Seattle takes the ice in just a handful of hours, but they are being baptized in one of the most mercurial, bizarre, difficult to categorize and always entertaining division in the entire sport; the Pacific Division.
The Pacific Division is full of teams that, by all accounts, do not make sense. Hockey already doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but this division tends to make the least amount of sense at all. Don’t ask why, it just Is Like That™. Don’t worry, we’re going to be weird too. Just you wait.
The Pacific, while often called the weakest of the four divisions, is in my opinion more like a Monkey Knife Fight; everyone gets in a circle, two teams go into the middle with their knives, and then 60 minutes later there is a winner, and the other is dead. This goes on for 82 games until three teams in the division are battle-scarred, just barely alive, and sitting there waiting for the playoffs to begin.
In short, it’s going to be an absolute riot and I cannot wait.
So let’s take a lightning quick look at the tale of the tape of the new neighbors so that we know which parts to hack at!
Are they good?: Probably not
Why are they weird?: Aside from being a vestige of the Disney Corporation’s forays into sports, They previously employed a dude who had trouble with a toaster oven.
The Ducks are an extremely unusual team. They have one of Team USA’s wunderkind in Zegras whom people were proclaiming as deeply special and Max Comtois kinda rules, and John Gibson can steal games better than some goaltenders on contending teams. The rest of the team?...Meh. They’re just kinda there.
The coach? Well, Dallas Eakins is better than the forceful ingestion of Nyquil and Sudafed that Randy Carlyle was, but asking how good is he with a team so bogged down by the (second) Carlyle era’s bulls#!t means they’ll be relying on them young guns to progress.
Of course...they’re also considered a primo destination for that Jack Eichel kid out in Buffalo...hmm...better keep an eye on these Ducks. They might accidentally make noise.
Are they good?: [Tim_Allen_Grunt_Noise.mp3]
Why are they weird?: They have a ton of actual talent and for the past two years they’ve been....bad?
The Calgary Flames shouldn’t be as bad as they have been.
Everyone thought they have the forward talent to ignore any of their defensive woes, especially now that their most important defender currently plays in the number 5 for the Dark Blue, Light Blue, and Red. They’ve got one of the Tkachuk siblings, always a little pain in the tuckus; Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane are genuinely wonderful talents! Elias Lindholm rules!
But then Jacob Markstrom, their goalie, who was given some real money after being the best part of a bad Vancouver Canucks team...is just kinda there? I don’t expect him to be as good as he was when he became that UFA ready to rake in some cash, but he should be better than this! With Darryl Sutter in charge, a defense-first coach who’s all about physicality and possession numbers, this should be a better team than they are. Dan Vladar looked like he was ready for NHL action, but is he? Dustin Wolf looks like he’s ready in preseason but...is he?
For whatever reason, they’re just...less than what they should be.
Therefor I feel Kraken fans should watch this team like a hawk, because there’s no telling what they’re going to do.
Are they good?: Yes...Yes? Yes.
Why are they weird?: They got the best player in the world and decided to turn his ass into Job.
The Edmonton Oilers got the best player on earth, the best German player on earth [Editor’s note: we do not condone this Philipp Grubauer erasure], they gave their lineup a major shot in the arm with Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele, their top six looks as dangerous as any top 5 team in the NHL right now.
...And then they saddled that team with one of the most bizarrely constructed bottom sixes in recent memory, a defense who’s players are generally better at offense than actually backchecking and...oh man. Mike Smith.
Mike Smith is one of the most mercurial goaltenders in the world. He can play a week’s worth of games and be lights out. Next day? Six of the easiest goals you could ever score on an NHL goaltender. And that’s for 82 games.
This team will still be a measuring stick for how the Kraken can handle an elite top six and especially game-breaking talent at the height of their powers, but there will be nights.
Oh there will be nights where the Kraken can absolutely get one over on this team. Savor them.
Are they good?: I would not recommend sleeping on the Kings.
Why are they weird?: Anze Kopitar has been dead for ten years and yet still leads this team. Also you’re gonna hear a lot of Cartman during Kings games thanks to their in-arena cheer video having not changed in years.
The Kings are going to be wildly unpleasant to play this year. Picking up a defensive mastermind like Philip Danault when they already had a guy like that in Slovenian-born Kopitar gives the Kings an enormous leg up where previously they were still well on their way towards rebuilding. Their defense is still kinda... iffy among their individiaul blueliners, but that isn’t going to change the fact that if the puck ends up in their forwards’ sticks, it’s going to take a lot of work to wrench them out again. They’re tough, they play a possession-forward game, and they’re slowly building into one of the more dangerous teams to watch.
Expect squirrelly games.
Are they good?: Oh goodness no.
Why are they weird?: Their best player (by hockey performance and no other standards) might have to declare bankruptcy among a host of other things he’s implicated in.
San Jose’s kind of a mess at the moment. Their best player is in deep to several casinos and is uh...not doing super great for team chemistry at the moment. The rest of the squad is kinda “blah”, they don’t have the kind of scoring punch that the Sharks of the 2010s or even 2000s used to have, and their defense is uh...well, it’s old and kinda moldy.
If you’re going to be watching Sharks content this year, it’s not going to be anything regarding a major upset victory over the Kraken, I’ll tell you that much. They’ve got a long way to go before things settle in for them.
Are they good?: Individually talented players, team around them built from chicken wire and gum.
Why are they weird?: They keep trading for dudes who were good ten years ago and drafting guys who will be good for the next ten years and assuming that’ll be enough to make them a playoff team.
Vancouver is what happens when you try to make a Lamborghini out of parts from a Model T; It might run, but it’s not going anywhere fast.
They look moderately impressive up front; having Elias Pettersson, Boeser, and Höglander up front, and two wildcard wingers backing up JT Miller on line two, and got just the model of “Solid NHL Forward” in Conor Garland. They also have a dynamic player in Quinn Hughes who’s going to be a staple on their backend for the forseeable future. After that?
Garbage. Garbage from the Trash dynasty of Refuseankhamun.
The Canucks are and will always be hamstrung by the decisions of their general manager, Jim Benning, who has been building this team like the Groverhaus; starting with something nominally okay and then ending with this insane franken-team that will be less than the sum of it’s parts, and the sooner their owner realizes this and fires him, the better.
However, this team can score, and we should be careful about that. But the critical part of any games the Kraken play against them will always be “Can they hold that lead?”
I really don’t think they can.
Are they good?: The division’s measuring stick.
Who should I know on this team?: Mark Stone, Robin Lehner,
Why are they weird?: They have a castle, a knight, and a drumline. We can only assume Medieval Times is using the organization as a cash dump.
Vegas showed up just as glitzy and gaudy as you’d expect a team called the “Vegas Golden Knights” to be, born of swindle and of throwing money around like it’s gonna go bad. The Knights, until proven otherwise, are the team that most analysts agree, even if they’ve suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of the Canadiens last playoffs and absolutely made moves that gave the impression they are rather put off by that, are still the favorite to win the whole division, and are expected to do it easily; even with an overhauled depth, their top six is as dangerous as any, their defense is both formidable, mobile, and capable of scoring at will, and when their goalie isn’t accusing NHL coaches of...something, he’s still a damn solid goaltender in front of a dangerous, difficult, and fast team.
And there you have it! You’re all caught up.
Now let’s get in there and take a kidney.