With the NHL scaling back on covid restrictions, the league is going to have fans in the stands again and the Edmonton Oilers division will be back to what they used to be, save for the Arizona Coyotes moving to the Central Division to make way for the expansion Seattle Kraken. To be honest, that’s not going to shake things up much in the division – the Coyotes are the same bottom feeders they’ve been for years, so not much has changed from the past.
Since most NHL clubs will be finished with their major moves, rosters are more or less set aside from a depth move or two determined by training camp, I thought it would be good to write about how I see the division playing out.
No doubt there will be lots of pushback in the comments section, and I will tell the snipers right now – your comments will not change my opinions in any way. Also, if you disagree with me as always there’s nothing stopping you from signing up to blog on the site and write your own blog with your own opinions on there. That challenge was issued to me and that’s what got me into this racket, so now I’m issuing the same challenge to all my dissenters here. So, without further ado, let’s get to the feature presentation.
Once again the Pacific division will be the weakest in the NHL.
The top tier teams
1. Las Vegas Golden Knights – the cup contenders?
I put a question mark at the end of that because I’m not sure we can call them cup contenders still, as cap issues have forced Vegas to deal away some of their depth to gain cap space, and it certainly doesn’t help that reeling in the big fish in free agency from last year – Alex Pietrangelo – was a massive failure in year one of the deal. He went from 16 goals and 52 points in 70 games in St. Louis two years ago to seven goals and 23 points in 41 games last year. To account for the shrunken season, it’s still a failure when viewed through the lens of points per game – from 0.74 PPG in St. Louis to 0.56 in Vegas. That’s a 25% dip in production year over year – not good. He did better in the playoffs, putting up 12 points in 19 playoff games, but they need him to be better if they hope to move the needle as a franchise.
I’ve also not been very impressed with their work in the offseason this year. They’re slightly over the cap this year but will have LTIR cap space from Alex Tuch’s injury. He’ll be a huge loss on the ice for them, as he put up 18-15-33 in 55 games for them last season.
Vegas still has the same lack of high end talent needed to get them over the top, but that type of player is rarely available in free agency or trade, and even if he was Vegas wouldn’t have the cap space to sign him anyway.
Nonetheless, Vegas still stands the best chance at winning the division once again, as to me they still look like the best team in the Pacific, despite their warts in roster makeup.
Best case scenario – Division winner, limited playoff success
Worst case scenario – 2nd place in the division
What are they to the Oilers? A measuring stick