NHL Predictions 2011-12: 7 Things You Need to Know About the Pacific Division
Now that we are all finally jumping into the upcoming regular season, it only seems appropriate to take a deeper look at the Pacific Division.
Trends and events that took place in the Pacific Division in the 2010-2011 season could possibly be used in order to predict pieces of the upcoming season. Couple the occurrences of last season with the events of this offseason, and I will create a bit of a cheat sheet for the Pacific Division during this upcoming season.
So here are my seven things having to do with the Ducks, Stars, Kings, Coyotes and Sharks that you need to know.
All 5 Teams Were in the West’s Top 9 Last Season
When you look at the five teams in the Pacific Division, it’s a bit of a surprise that these teams are creating one of the most competitive divisions in the league, when several of them are in cities that are anything but hockey markets.
Below are the impressive records of the Pacific teams when facing teams in their same division:
San Jose: 14-5-5
Los Angeles: 12-10-2
When you have two out of five teams barely missing the 50 percent winning mark, it isn’t a surprise that four out of the five Pacific Division teams made it into the 2011 postseason. I’m expecting this trend to continue this upcoming season, mainly because all of the teams clearly are looking to prove their skills and talents.
Los Angeles Kings Beefed Up over the Offseason
One of the teams that definitely did some revamping during this offseason is the Los Angeles Kings, who dumped some smaller talent in order to trade for or sign some big name players like Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.
When you look at the roster that the Kings have going into this regular season, it’s one that definitely has some pretty impressive firepower, and one that could lead them to the division title over the San Jose Sharks.
Los Angeles has spent the past couple of years slowly making a name for their franchise as a possible Cup contender, and this season is no different. The Kings have plenty to prove and are gearing up for a very impressive season.
3 of the Top 10 in Goals and Points Were from the Pacific
The Pacific is a division that most people overlook or tend to forget about, probably because most of the teams are in cities that aren’t in very big hockey market areas, like California or Arizona.
However, no one can argue that the talented group of skaters that lead the Pacific Division are slowly making names for themselves, and their franchises.
Three players from Pacific teams who were in top 10 in points last season were Corey Perry with 98 points, Teemu Selanne with 80 points and Mike Richards with 77 points. In terms of goals, Corey Perry lead the league with 50 goals, earning him the Rocket Richard Trophy. San Jose’s Patrick Marleau scored 37 goals, and Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan tallied 34, giving them each a seat in the NHL’s top 10 in goal scoring statistics.
Clearly, the Pacific teams have talent and are making some waves in the NHL, so expect these big names, as well as others, to continue to gain some more recognition throughout the league.
Anaheim’s RPG Line Is One of the Best in the League
Too often the California NHL teams are overlooked or seen as pushovers. However, just one line of the Anaheim Ducks' lineup is enough to take on plenty of the more well-known lines in the East.
The RPG line of the Ducks, consisting of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, is one that manages to fly under the radar, despite being one of the sharpest and most well-rounded lines in the league. Combining unparalleled chemistry, stellar skating abilities, smooth hands and a hard-nosed grittiness, this a trio that opponents have to take note of.
Despite missing 15 games with an injury last season, Ryan Getzlaf still posted an impressive 57 assists and managed to keep up as the center on Anaheim’s top line. Bobby Ryan is still proving he is growing into a sharpshooter with 34 goals and 71 points last season. To round out the trio is Corey Perry, the league MVP, who posted 50 goals and 98 points last season.
Needless to say, just the statistics alone should be enough to prove that Anaheim’s top line is talented enough to be ranked among the best lines in the league.
San Jose Made Some Popular but Questionable Moves in the Summer
During the offseason, the San Jose Sharks traded away Dany Heatley and Devon Setoguchi in favor of Martin Havlat and Brent Burns. Even though fans might seem to be in favor of these moves, the moves are questionable at best.
Since the regular season is still around the corner, there is no concrete way to decide and prove whether or not these transactions and changes are going to work in favor of the Sharks or not.
Heatley and Setoguchi were both talented players, and losing them will probably be a bigger issue than most people think; however, maybe Havlat and Burns will mesh better and make the San Jose lineup even better than they have been previously.
In my opinion, I don’t think that San Jose’s team will be as strong as it has been in years past, and because of that, I think they will fall from the top of the Pacific Division in the West.
3 of the Top 10 Point-Scoring Defenders Were from the Pacific
No one can really argue that when three out of the top 10 in defensive scoring all come from from 1/6 of the NHL’s teams, that percentage is not bad.
Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky led the NHL defensemen in points with 68 and was accompanied by Phoenix’s Keith Yandle (59 points), and San Jose’s Dan Boyle (50 points)
Again, three of the top 10 offensively best defenders stem out of teams that are in the same division, which pretty much demands some recognition and attention.
Granted, defenders are not always in charge of the offensive-based statistics like points and goals; however, for the defenders who venture into their opponent’s zone and succeed, they do deserve a nod of recognition.
So let’s be honest, in terms of skills, the Pacific Division clearly doesn’t just have forwards who can post big numbers. They also have some powerful defenders who contribute equally.
The Pacific Division Teams Are No Longer Easy Opponents for Anyone
When you look at the division as a whole and try to crunch some numbers with collective records, the statistics are pretty noteworthy.
In terms of the Pacific Division teams’ records against one conference or the other, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they do equally well against either cluster of teams.
Against the Eastern Conference teams, the Pacific division had a collective record of 47-31-12, meaning they won 52 percent of their games, lost 34 percent and lost 13 percent of the games in overtime.
Against the Western Conference teams, these five teams had a collective record of 179-109-32, so they won 56 percent of their games, lost 34 percent and lost 10 percent of their games in overtime.
All in all, for a division that used to to be seen as a pushover with some weak California-based teams (the Kings and Ducks) in years past, the division as a whole has really grown and has started to become a legitimate threat to the entire NHL.
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