As training camps approach, it makes sense to look at who may contend for division titles. Before those daily picks come, we take a shot at teams who may win their divisions. Keep in mind, there are several prominent RFA’s who have not signed. Also, there are some players who are still some UFA’s as well who could make an impact.
Anyway, based on current rosters. Here are two teams who should contend for the Pacific Division this season.
Projected Division Winner – San Jose Sharks
Even with Vegas and Calgary in the division, the idea is that the Sharks can even overcome Martin Jones in net and win the Pacific. San Jose finished second last year with 101 points and 46 wins. Injuries to Erik Karlsson and a Calgary team that rode a wave of home-ice momentum which fizzled out in round one of the playoffs kept San Jose from winning the division last season. Calgary regressed and that playoff elimination offered a blueprint on how to contain the Flames.
San Jose re-signed Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million, deal in the offseason. Their duo of Brent Burns and Karlsson remains a daunting duo. They traded Justin Braun away to make room for their younger defensemen. Also, San Jose extended Timo Meier for four more seasons at an AAV of $6 million. To top things off, Kevin Labanc re-signed for a year and just one million. This was a forward who had over 50 points last year.
This will be a team that entertains offensively while they struggle a little defensively. It will be a lot like watching those old 80’s and early 90’s hockey teams who could score and be scored on at times. Even without Joe Pavelski, the San Jose power play remains one of the most potent in the league.
San Jose could come close to scoring 300 goals this year (scored 289 in 2018-19). It would not take too much. If they can knock down the goals allowed under 240 or so, they stand a good chance at winning the Pacific with ease. There is that much depth with this team and balance offensively to overcome any defensive obstacles.
No matter what happens with the Sharks, they will have at least one or two teams to battle with this year once again in the Pacific.
Expected Contender—Vegas Golden Knights
Again, Vegas and even the Calgary Flames could be a significant thorn in San Jose’s side all year. However, it is the Vegas Golden Knights who should provide the stiffest challenge. If it was not for the Stanley Cup Final hangover that hurt them the first half of last season, they may have contended for the Pacific title in 2918-19.
Vegas has locked up its top line to long-term deals and still has Marc-Andre Fleury in the mix. As long as Fleury stays healthy, the Golden Knights will contend for the division and beyond. Mark Stone only helps those aspirations. That “second line” for Vegas may hold the key in what happens to this team. Over the second half, Vegas had a 30-game span where they outpointed San Jose and Calgary. If they get off to even a decent start, that bodes well for Vegas’ division chances.
The thought process is that two teams in the Pacific could end up with 100+ points, San Jose would be one and that Vegas could very well be the other. If this division race is anything like their seven-game series, then get the popcorn ready. The Pacific Division expects to get considerably wild as far as the race itself.