From west to east, we’re previewing every team in every division for the 2017-18 season and why they’re all trash. Today’s episode: the worst division in the league, the Pacific.
Last time: Made history as the first expansion team to get its ass stomped by the Caps in the Cup Final.
What changed: Forward James Neal got replaced with Max Pacioretty. After years of courting, George McPhee finally inked a deal with forward Paul Stastny. Went to arbitration with leading scorer William Karlsson and came out with a one-year “show me” deal. Let defenseman Luca Sbisa go, but extended pylon Ryan Reaves. Number-one defenseman (and former Cap) Nate Schmidt got suspended for 20 games for PEDs.
Big question: Was last season magic or are they the real thing? Can Marc-Andre Fleury repeat his career-best season if he plays more than 46 games? Can GMGM and Bill Karlsson make a long-term deal?
Why they’re trash: They’ve been winless since they allowed this travesty to happen:
Bottom line: They’ll make the playoffs, but another Cup run feels far-fetched.
Last time: Earned 100 points in the regular season, but got swept by the Sharks in the first round. A very Boudreau-y performance from a team that had already fired Boudreau for doing exactly that.
What changed: Goalie John Gibson got an eight-year extension. Forward Corey Perry hurt his MCL or whatever and won’t be back until early 2019. And everyone got a year older and a little bit slower and that much closer to death.
Big question: Perry’s injury is a huge blow to an aging core (with him, Getzlaf, and Kesler — all 33-34 years old). Can the Ducks get younger and faster with guys like forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell, who has put up two 30-goal seasons in a row?
Why they’re trash: Take it from a 35-year-old, the world belongs to the younglings. Only Philadelphia took more loser points last season.
Bottom line: It’s gonna be a setback year for the Ducks, but their younger stars could keep em in the playoff picture.
Last time: Got felled by the Knights on their path to destiny, wherein destiny means getting their asses stomped by the Caps in the Cup Final.
What changed: Juuuuust a little thing called Erik Karlsson, maybe the best defenseman in the league, acquired from the Ottawa Senators for a pocketful of lint and a song. Forward Evander Kane, ugh, signed a long-term extension. Got a “Stealth” third jersey.
Big question: This is it. They’re all in. They’ve got a pair of Norris winners (Karlsson and Brent Burns) on the blue line, and they play fun hockey. So the question is simple: Can they go all the way?
Why they’re trash: While I’m very much not a Kane fan, I can get behind this kind of trash:
Asked Erik Karlsson today about the time his new partner Vlasic speared him in Ottawa in 2016.
Karlsson: "Oh fuck, I haven’t even brought that up yet.”
(Turns to Vlasic): “(Remember) when you tried to end my life in Ottawa two years ago?”
Vlasic: “Didn’t work.”
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) September 26, 2018
Bottom line: Cup or bust for the west coast Caps.
Last time: Got swept by the Knights on their path to destiny, wherein destiny again means getting their asses stomped by the Caps in the Cup Final.
What changed: They signed 35-year-old forward Ilya Kovalchuk out of the KHL in his big return to North American hockey. They signed a massive, eight-year deal with defenseman Drew Doughty.
Big question: Do they know how old their team is? They have just three players under 25 — and five players over 33. They’ve got a lot of hope riding on Kovalchuk, who might be a turkey.
Why they’re trash: The competition in the division may make it seem like they’re not trash, but I assure you that they are trash.
Bottom line: Unless something goes deeply wrong, they should make the playoffs.
Last time: Barely stayed above .500 and missed the playoffs by 14 points.
What changed: Traded away top shelf defenseman Dougie Hamilton for forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin. Picked up ex-Vegas forward James Neal in free agency, as well as ex-Cap forward Tyler Graovac. Bought out ex-Cap Troy Brouwer. Starting goalie Mike Smith turned 36 in March.
Big question: What happens when you take a non-playoff team and remove their best player?
Why they’re trash: Hamilton was disliked by management, reportedly, because he chose to visit a museum on a road trip.
Bottom line: Just 82 games until the next offseason!
Last time: Crashed and burned early in the regular season despite Connor McDavid putting up 41 goals and 108 points.
Big question: Can Cam Talbot do better than a 90.8 save percentage? How will Connor McDavid deal with the (stupid, stupid) pressure of leading a team that’s not very good without him.
Why they’re trash: Because McDavid can’t play 60 minutes every night.
Bottom line: I don’t think they’ve done enough to shore up their non-McDavid minutes, but if Talbot plays above average they could punch a playoff ticket. I sure hope so. Fans deserve more McDavid.
Last time: Finished in the bottom five of the league, but Brock Boeser was a lot of fun.
Big question: Vancouver doesn’t have a single contract over $6 million. They’ve got a lot of cap space, a ton of options, but do they have a vision for getting themselves out of the basement?
Why they’re trash: Um, pardon me. We do not kick franchises when they’re down. Let the Nucks wallow in their filth and let’s leave ’em alone.
Bottom line: If they place above 25th place, it’ll be a banner year for Vancouver.
Last time: I’d say that 70 standings points is a disaster, but for Arizona that’s sorta par for the course, and in their defense they were extremely injured.
What changed: Got forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Habs. Signed forward Michael Grabner in free agency. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson became captain. Hossa’s contract went to the desert to die, bringing with it defenseman Jordan Oesterle and forward Vinnie Hinostroza.
Big question: This team has been terrible for so long, but maybe for the first time they have a fun, young core. How far can they go?
Why they’re trash: Tim Heidecker’s “In Glendale” isn’t even about the one in California.
Bottom line: Friends, the Coyotes are gonna claw their way out of the bottom ten.
Brennin Weiswerda and Julia Karron also contributed to this story.
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