In the last of the NHL divisions projection series, the new West division is analyzed. This seems to be an easier division where a team that would usually miss the playoffs now has a chance. The West includes the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Las Vegas Golden Knights. The division includes some of the better teams from last year’s Pacific and Central, while some mediocre teams from the Pacific now have a legitimate shot.
8. San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks experienced a surprising decline last season and failed to find their winning ways. They were one of seven teams to miss the return to play in August. However, unlike the other six, the Sharks have a low prospect pool, and things won’t improve anytime quickly for San Jose. They have multiple talented players who all had terrible years last season. Unless a player, coach, or manager invigorates a fire to spark this team to where it used to be, the San Jose Sharks will be far from playoff contention. Also, their goaltending tandem is poor. Martin Jones hasn’t been able to bounce back over the last few years, and recently acquired Devan Dubnyk failed to perform even with one of the better defenses in front of him.
7. Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes are not in a great situation by any means. Last season, they traded a haul for rental, Taylor Hall. Despite adding Hall, the Coyotes underperformed in the second half of the season, managing to make the play-in and advance to the first round. However, Hall signed with the Sabres, so the Coyotes are back to square one as a fringe playoff team. The Coyotes’ management made poor decisions this NHL draft and were required to forfeit picks. Therefore, they cannot package prospects and picks for a quality player this year. This hole will result in a mediocre offense at best. Aside from netminder Darcy Kuemper, the team lacks the talent to contend in an already weak division.
6. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks, like the Sharks, missed the play-in last season. However, with Kevin Shattenkirk and prospects like Trevor Zegras ready to perform at the NHL level, the team will improve from their situation last year. Also, goalie, John Gibson, is bound to perform better due to an improved defense in front of him. Since their forward group is not threatening right now, they lack the weapons to enter playoff contention. As they continue their rebuild, an improvement on the ice will be noticed as they develop.
5. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings find themselves on the doorstep of the playoff picture. They are coming off a well-constructed rebuild, and with sufficient talent ready to perform in the NHL, success is likely for a team without much this past season. Their veterans, including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty, can help the younger around them develop. L.A. has a solid group of guys to build around, including Martin Frk, Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Turcotte, Calvin Petersen, and Quinton Byfield. The balance of veterans and newcomers should create a synergy that can help L.A. finish right outside the playoff picture.
4. Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild find themselves in the playoffs due to playing in a weak division. All the teams below them are not in a win-now situation allowing Minnesota to compete for a Stanley Cup. They have one of the better defenses in the league and have rookies ready to make an impact on offense. Marco Rossi and Kirill Kaprizov are both set to debut in the NHL this season and are both in the rookie of the year conversation. These reinforcements on offense can help the Wild reach the playoffs. Veterans Kevin Fiala, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Ryan Suter will help lead the rookies into playoff hockey.
3. St. Louis Blues
The 2019 Champs will be in the playoffs again. Despite losing captain, Alex Pietrangelo to their new rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blues continue to succeed with most of their cup core still intact. Players including Ryan O’Reilly, Torey Krug, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jordan Binnington should lead the Blues to a top-three spot. While difficult travel will definitely physically and mentally tax the team, they can still cruise to this lob-sided division’s playoffs.
2. Las Vegas Golden Knights
The Las Vegas Golden Knights will continue their success as a franchise as they make the playoffs for their fourth consecutive season. They improved this offseason substantially as they inked Alex Pietrangelo to a deal that solidifies their blue-line. They are an all-around reliable team having a great goalie tandem, an excellent top-four defensemen group, and a solid top-six forward group. The Knights will have continued success as they will build on last year as they continue to improve. Prospect Cody Glass may also be ready to play a full season in Vegas. There is little concern for the Knights, and they are likely playoff-bound yet again.
West Division Champs: Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche will look to build off a successful 2019-2020. To ensure they make a push for the Stanley Cup, they acquired defensemen Devon Toews, from the Islanders and Brandon Saad, from the Blackhawks. They have one of the best players in the NHL, Nathan MacKinnon. So, the team is in pretty good shape to conquer the West and make the playoffs yet again. Can they win the Stanley Cup? Or do they fall short of their goal? Nevertheless, the Avs are in a great situation and should do well in this division.
Do you agree with the projections? What would you change? Leave your thoughts down below.