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NHL Pacific Division Preview

NHL Pacific Division Preview

NHL Pacific Division Preview
By Sean Murphy

There’s no clear favorite to win the NHL’s Pacific Division with the Ducks, Kings, Canucks and Sharks all looking like potential frontrunners.

Here’s a quick look at how all seven teams stack up entering the new season.

Anaheim Ducks (2012: 30-12-6)

Odds to win division: 4-1
Season point total: 98.5

Why to bet the Ducks: Losing Bobby Ryan wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Ducks have some emerging young stars ready to pick up the slack and, of course, the nucleus remains in place with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf leading the way. You can be sure veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are hungrier than ever.

Why not to bet the Ducks: The same reason that most are excited about the Ducks, their young talent both up front and on the blueline, is also a cause for concern. Will the gradual youth movement work? Or perhaps the better question is, how quickly can the Ducks return to Stanley Cup status.

Season point total pick: Over 98.5

Calgary Flames (2012: 19-25-4)

Odds to win division: 300-1
Season point total: 63.5

Why to bet the Flames: I’ll be brief as to be honest, there’s little reason to lay your hard-earned money on the rebuilding Flames. Maybe the fact that everyone is counting them out will light a fire under them. The element of surprise is certainly there.

Why not to bet the Flames: There is little veteran leadership to turn to, nor is there much young talent that’s ready to step to the forefront right now. Karri Ramo is an unproven commodity in goal, where the Flames could be the weakest team in the league.

Season point total pick: Under 63.5

Edmonton Oilers (2012: 19-22-7)

Odds to win division: 8-1
Season point total: 90.5

Why to bet the Oilers: The young Oilers are brimming with talent and poised for a breakout year if they can stay healthy. New GM Craig MacTavish didn’t stand pat during the offseason, making a number of key moves to improve his team. Andrew Ference and David Perron could turn out to be underrated pick-ups.

Why not to bet the Oilers: We’ve heard this story before. Every year it seems that the Oilers are on the cusp of greatness, only to fall flat by the midway point of the season. Question marks abound in net, where Devan Dubnyk has yet to prove he can shoulder the load of being the No. 1 guy.

Season point total pick: Over 90.5

Los Angeles Kings (2012: 27-16-5)

Odds to win division: 2-1
Season point total: 104.5

Why to bet the Kings: Continuity is key for the Kings, as they continue to ice virtually the same team that won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. They boast world class talent all over the ice, with goaltender Jonathan Quick the cornerstone. L.A. has the ability to win in so many different ways.

Why not to bet the Kings: Are things getting stale in SoCal? The Kings seemed to be stuck in neutral for parts of last season, but perhaps that can be chalked up as a Stanley Cup hangover. After the top five forwards, there isn’t a ton of scoring depth up front.

Season point total pick: Under 104.5

Phoenix Coyotes (2012: 21-18-9)

Odds to win division: 8-1
Season point total: 90.5

Why to bet the Coyotes: With the off-ice distractions in the rearview mirror, the Coyotes can get back to focusing on the product on the ice. Adding Mike Ribeiro should help a team that was offensively challenged last season. Goaltender Mike Smith is in line for a solid bounce-back season.

Why not to bet the Coyotes: The fact that a defenseman, Keith Yandle, led the team in scoring last year is more than a little concerning. After Ribeiro there are few proven goal scorers to turn to. Mike Smith is a proven commodity in goal, but he’ll need to stay healthy for the Yotes to contend.

Season point total pick: Under 90.5

San Jose Sharks (2012: 25-16-7)

Odds to win division: 3-1
Season point total: 102.5

Why to bet the Sharks: It’s getting close to “now-or-never” time for the Sharks. The core of this team continues to age, but that should only leave them hungrier than ever to reach the ultimate goal. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are all heading into free agency at the end of the season, so the motivation to perform is there.

Why not to bet the Sharks: Has head coach Todd McLellan worn out his welcome in San Jose? Whatever he’s doing doesn’t seem to be working as the Sharks continue to fail in the postseason on a yearly basis. Only a couple of minor offseason moves were made to boost the team’s chances.

Season point total pick: Under 102.5

Vancouver Canucks (2012: 26-15-7)

Odds to win division: 3-1
Season point total: 102.5

Why to bet the Canucks: A coaching change could work wonders in Vancouver as John Tortorella attempts to light a fire under an aging but still talented team. Roberto Luongo is once again the unquestioned starter in goal and that should take a load off the time-tested netminder.

Why not to bet the Canucks: The Canucks didn’t make any sort of splash in the offseason, only bringing in role players, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli and Yannick Weber. Beyond the top two lines, where is the offensive production going to come from?

Season point total pick: Over 102.5

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