Some of the Vancouver Canucks are skating in town already, others will be making their way back to BC shortly. With the unofficial end of summer looming, as in Labour Day, we figured it a good time to do a little end-of-summer power ranking for the Canucks and the NHL’s Pacific Division.
Our pals out east did it for the Metro Division today and you can check that out here.
Without further adieu, following a summer of fun in the sun and a long period of quiet …
Pacific Division Power Rankings
1. Calgary Flames
Pretty wild ride for Flames General Manager Brad Treliving. He loses Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and is essentially forced to trade Matthew Tkachuk and ends up with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri. Don’t forget he also picked up defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, right-shot centre prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional 1st-round pick in the Tkachuk deal for Huberdeau with the Florida Panthers.
They’re not as deep up the middle as the Canucks, but their D-corps is better balanced, Weegar slots in nicely on the second pair, and the goaltending should remain strong with Jacob Markstrom and Dan “Planet” Vladar. They finished with 111 points last season on top of the Pacific Division and that’s where they’ll remain until someone comes along and knocks them off.
2. Edmonton Oilers
Look no further than the entertaining adventure that is the uber-exciting Connor McDavid and his German pal Leon Draisaitl. They stir the drink. Sorry to be dull and slot last year’s second place team into second place, but with a potential upgrade in goal with Jack Campbell, this is where this team should belong. I’m not a big believer in this particular netminder, especially when the going gets tough and important, but for the regular season they should be in good shape.
Remarkable to watch this team in its own end sometimes. A mystifying scramble.
GM Ken Holland re-upped Vancouver native Evander Kane for four years, Kailer Yamamoto for two and Jesse Puljujarvi for one. We’ll see how that works out.
3. Vancouver Canucks
Let’s face it, without the lousy start that led to a coaching change, this is a playoff team in 2021-’22. So with the stability of Bruce Boudreau running the bench for a full season and the free agent signings of a couple of very talented Russian forwards in Ilya Mikheyev and Andrey Kuzmenko, things are looking up. Adding 4th-line centre Curtis Lazar was a bonus.
The defence still needs work, as you’ve heard ad nauseum ‘particularly on the right side’, but the goaltending with Thatcher Demko is top notch. That there earns you some wins.
The JT Miller contract situation could provide a distraction and we’ll see if the club avoids it by making an offer, agreeing to chill out on contract talks until after the season, or makes a deal to move him. All possibilities. Presently the Canucks are one of the strongest teams in the middle in the NHL with Miller, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat.
4A. LA Kings
The Kings stepped up into the Vancouver void and sidestepped the injury-prone and tumultuous Golden Knights to surprisingly nab a playoff spot last spring. They then gave the Edmonton Oilers fits by forcing them to seven games in the first round before bowing out. I’m not sure they can pull this off again. Behind the venerable Anze Kopitar, 2nd-leading scorer Adrian Kempe just signed for four more years, Phillip Danault fit in nicely, and GM Rob Blake added 85-point man, Swiss born Kevin Fiala to the forward mix. Maybe it’ll help what was a lousy power play.
Can the goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen hold up? 32-year-old former Norris Trophy winning D-man Drew Doughty is coming off a season of knee injuries and wrist surgery.
4B. Vegas Golden Knights
Whether its injuries or rash decisions, this franchise can’t seem to get out of its own way, five years after bursting on the scene and making the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. They’re on their third head coach with Bruce Cassidy now at the helm. Forward Max Pacioretty is gone, while forwards Nicolas Roy and Reilly Smith signed extensions.
The big news is the hip surgery that will cost goalie Robin Lehner the entire season. The club is scrambling with band-aid measures. Logan Thompson, Laurent Brossoit, and as of Tuesday Adin Hill. Star centre Jack Eichel enters a full year with the club while the D-men offer dynamic versatility.
6. Anaheim Ducks
The two big pieces of news, signing Ryan Strome up front and John Klingberg for at least one season on the blueline. Otherwise, this is about the goaltenders staying interested and the ultra-talented young forward group growing into its game. You’ll recall the names Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Canadian WJC hero Mason McTavish.
Right-shot D-man Jamie Drysdale brings a youthful boost to a veteran mish-mash on the back-end led by Cam Fowler.
7A. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks worked on securing the D a bit. Not sure how stoked fans are about the signing of Matt Benning, Markus Nutivaara, or Mario Ferraro to new deals, but the club is very excited about the latter. Ferraro looks to work the top pair with Erik Karlsson. As for the forwards, I’ll refer to Monday’s article about the top centres in the Pacific division, or the lack thereof.
Not nuts about the goaltending frankly, although Kaapo Kahkonen has some upside. James Reimer doesn’t.
7B. Seattle Kraken
Shucks, near the bottom of the NHL’s arguably weakest division, I had the urge to give the sea monsters a little boost into the 7-spot but just couldn’t do it. The forwards weren’t deep in the inaugural season and therefore the power play stunk. Injuries limited Jaden Schwartz to 37 games and slowed a few others. The club has since added Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand up front and Justin Schultz on the blueline. Deeper but still not deep enough.
The goaltending will be better because the club will be better, North Vancouver’s Martin Jones joins Phillip Grubauer as an alternative to Chris Driedger, and it’ll be fun to watch Matty Beniers at centre and to see where 2022 4th-overall pick Shane Wright ends up. It’ll also be fun to see a rivalry develop with the Canucks.
— Ready to ‘officially’ predict if the Canucks will or will not make the playoffs? Not just yet.