As part of our four-part series to get ready for the hockey season, we provided the pros and cons of becoming a fan of each NHL franchise. And for additional perspective, we added a comparison to another North American sports franchise.
Remember, whether you’re looking for a frontrunner, up-and-comer (sports hipster), or a rebuilding project, there’s an answer for you.
With that in mind, heres our breakdown of the Pacific Division:
Last year’s record: 54-20-8 (1st in division)
Coach: Bruce Boudreau | GM: Bob Murray
Core players: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Cam Fowler
Why this team? The Ducks are a contending team with two legitimate franchise players in Getzlaf and Perry. They have a likeable coach, despite some recent claims, and an improved goalie situation. Also, for the pop culture fans, those Disney movies were pretty good — at least the first two.
Why not? The toughest part about being a Ducks fan is the division. It’s probably the toughest in the NHL. You got the defending Stanley Cup champions, the San Jose Sharks (potential regular season champion), and hey, maybe the Oilers will be good one day. In the short term, Teemu Selanne is no longer around. He’s one of the coolest players ever.
Other sport comparison: Los Angeles Angels — A highly successful team (in the regular season) that plays a fun brand of offence. They have legitimate star power (Getzlaf/Perry, Trout/Pujols), and did I mention that both play in Southern California?
Last year’s record: 37-30-15 (4th in division)
Coach: Dave Tippett | GM: Don Maloney
Core players: Keith Yandle, Mike Smith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Shane Doan
Why this team? If you’re looking for a real under-the-radar team, this would be your pick. The Coyotes have been able to overachieve — even with serious roster holes and unstable ownership — which is a testament to their coaching staff and front office. They have a likeable leader (Doan), a solid goalie (Smith), and a stellar group of young defencemen worth building around.
Why not? They’re a frustrating team. They play late at night. They don’t score too frequently (and lost two of their top five scorers from last year) and they were among the NHL’s worst at holding onto the lead last year.
Other sport comparison: San Diego Padres — While the Coyotes have been more successful as of late, the two are held back by a clear lack of offence. The Coyotes, under Tippett at least, have created a competitive advantage with their ability to produce strong goaltending, just like San Diego has done with their starting pitching.
Last year’s record: 35-40-7 (6th in division)
Coach: Bob Hartley | GM: Brad Treliving
Core players: Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund
Why this team? This would be getting ahead of the curve. The Flames are still recovering from the the Jarome Iginla era and do not have a roster capable of contending in the short term. On the bright side, the Flames have done a good job building up assets and should have a promising future. Plus, you get lots of this guy:
Why not? When Sportsnet experts released their season previews for this season, the Flames were ranked 29th out of 30 by our panel of experts. They were overachievers last year but their lack of talent caught up with them. Simply put: they’re not built for the present.
Other sport comparison: New York Mets — They haven’t won a title since the ’80s. Because of that, the Mets, haven’t really been relevant in a while. Like the Flames, they’ve begun rebuilding and have assembled a core of young arms, which in hockey terms is comparable to the group of centremen the Flames have added to their system.
Last year’s record: 29-44-9 (last in division)
Coach: Dallas Eakins | GM: Craig MacTavish
Core players: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov
Why this team? If you believe in a pure rebuilding project, this is the best bet. The Oilers are oozing with potential. They bottomed out in order to load up on high draft picks and they were able to accumulate a ton of desired assets — at forward at least. One day, all of this should click, but this kind of thing takes time.
Why not? There’s still too many immediate question marks. They don’t have an NHL-ready No. 2 centre behind Nugent-Hopkins. They are unproven in net, their coach is in his second year, and they still don’t have what looks like a legitimate NHL defence. Other than that, all is well.
Other sport comparison: The “late 90s” Los Angeles Clippers — From 1998 to 2001, the Clippers drafted in the top five every season. On paper, it all looked pretty good but their inexperience and defensive issues turned out to be their demise. Sound familiar? Eventually the Clippers got it figured out and that’s what the Oilers are hoping for. For their sake,
hopefully Yakupov turns out better than Michael Olowokandi.
Los Angeles Kings
Last year’s record: 46-28-8 (3rd in division)
Coach: Darryl Sutter | GM: Dean Lombardi
Core players: Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter
Why this team? They are positioned better than anyone else to succeed. The Kings are loaded at centre with two all-stars in Kopitar and Jeff Carter. They have arguably the best defenceman in hockey (who hasn’t even entered his prime), plus a top-flight goaltender. What more could you want?
Why not? This would be the dictionary definition of bandwagon hopping. They have won two Stanley Cups in the last three years. If you’re fine with that, then there’s really no other reason not to like this team. They legitimately have everything — even Will Ferrell frequently attends their games.
Other sport comparison: Seattle Seahawks — These two are like long lost brothers. They are defensive-oriented teams with a history of mediocrity, and are coming off a championship. The two are built with a core of controllable young players that should allow them to be competitive for the long haul.
San Jose Sharks
Last year’s record: 51-22-9 (2nd in division)
Coach: Todd McLellan | GM: Doug Wilson
Core players: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture
Why this team? Even after the playoff letdown, they still have a recipe for success. The Sharks score at a high level. They are solid in their own zone and have begun trending to a younger roster. There’s still plenty of talent throughout the roster and no reason they shouldn’t be competitive in the immediate future.
Why not? The Sharks are the NHL’s version of Groundhog Day. It’s incredibly frustrating for their fans. So much promise in the regular season has been undone by unsuccessful playoff runs. With all the talent they’ve accumulated, it’s stunning they haven’t been able to reach the Cup final. Will they be able to sustain with Joe Thornton getting up their in age?
Other sport comparison: Oakland Athletics — Throw out Moneyball for a second. Billy Beane’s teams are known for their inability to produce in the playoffs. That has to ring a bell for Sharks fans. They’ve had plenty of regular season success, but the annual playoff disappointments have become the bigger story.
Last year’s record: 36-35-11 (5th in division)
Coach: Willie Desjardins | GM: Jim Benning
Core players: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Miller, Kevin Bieksa
Why this team? It’s a fresh start in Vancouver. No more Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler drama. No more Mike Gillis. No more John Tortorella. Everything is positive. Canucks legend Trevor Linden is back as team president and he’s put a good system in place with new GM Jim Benning and coach Willie Desjardins. And those green men are still around, right? There’s nowhere to go but up.
Why not? Not so fast. The Sedin brothers are starting to decline. They had their worst season in a decade and without high production from them, the Canucks don’t have anything close to a front-line forward. New goalie Ryan Miller is coming off his worst stretch as a pro and there are questions whether he can regain his form. Off the ice, the Canucks and their fans have a reputation for being whiners, so your friends might not support this choice — unless you live in B.C.
Other sport comparison: Philadelphia Phillies — Some fans won’t agree with this one, because the Phillies actually won, but it’s the current state of the Phillies that I’m referring to here. Like the Canucks, the Phillies held on to their core a bit too long and now they’re suffering the consequences. The championship window is over but there’s a clear lack of young prospects to build around. At least the Canucks fired their general manager and are starting fresh.