The second of three Western Conference previews is that of the Pacific Division...the home of the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks.
San Jose Sharks
2006-2007: 51-26-5...2nd division...5th conference
Outlook: The San Jose Sharks have had big expectations every year and this year could be the year that they get over the hump and win a cup.
Prediction: 1st division, 2nd conference
2006-2007: 48-20-14...1st division...2nd conference
Outlook: Earl from Battle of California was kind enough to break down the Ducks for us.
2007-08 Anaheim Ducks Preview
Earl Sleek, Battle of California
It's tough to know what to expect from this year's Duck squad, coming off their franchise-first Stanley Cup championship. Most of the key cogs are still aboard—but there's significant contributions missing in Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, and Dustin Penner. These three players in the regular season combined for 92 goals and 116 assists, more than can be reasonably be expected out of offseason replacements Todd Bertuzzi and Mathieu Schneider.
These Ducks have a lot of questions to answer this year. How well does Andy McDonald play without Selanne? How well does Francois Beauchemin play without Niedermayer? What happens if Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry get split up? How will Bertuzzi and Schneider fit in? How's the team going to be affected by the short summer and starting the season overseas? Are Bobby Ryan or Jonas Hiller NHL-ready? And what happens if Scott or Teemu decide to return?
Even with all the question marks, there's still a lot to like with this squad, though. Netminding is in capable hands no matter which playoff games Giguere decides to skip. Chris Pronger, Schneider, and Beauchemin still form a more-than-capable blueline. The Pahlsson-Niedermayer-Moen line is signed this year and next, and there's lots of offensive options to fill in the top two lines.
I don't see the Ducks changing their style; it will be hard-hitting and puch-happy. They will work hard at controlling the blue lines and containing the puck, and will take pride in being the tougher team on the ice—similar to what they did on their march to the Stanley Cup. With one less Norris trophy winner, though, one has to wonder whether their penalty-heavy methods can yield the same success.
I don't really know how this season will turn out for Anaheim—there's certainly a lot of upside but a lot of unknowns as well. In any event, it will certainly be an interesting year, and I look forward to seeing it unfold over the next few months. The title defense should be exciting; Go Ducks.
Prediction: 2nd division, 4th conference
Los Angeles Kings
2006-2007: 27-41-14...4th division...14th conference
Outlook: The Kings got better in the off season...much better. The make up of the team is different than in the past but if the team gels together they can be a force to reckon with.
Prediction: 3rd division, 6th conference
2006-2007: 50-25-7...3rd division...6th conference
Outlook: The Stars did not do enough in the off season to get any better. Other teams made themselves better while Dallas stayed with what they had.
Prediction: 4th division, 9th conference
2006-2007: 31-46-5...5th division...15th conference
Outlook: It's about time to make a coaching change...sorry Wayne
Prediction: 5th division, 15th conference