Whether you’re a pessimist or a glass-half-full kind of hockey fan, Sportsnet is breaking down what you need to know about each of the 31 teams before the puck drops on the new season this Wednesday.
Here’s a look at best- and worst-case scenarios for each team in the Pacific Division. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2019 standings.)
SAN JOSE SHARKS
2018-19 outcome: 46-27-9, second in Pacific, lost to Blues in WCF
Major additions: Dalton Prout, Jonny Brodzinski
Major subtractions: Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist
Best-case scenario: A healthy Erik Karlsson returns to 2016 form, earning a Norris nod while driving offence from the back end alongside Brent Burns. Offence wins games — and Couture & Co. are more than capable — but defence wins championships, and this is a blue line that will do both. After a gruelling post-season run, the Sharks join the Blues and Capitals as the next team to claim its first-ever Stanley Cup. (Joe Thornton can retire now.)
Worst-case scenario: The loss of Joe Pavelski (and his net-front presence) hurts, and it shows early. Karlsson’s health is a talking point all year, and while the Sharks are still plenty strong enough to get into the playoffs, they fall short in a grudge match against Vegas once there.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
2018-19 outcome: 43-32-7, third in Pacific, lost to Sharks in R1
Major additions: Rookie Cody Glass
Major subtractions: Erik Haula, Nikita Gusev, Colin Miller, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Best-case scenario: When your sophomore “slump” still gets you 93 points and a trip to the playoffs, you know you’re doing something good, and 2019-20 promises to be much better thanks to increased chemistry with last season’s acquisitions. The top two lines of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith and Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone has opponents struggling with matchups on a nightly basis and the fanbase starts to believe that playoffs are just a part of everyday life.
Worst-case scenario: A strong offence can’t win ’em all, and Vegas struggles to come out on top of those grind-it-out games that show up during the dog days of the season. Marc-Andre Fleury’s age begins to show, and without the luxury of load management, his playoff performance becomes a concern.
2018-19 outcome: 50-25-7, first in Pacific, lost to Avalanche in R1
Major additions: Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, Tobias Rieder
Major subtractions: James Neal, Mike Smith
Best-case scenario: The high-scoring trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk are each propelled to new personal bests in goals, with Gaudreau hitting the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career (he finished 2018-19 with 99). Tough guy Milan Lucic can’t keep up with those guys, but he brings a little more muscle to back ’em up, making up one half of the league’s new peskiest duo alongside Tkachuk. The Flames grind their way to the top of the division and wind up atop the West with a long playoff run.
Worst-case scenario: The Flames score plenty, but struggle to keep pucks out of their own net as Cam Talbot and David Rittich struggle to find their stride as a goalie tandem. Their high-scoring ways fulfill regular-season expectations on the scoresheet but remain haunted by ghosts of off-seasons past, falling in Round 1 for the sixth time in the past seven trips.
2018-19 outcome: 39-35-8, fourth in Pacific, missed playoffs for seventh straight season
Major additions: Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg, rookie Kyle Capobianco
Major subtractions: Alex Galchenyuk, Kevin Connauton
Best-case scenario: Reunited with Rick Tocchet, Phil thrills desert hockey fans by bringing goals to a team that’s landed in the bottom five in scoring in each of the past three seasons and his presence helps youngster (and likely linemate) Clayton Keller hit another level on the stat sheet and prove Arizona was right to invest in him for the next nine years. The Coyotes claw their way into a wild card spot and become the next underdog to capture hockey fans’ hearts with a fun playoff run, a la that bunch of jerks over in Carolina.
Worst-case scenario: The club that was robbed of success by a string of bad health last year, especially in net, spends another year battling the injury bug. Poor health continues to delay the young Coyotes’ progress and derails the team’s playoff hopes once again.
2018-19 outcome: 35-38-9, missed playoffs for second straight year
Major additions: Head coach Dave Tippett (coach), Mike Smith, James Neal, Joakim Nygard, Riley Sheahan, Markus Granlund
Major subtractions: Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, Andrej Sekera, Jesse Puljujarvi (in Europe)
Best-case scenario: A healthy Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still carry the load, but they’ve finally got some help. Pairing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with newcomer James Neal — in search of a rebound year after struggling to score with the Flames — gives the Oilers a strong one-two punch. Goaltender Mike Smith thrives under head coach Dave Tippett — the two worked together in Dallas and Arizona, too — and the Oilers ice the most complete team we’ve seen since McDavid arrived. Hope emerges.
Worst-case scenario: The Jesse Puljujarvi trade saga drags into the season, and so does some of last year’s baggage. McDavid has a “down” year (relax, he still gets 100) but his frustrations start showing. Panic begins to set in as another season hits the midway point without much progress toward the playoffs, and fans begin to fear the emergence of another trade request.
2018-19 outcome: 35-36-11, missed playoffs for fourth straight year
Major additions: Tyler Myers, J.T. Miller, Jordie Benn, Micheal Ferland, rookies Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko
Major subtractions: Markus Granlund, Ben Hutton
Best-case scenario: Quinn Hughes challenges his little brother for the Calder Trophy and the Canucks’ youth movement really takes off, with talk of playoffs starting early in the season and still going on in March. Pettersson builds on his stellar rookie season, hitting 80 points as offensive woes of seasons past stay there.
Worst-case scenario: The new and improved defence struggles to strike chemistry, and Jacob Markstrom’s consistent numbers waver a bit because of it. The painful part of this rebuild is… almost over.
2018-19 outcome: 35-37-10, sixth in Pacific, missed playoffs for first time in six years
Major additions: Head coach Dallas Eakins, rookie Max Comtois
Major subtractions: Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler (out for season with injury), Patrick Eaves (out for season with illness)
Best-case scenario: Anaheim’s youth movement has arrived, and so has some much-needed help for an offence that ranked last place in 2018-19. Dallas Eakins thrives behind the bench, his familiarity with the rookie class apparent from his days coaching them in the AHL. Tales of playoff runs from the not-so-distant past motivates the Ducks to make a late push.
Worst-case scenario: That youth movement brings a few growing pains, too, and while goaltender John Gibson is up to the challenge most nights, he can’t save them every time. The Ducks struggle to find consistent offensive production, but the pieces are in place for a playoff run — next year.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
2018-19 outcome: 31-42-9, missed playoffs for third time since winning Cup in 2014
Major additions: Ben Hutton, Joakim Ryan, rookie Carl Grundstrom
Major subtractions: Dion Phaneuf, Brendan Leipsic
Best-case scenario: Don’t call this core old, call them “experienced.” The arrival of new head coach Todd McLellan revives a veteran core that’s got plenty left in the tank, and the insertion of a few fresh faces — like Tobias Björnfot, who could be Drew Doughty’s next defence partner — make this roster turnover more of a reload-on-the-fly than a rebuild.
Worst-case scenario: Last season was painful, and this one doesn’t bring much relief. Top rebound candidate Jonathan Quick is good, not great, leaving Kings brass in the mushy middle as far as trade speculation goes. Frustrations air in the media when the losses pile up and the championship-winning core that’s not used to losing finally gives in to the pain of a full-on rebuild.