2013 NHL Predictions: Pacific Division Preview

Jacob Betzner@@JacobBetznerCorrespondent IISeptember 10, 2012

2013 NHL Predictions: Pacific Division Preview

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    The Pacific Division consistently produces at least one Stanley Cup contender.  The Los Angeles Kings upset Northwest Division powerhouse Vancouver Canucks, surprising Central Division winning St. Louis Blues and Pacific Division champion Phoenix Coyotes on the way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

    The Anaheim Ducks need to regroup after a tough season filled with injury and shortcomings.

    The Dallas Stars look to make a push for the playoffs after adding some big names to the roster.

    The Los Angeles Kings hope to defend the Stanley Cup with much of the same championship roster intact.

    The Phoenix Coyotes look to remain atop the Pacific Division with new players filling key roles.

    The San José Sharks want to regain control of the Pacific Division after finishing in seventh place in the West last season.

    The teams from the sunny Pacific coast hope to establish the division as a powerhouse in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks finished in last place in the Pacific Division with a 34-36-12 record.

    Wingers Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan scored at least 30 times, and Teemu Selanne was the only other Anaheim player to score over 20 times.

    Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Brookbank were the only defenseman to finish with a positive plus/minus rating.  Cam Fowler finished with an abysmal minus-28 rating, but led the blueliners with five goals and 29 points.

    Jonas Hiller failed to match an all-star performance a season ago after an illness shortened the goaltender's 2010-2011 season.  The 30-year-old finished 29-30-12 last season.

    The Ducks resigned the ageless Selanne for one more season and essentially replaced Visnovsky with veteran defender Sheldon Souray 

    The team hopes the experienced blueliner helps Fowler develop into a household defender, and the team needs Hiller to perform at a higher level to escape the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year in 2011.

    The team traded playmaking center Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals for rookie Cody Eakin and a draft pick. 

    To compensate for the loss of Ribeiro, the Stars signed future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.  Dallas signed another veteran in Ray Whitney. The 2012 Second Team All-Star finished with 77 points in Phoenix last season.  The new free agents join Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder up front—forming a formidable top two lines.

    The Stars lack depth on defense. Alex Goligoski managed nine goals and 30 points last season and 22-year-old Philip Larsen looked strong in 55 games.

    Kari Lethonen still looks to join the league's elite in net but posted decent numbers last season (32-22-4, .922 save percentage, 2.33 goals against average).

    The Stars hope the addition of aging veterans Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney mesh with the emerging youngsters up front and several defensemen in the system are ready to maintain a spot on an NHL blueline. 

    Kari Lethonen posted the best numbers of his career in 2011-2012, but Dallas still missed the postseason.  Much of the Stars success hinges on Lethonen's performance in net.

Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings begin a quest to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions with the majority of the championship team still intact.

    If it ain't broke, why fix it? 

    The Kings boast tremendous depth and experience up front with Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Azne Kopitar, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards and Dustin Williams.

    The defense proved capable in the postseason. 

    Top blueliners Drew Doughty and Matt Greene return along with highly underrated shut down defender Rob Scuderi.  Alec Martinez impressed on the power play and at even strength in the playoffs. He should be excel in a top-four position if he stays healthy.

    Jon Quick continued stellar regular season play into the playoffs, nearly claiming the Vezina trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL during the regular season and winning the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The 26-year-old hopes to repeat in 2012-2013.

    The team struggled during the regular season but turned the heat up in the playoffs losing only four games along the way.  Los Angeles looks to win the division and capture a consecutive championship after the team sleeps off the infamous "Stanley Cup hangover."

Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Phoenix Coyotes managed to advance past the first round of the postseason for the first time in franchise history—ultimately losing in the Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings.

    The Coyotes lost veteran Ray Whitney, a huge presence up front last season, essentially replacing the winger with fellow veteran Steve Sullivan. Sullivan scored 17 goals with Pittsburgh last season. 

    The team waits for long time captain Shane Doan to resign or move on.  The veteran reportedly has a deal in place with the Coyotes and will sign as soon as the NHL approves the sale of the Coyotes to Greg Jamison.

    The Coyotes added defenseman Zbynek Michalek on defense to (likely) replace Michal Roszival.  Michalek gives a slight upgrade to a capable Coyotes blueline.  Oliver Ekman-Larsson played phenomenal in his second NHL season, scoring 13 goals and posting 32 points.

    Mike Smith guided the team to a Pacific Division championship and a Western Conference Final berth.  The goaltender hopes to repeat the performance this season.

    A lot of the Coyotes future lay in the hands of longtime captain Shane Doan.  The loss of Doan leaves a big hole up front and takes away an enormous leader.  Phoenix hopes to build off last season but a repeat looks unlikely.

San José Sharks

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    The San José Sharks lost an opening round series against the stingy St. Louis Blues, failing to put together a run at the Stanley Cup again.

    The Sharks boast good talent up front in Logan Couture, Martin Havlat, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, and added some grit in Adam Burish.

    Dan Boyle and Brent Burns anchor the blueline.  The team welcomed the addition of former San José first round draft pick and legitimate top four defenseman Brad Stuart from Detroit.

    Antti Niemi remains a question mark in goal, hoping to prove himself more than a one hit wonder.  The netminder won a Stanley Cup with Chicago only three seasons ago.

    The Sharks need winger Martin Havlat to stay healthy and provide another scoring threat for the team.  The team looks solid up front and across the blueline but needs to lift up goaltender Antti Niemi to push to the top.

Pacific Prediction

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    The Kings start off slow but finish atop the Pacific Division at season's end.  San José quitely takes second place, the Dallas Stars end a playoff drought thanks to Jagr and Whitney.  Phoenix disappoints after a terrific 2011-2012 with a failure to qualify for the postseason, and the Anaheim Ducks remain in the basement of the Pacific Division.

    1. Los Angles Kings (Playoffs)

    2. San José Sharks (Playoffs)

    3. Dallas Stars (Playoffs)

    4. Phoenix Coyotes (Out Of Playoffs)

    5. Anaheim Ducks (Out Of Playoffs)