Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL realigned the divisions for this season to limit on travel.
Only intra-division games will be played this season, so teams will become plenty familiar with one another.
Today, we’re looking at the NHL’s West Division.
Additions: Vinni Lettieri, Derek Grant, Kevin Shattenkirk
Subtractions: Michael Del Zotto, Matt Irwin, Kiefer Sherwood, Erik Gudbranson
2019-20 record: 29-33-9
The Ducks are definitely better and they really didn’t miss the bubble last summer by all that much.
It’s a youth movement in Anaheim after years of taking on big salaries, so now they’ve got a blend of youngsters they’re hoping will make a jump, coupled with some more seasoned veterans.
And it’s all anchored by John Gibson, who is in a position to bounce back this season.
The Ducks might not be there yet but they’re on their way — enough to maybe even make the playoffs this season.
Prediction: Fourth in division
Additions: Johan Larsson, Drake Caggiula, John Hayden, Derick Brassard, Tyler Pitlick,
Subtractions: Taylor Hall, Vinnie Hinostroza, Brad Richardson, Carl Soderberg, Derek Stepan
2019-20 record: 33-29-8
Hard to be optimistic about the Coyotes, who are in cap hell. They lost Taylor Hall and are sandbagged with some really bad contracts.
The obvious benefit is Clayton Keller, Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson all are back. But they lack depth and the flexibility to make any moves, so this could be a tough year.
Additions: Kiefer Sherwood, Miikka Salomaki, Devon Toews, Kyle Burroughs, Brandon Saad, Dennis Gilbert
Subtractions: Vladislav Namestnikov, A.J. Greer, Matt Nieto, Colin Wilson, Mark Barberio, Kevin Connauton, Michael Hutchinson, Nikita Zadorov, Anton Lindholm
2019-20 record: 42-20-8
The Avs seriously might win the Cup this season.
Their top pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews will be a ton of fun, and if they put the Gabriel Landeskog–Nathan MacKinnon–Mikko Rantanen group together it will be up there for best top line in hockey. Top to bottom, their forward group is stellar.
The biggest fear has to be regression from Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer, but barring major disruption the Avs will be sitting pretty.
Los Angeles Kings
Additions: Andreas Athanasiou, Lias Andersson, Olli Maatta
Subtractions: Trevor Lewis, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Ben Hutton, Joakim Ryan, Tim Schaller, Brad Morrison
2019-20 record: 29-35-6
The Kings, even when they were bad, have been a really tough team to play against.
We’ll stop short of saying they have a shot for one of the top four spots, but the young talent that’s been percolating might finally have a chance to show up.
And mixed in with the young guns are a number of seasoned veterans who know what it takes to win, like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.
Again, they’re not in a place really to compete right now, but they definitely should improve.
Prediction: Sixth in division
Additions: Cam Talbot, Dakota Mermis, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad
Subtractions: Alex Galchenyuk, Mikko Koivu, J.T. Brown, Luke Kunin, Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Donato
2019-20 record: 35-27-7
Anyone know what direction the Wild are going in?
First, it looks like they’re rebuilding, then they go out and give Mats Zuccarello a huge contract last offseason. Now Mikko Koivu is walking, as is a useful enough forward in Alex Galchenyuk. Their response is to bring in Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad — OK, then.
A lot of the prospects they’re hoping would pan out haven’t thus far, and Alex Stalock’s health is a little uncertain. Might be full-fledged teardown time in Minnesota.
Prediction: Eighth in division
St. Louis Blues
Additions: Torey Krug, Mike Hoffman, Steven Santini, Kyle Clifford
Subtractions: Alex Pietrangelo, Troy Brouwer, Jay Bouwmeester, Jake Allen
2019-20 record: 42-19-10
The Alex Pietrangelo loss definitely hurts, but at full strength the Blues with Torey Krug and Mike Hoffman are a better team provided they get the latter signed.
The obvious problem in all of this is health. Losing Vladimir Tarasenko is going to be rough, but they should have the depth to make up for it. They also got rid of the Jake Allen safety net, so if Jordan Binnington starts to stumble, it could be problematic.
St. Louis still is a good team and legitimate postseason contender. However, they’re not in a spot to run away with the division.
Prediction: Third in division
San Jose Sharks
Additions: Matt Nieto, Patrick Marleau, Kurtis Gabriel, Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Donato
Subtractions: Melker Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Brandon Davidson, Tim Heed, Dalton Prout, Aaron Dell, Jonny Brodzinski, Anthony Greco
2019-20 record: 29-36-5
It is challenging to peg where the Sharks are. They made a deep playoff run in 2019, then were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season.
And they didn’t do a whole lot this offseason.
Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson are gone, while they brought in a reclamation project in Ryan Donato plus a franchise icon in Patrick Marleau.
You have to think the Sharks are better than what they were last season, but we’re not expecting huge things.
Prediction: Fifth in division
Vegas Golden Knights
Additions: Alex Pietrangelo, Tomas Jurco, Carl Dahlstrom, Dylan Sikura
Subtractions: Nick Cousins, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny, Brandon Pirri
2019-20 record: 39-24-8
A good bit of roster upheaval in Vegas this offseason, but not so much that we think it will sink them too much.
Bringing in Pietrangelo undoubtedly will offset the Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill and Nate Schmidt losses, but it does leave some uncertainty in the back end. But so long as they have Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury around they should be fine.
There’s still more than enough depth up front too, despite the Paul Stastny trade, to think the Golden Knights, in their fourth year of existence, will remain a team to beat out West.
Prediction: Second in division