Defense doesn’t look too hot and Marty Turco is coming off the worst season of his career. On the bright side, it’s a contract year for Turco so I would expect an improved performance. If the Stars can stay healthy, perhaps they can claw back up to 8th place.
Hottie to watch: Blue hued Brad Richards is hot and everything (Lighting-era throwback. Sorry…) but here‘s a photo from a while back that will really make your heart melt. Good job, Brad.
Los Angeles Kings
In 2008-09…almost surprised some people, and then didn’t. On the outside looking in for the sixth season in a row.
This season…the Kings are still a relatively young team, but I think this year they will surprise everyone by getting into the playoffs. They added Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi in the offseason, and there’s lots of talk about young goaltender Jonathan Quick as well as Drew Doughty. They could be fun to watch.
Hottie to watch: Well hello, Alexander Frolov (a shout-out to A Queen Among Kings where I found this fine photo)
And that leaves just one division – the one with the other Canadian teams in it. Watch for that one later today or Friday (yeah, I know I’m running late) In the meantime, who are you loving in the Pacific? Have at ‘er below.