NHL 2011-12 Preview: Pacific Division

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NHL 2011-12 Preview: Pacific Division
Harry How/Getty Images
Coach Todd McLellan will try to win his fourth Pacific Division title in his fourth year as an NHL coach

According to Adam Proteau of The Hockey News, the San Jose Sharks' run of consecutive division titles will end at four:

"I like the job GM Doug Wilson has done as much as anybody, but the four players he brought in this summer—Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus and Jim Vandermeer—were a combined minus-40 last season. That’s unlikely to help their charitable penalty kill unit (24th in 2010-'11). The Sharks won’t be able to withstand a serious injury to one of their big three (which, as far as I’m concerned, now includes Logan Couture to go along with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) and still finish atop the Pacific and second in the West as they did last season. In no way will they miss the playoffs, but I think the increasingly competitive division in which they play will temper their regular season success."

Seems to me, Proteau is painting a picture of a team that is a pretender, not a contender. Rather than being the elite team they have been, he has them falling to fifth in the Western Conference.

The plus-minus rating of all of the players mentioned above is misleading because they were on the ice in tough situations, with three of them playing on poor teams. However, the overall perception that the Sharks may not win the division is not uncommon.

Who does Proteau (and most others) see passing the Sharks? The Los Angeles Kings are a sexy pick right now, and the brains come with it since the two teams are so close.

Last year, my Pacific Division Preview predictions was one Anaheim win from being spot-on. So how do I see them playing out this season? Here they are from basement to penthouse.

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