Now that the Calgary Flames have solidified their blue line with two late additions, we can look at the revised Pacific Division and slot the eight teams into an order that seems reasonable based on talent. It’s not close to being the best division in hockey and that’s a good thing for a team out of balance like the 2021-22 Edmonton Oilers. Where will the team finish?
- New DNB: Warren Foegele Q&A
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s season and why patience is vital for Oilers’ prospect
- Lowetide: Oilers reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal differential
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal scoring
- New DNB: Mailbag.
- Lowetide: Oilers’ potential Olympians are a small group with maximum possible impact
- Lowetide: What should the Oilers expect from Cody Ceci in his first season?
- Lowetide: Why Oilers can expect an offensive rebound from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Lowetide: Projecting the 2021-22 Edmonton Oilers opening night lineup
- Lowetide: Why Oilers fans should be excited about the progress of Maxim Berezkin
- Lowetide: What should Oilers expect from Duncan Keith in his first season?
- Lowetide: Did the Oilers find the new Fernando Pisani when signing Derek Ryan?
- Jonathan Willis: Tyler Benson, Devin Shore and the 4-year difference between a prospect and a has-been
- Lowetide: What should Oilers fans expect from Zach Hyman in his first season?
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway headlines new arrivals for Bakersfield Condors in 2021-22
- Lowetide: Why Oilers fans should expect more trades and a deep playoff run this season
- Lowetide: How much playing time will Evan Bouchard get with the Oilers this coming season?
- Jonathan Willis: A resurgent Zack Kassian could be an important part of the Oilers’ scoring
- Lowetide: How many goals will Jesse Puljujarvi score for the Oilers next season?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers 2021-22 depth chart
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects, summer 2021
PREDICTED FINAL STANDINGS, PACIFIC HEIGHTS
- Vegas Golden Knights. There are cracks forming, and age is going to be a factor soon for men like Reilly Smith and Alec Martinez. VGK are not as strong at center as in the past, and that could be a factor, especially if Nolan Patrick fails to become a major roster player. That said, the team’s top end talent (Lehner, Theodore, Pietrangelo, Stone, Pacioretty) and the best depth in the division means the Golden Knights will win the Pacific for the third time in the franchise’s five seasons. I don’t see any team seriously pushing this group.
- Edmonton Oilers. I have this team as a close comparable to the 2016-17 Oilers. The differences? The 2017 Oilers had Cam Talbot and he was terrific, and veteran Andrej Sekera was a vital defensive piece missing from the current group. This year’s Oilers replace those things with Zach Hyman instead of Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi over Anton Slepyshev. I think this team is going to spend much of the season going into the third period with the score tied 3-3. The good news is the club will win more than their share of those shootouts because of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The bad news is the team will be vulnerable to a hot goalie and a button-down team in the first round of the playoffs. Expect a trade for a substantial goalie at the deadline.
- Calgary Flames. Now this is a button-down team. Sutter’s obsession is suppression and his goalie will have a better season. The defensemen can move the puck (third pair aside) and there’s plenty of firepower up front. In fact, this team has enough to ice three lines of quality forwards and some fine outscorers like Andrew Mangiapane and the newly acquired Blake Coleman. It’ll be close but I believe the Flames win the final playoff spot in the division.
- Vancouver Canucks. I love their young elite talent and believe the Canucks goaltending will keep them in most games, but the defense is without a strong two-way defender who can eat minutes and keep the puck heading in a good direction. Maybe OEL or Myers turns back time, but my guess is Vancouver finishes just shy. The forwards are less impressive 1-9 than Calgary but the top end (Pettersson, Miller, Boeser, Horvat) is easily playoff quality.
- Seattle Kraken. I love the goaltending, and they should have a capable defense, but there isn’t enough offense here. I’m not sure what the management was thinking, but they’ll get monster payment at the deadline for one of their goalies. If everything breaks right, I could four potential skill forwards (Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, Alex Wennberg, Jaden Schwartz) capable of posting significant scoring numbers. Joonas Donskoi? He’s coming off a career season and is 29. It’s possible he scores 20 but the Kraken need more scoring and we’re a week from training camp.
- Los Angeles Kings. Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson are excellent additions, and any number of young talents could emerge as legit Calder candidates, but this will be a year that LAK give us a taste of what is to come but will be sellers at the deadline. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are mid-30’s and Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev are not yet established. The future is clear, but is it now? Perhaps by mid-season.
- Anaheim Ducks. The team’s goaltending and defense will keep them from the basement but the kids are likely a year away. We’ll be seeing some great young players emerge this season. Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras should be fun to watch this year. This could be a target for Edmonton once the season is scrapped for parts, with John Gibson, Hampus Lindholm and Ryan Getzlaf possible targets.
- San Jose Sharks. The Sharks can’t possibly be this bad. Last season was like one of those 1970’s disaster movie (The Poseidon Adventure) and there isn’t enough here for the team to crawl from the wreckage. There is talent here, the goaltending is better and the aging defense can still compete on any given night. Offensively, several forwards didn’t get much done last season, some will recover but it won’t be enough.
POSSIBLE OPENING NIGHT ROSTER 2021-22
I keep reading about three goalies opening night but I think it’s just as likely we see eight defensemen. The Dylan Holloway news is a blow, but it’s encouraging to see the club being very careful with a big part of the future. It’s a fascinating roster, everyone has had their say, we’re about to see how this plays out.