Thursday, September 21, 2006

Predictions: Pacific Division

Yesterday, I posted my predicted finish for the Northwest Division. Now lets move on southward to the Pacific Division.

1. Anaheim Ducks This team has an impressive one two punch on defence with Scott Niedermayer and Chros Pronger, and some solid guys to provide depth like Francois Beauchemin and Sean O'Donnell. They have two solid goalies in Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (which likely means one will find himself traded for a solid forward sometime this year). Last year, they got some good scoriong from Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald and youngersters Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner are quickly improving to add to their depth. This is likely a pretty good team.

2. San Jose Sharks This team is also a very good team. They boast MVP Joe Thornton and Richard trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo (was that just a career year?). Patrick Marleau and Mark Bell should also score well. On defence they lack the amazing twosome Anaheim has, but Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren should lead a solid crew. They also have two top goalies in Evgeni Nabakov and Vesa Toskala (again expect one to move eventually). They could be a top team also, but I am not so certain Cheechoo can match last year (or that Thornton can an MVP year is great but most players regress a little bit afterwards). Anaheim looks like a slightly better choice to peak at the end of the year.

3. Dallas Stars This team is built around Norris candidate Sergei Zubov, a good goalie in Marty Turco, Brendan Morrow and possibly aging Mike Modano. Thats a good core. Daryl Sydor and Janne Niinimaa provide some impressive depth on defence. This team should not be easy to beat.

4. Phoenix Coyotes When I look at some of the young talent on this team, I see a team ready to breakthrough. Ladislav Nagy, Shane Doan, Mike Comrie, Derek Morris, Ed Jovanoski, Nik Boynton. Thats a core of a good young team. However, there are weaknesses, most glaring in goal. Can Curtis Joseph hold up another season? There are too many oldsters brought in as Gretzky's friends who might fall apart before the season ends in Jeremy Roenick, Owen Nolan and the already mentioned CuJo. Gretzky can be a solid coach, but he faced several distractions last year. He is loyal to his old buddies to a fault and if they get playing time in front of his younger players, things probably will not work out. I think this team might be better served with a lower profile coach.

5. Los Angeles Kings Pavol Demitra departs. They seem ready to use Dan Clotuier as a number one goalie. Neither are good signs. Alexander Frolov could breakthrough, but otherwise this team lacks any star forward. On defence they added aging Rob Blake to go with Lubomir Visnovsky (who is coming off a career year) and defensively solid Mattias Norstrom. This team doesn't have the upside of the rest of their division.

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