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article imageNHL’s Pacific Division features frontrunners and rebuilding teams

By Fedor Fedin     Oct 5, 2014 in Sports
As the beginning of the NHL season looms, it’s time to review the teams' off-season moves as well as take a glimpse of what the 2014-15 NHL season may hold for them. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the Pacific division teams spent their summer.
Anaheim Ducks
After a heart-breaking Game seven loss at the hands of bitter rivals from Los Angeles in the second round of the post-season, Anaheim made moves in order to establish consistent secondary scoring and provide relief to star duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. To achieve that, they made arguably the biggest trade of the off-season that sent Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler, who is expected to center the Ducks’ second line. Anaheim also signed struggling veteran Dany Heatley, giving a former 50-goal scorer chance to shine again next to Kesler. While there’s little doubt that the Ducks will make the playoffs, goaltending may be a problem for them: Frederik Andersen and John Gibson are undeniably talented, but have a total of 31 games of NHL experience.
Arizona Coyotes
Troubled Phoenix franchise announced the name change to be known as the Arizona Coyotes beginning this season. Team’s outlook, however, didn’t undergo significant adjustment; the logjam on defense was never addressed and the only significant addition on offense was a low-risk, high-reward trade for center Sam Gagner to replace Mike Ribeiro, whose family and personal issues hurt on-ice performance and morale. At the same time, the Yotes are very likely to feel the loss of Czech sniper Radim Vrbata. With the status quo in terms of the off-season moves, don’t expect Arizona to turn away from trademark defensive style of play.
Calgary Flames
The Flames are in the midst of a rebuild as they once again picked on top of the Draft order, selecting Sam Bennett fourth overall, but their biggest move came in the front office as Brad Treliving was named a new general manager for the Flames. He has since attempted to find a solution for their main issue, the goaltending, signing free agent Jonas Hiller who fell out of favor of Anaheim’s coach Bruce Boudreau late in the season. The Flames, who are still far from contention for Stanley Cup, will be relying on their young players a lot, expecting a strong rookie campaign from their top prospect, dynamic forward Johnny Gaudreau.
Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have struggled to switch from the rebuild mode despite picking early in the Draft for many years. After another frustrating season, they made a controversial move by hiring an outspoken advanced statistics blogger Tyler Dellow. It is difficult to say how significant will be Dellow’s impact on club’s decision-making, but Edmonton’s head coach Dallas Eakins has admitted that he thinks new analytics can be of big help to the coaching staff. The Oilers have also attempted to improve their depth this off-season by signing defensemen Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne as well as playoff hero forward Benoit Pouliot. Neither Ben Scrivens nor Jesper Fasth are among the league’s top goalies so Oilers may run into problems that will be hard to overcome, even if their skaters take a few steps forward.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were able to keep the core of their Cup-winning roster, including Marian Gaborik, whose expiring contract was acquired at the trade deadline last season, as experienced stay-at-home defenseman Willie Mitchell was the only big name leaving LA this summer. The Kings’ defense is still one of the best in the League and Los Angeles is yet again among the top contenders to win the Western conference this season.
San Jose Sharks
After yet another convincing regular season followed by an early exit from the playoffs, the Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called his club “a tomorrow team," leading to speculation about the future of the Sharks’ veteran core, and especially star center Joe Thornton, who was stripped of captaincy. However, just like the previous captain Patrick Marleau, who lost his “C” on the sweater in 2009, Thornton wasn’t traded. This could only be a matter of time, however, especially if the Sharks disappoint early in the season, but as of right now defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart remain the only veterans to leave San Jose in the wake of Wilson’s statement.
Vancouver Canucks
Goaltending has been an ongoing concern for the Canucks for years, but the Canucks new regime led by president of hockey operations Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning appear to have come up with an answer to end the musical chairs in net by signing Ryan Miller as part of the shopping spree that also included trading Kesler to Anaheim, Jason Garrison to Vancouver as well as signing Vrbata and Derek Dorsett. The Canucks haven’t gone full-throttle on the rebuild like the geographical rivals from Edmonton and Calgary have in the last few years, but they may have to soon if their top offensive duo of Henrik and Daniel Sedin doesn’t bounce back after a season of underperformance.
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