Coming into the offseason, each of the seven Pacific Division teams entered with questions, and attempted to find a direction for their respective hockey clubs.
The Flames for example came into the offseason looking to add strong players into the lineup in order to replicate, and improve on, last season's success. Other teams, such as San Jose or Vancouver, were looking for answers after disappointing ends to their seasons, and were attempting to create new or reformed directions for their hockey clubs.
It's well known these days that in order for a team to remain strong in the NHL, your team must continually get better. There's no sitting back and hoping next year will be just as good, especially with a Flames team that made our hearts stop on multiple occasions with stat-defying, last minute victories.
Now here's a brief recap of how each Pacific team has changed their respective clubs, and how it could affect the divisional outlook for the upcoming season.
Added: Carl Hagelin, Anton Khudobin, Kevin Bieksa, Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart
Subtracted: Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, James Wisniewski, Francois Beauchemin, Matt Beleskey, Tomas Fleischmann
There really weren't any huge acquisitions or deals for the reigning Pacific Division champions so far this offseason, and why bother? There isn't much worth tweaking on a team that pushed the eventual Cup champs to seven games just last year.
Adding Carl Hagelin and Chris Stewart should replace the losses of Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri. Their only downside is that their D core might be somewhat weaker now, but they have a lot of young guys that will continue to develop, so it's only temporary.
On the bright side from our perspective, they added "dumb-dumb" Kevin Bieksa, so Micheal Ferland and the Flames should have a blast flattening him while laying revenge on the Ducks who ousted them last year.
P.S. They also have $8.3M in cap space somehow!
Added: Dylan Strome, Niklas Grossman, Chris Pronger's RIDICULOUS contract, Boyd Gordon, Brad Richardson, Zbynek Michalek, Steve Downie, Anders Lindback, Antoine Vermette, the mighty John Scott
Subtracted: Sam Gagner, Lauri Korpikoski, John Moore, Martin Erat, David Moss
Winning has to start somewhere, and that's the journey the Coyotes began this offseason by acquiring players such as Steve Downie, Boyd Gordon, and John Scott, who all have just one year left on their deals. They also took Chris Pronger's outrageous salary off of Philadelphia's books, simply because they needed to reach the cap floor.
The Coyotes also signed two players that they had dealt before this past trade deadline in Vermette and Michalek. Essentially they received prospects, picks, and playoff experience for these two players from their trades, and that will bode well for the Coyotes in the future.
There is progress in the desert but they're still a long ways away, especially when they've got $5M on the books for another two seasons for a player that won't ever play in the NHL again in Pronger.
McJesus Connor McDavid, Griffin Reinhart, Cam Talbot, Eric Gryba, Lauri Korpikoski, Andrej Sekera, Mark Letestu
Subtracted: Martin Marincin, Boyd Gordon, Matt Fraser, Viktor Fasth, Derek Roy
It still bugs me that the Oilers won the lottery and got McDavid.
Like seriously, there's winning the lottery, and then there's winning it four times. But I digress.
Besides McDavid, the Oilers made some other decent signings and trades as they brought in Cam Talbot and Andrej Sekera. Other than that the Oilers didn't lose anything really, and I do expect them to be marginally better this year.
However their Achilles' heel has always been defence, and it doesn't seem that the players they brought in will be enough to strengthen it up in the short term.
Really? Four lotteries? Ugh.
Added: Milan Lucic, Jhonas Enroth
Subtracted: Martin Jones, Justin Williams, Andrej Sekera, Jarret Stoll, Robyn Regehr,
Mike Richards, Mike Richards (no clue what's going to happen with him)
Not a lot went on with the Kings this offseason, as acquiring longtime Bruins pest Milan Lucic was their headline deal. Other than that, the Kings really only made negative headlines with them missing the playoffs, and then the whole Mike Richards saga.
They're still a huge force to be reckoned with and by no means should they be counted out, being only one year removed from winning the Cup. They'll be right back in the mix of things for the playoffs again this season, and their main core will be strong again.
Added: Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Mark Cundari, Joel Ward
Subtracted: Antti Niemi, John Scott, Matt Irwin, Scott Hannan
For the Sharks, all I have are questions. Will Martin Jones be able to carry the load of a starting goaltender? Who will be the Sharks' captain? Will they return to the exceptional team they once were, or will they take a step back again?
Finally, the most important question of all: how will the Sharks manage without the mighty John Scott in their lineup? He's coming off a career high three(!) goals this season and personally, I don't think the Sharks will be able to manage without him. If you think about it, he was probably their best choice for captain...
In all seriousness, the Sharks' success will be a big factor in dictating the outlook of the entire Western Conference, and their season could most likely decide whether or not the Flames make the playoffs at the end of it.
They're a big question mark for me.
Added: Brandon Prust, Brandon Sutter
Subtracted: Eddie Lack, Kevin Bieksa, Zack Kassian, Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, Brad Richardson, Shawn Matthias
The Canucks have continued to surprise their fans and analysts alike with their bizarre offseason moves. I've talked to very knowledgeable Canucks fans, and they can't understand what's going on with their team.
At times it seems like they're finally starting to go down the path of rebuilding by shipping veterans such as Bieksa off to other teams in trades. Then, suddenly, they pull a 180 and get rid of promising goaltenders like
Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo, Eddie Lack and young forwards like Zack Kassian.
I'm completely confused and I don't really feel like the Canucks got any better this offseason and with their star forwards pushing 35, it may be time for a teardown in the near future.
Good luck figuring out when!
Added: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Frolik
Subtracted: Max Reinhart, Raphael Diaz, Brian McGrattan, David Schlemko
Finally, the Flames had the best offseason thus far out of all of their divisional rivals. They didn't lose anybody of high value and brought in two players who will be stars for the Flames this season, and for years to come.
The new members of the Flames organization are going to improve the team and will also help the Flames improve in areas that they struggled with last season, such as possession.
I'm saying the Flames had the best offseason out of all their divisional foes, and that's not because of my strong bias alone. That's the cold hard facts of what bringing in a young, established defenceman, and a forward in the prime of his career will do.
Personally, I can't wait for the season to start, as the Flames are ready to build on last season and have added even more tools to do that. Perhaps they could even take a shot at the Ducks for the division! All I know is that hockey needs to be here soon and that I'm counting the days until puck drop.
It's only 51, if you're wondering.