Pacific Division Preview: Who can challenge the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers

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The Calgary Flames won just their second playoff series in the past 17 years last May when they scored a dramatic overtime goal in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars.

After winning the opening game of their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames seemed to run out of gas and dropped the next four games to end their season.

Calgary didn’t sit around and wonder what happened, instead reshaping their roster in an effort to repeat as Pacific Division champions and get deeper into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pacific Division Preview 2022-23

1. Calgary Flames

The Flames acquiesced Matthew Tkachuk’s request for a trade and shipped him to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

“We want to win, and I’m going to give everything I have so we can win the Stanley Cup,” said Huberdeau, who scored a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) last season, which was tied for second in the NHL with Johnny Gaudreau, another forward for Calgary last season that has since changed teams.

Gaudreau signed a massive free-agent deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets after being courted by a number of teams.

Tkachuk was also one of eight players who produced triple digits in points last season, totaling 42 goals and 62 assists.

The Flames think they can cover those losses with the addition of Nazem Kadri, who had 28 goals and 59 assists during the regular season before helping the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup title last season.

Calgary also has Vezina finalist Jacob Markstrom in net so another first place finish seems likely.

2. Edmonton Oilers

May 26, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his goal against Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) during the first overtime period in game five of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers believe they still have most of the pieces in place to make another run at a Stanley Cup.

Their main area of concern was goaltending and the Oilers upgraded by acquiring Jack Campbell from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Campbell has shown to be one of the elite goalies in the NHL when healthy, posting a .939 save percentage in his first 25 games last season. 

Outside of that, they made sure to bring back a majority of the band with Evander Kane signing a 4 year extension.

This team will still go as far as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can take them, which should include a fight for the division title.

3. Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were rather quiet in offseason, but Ilya Mikheyev arrived to give the forwards a boost and Curtis Lazar should also be a helpful addition up front.

That being said, the Canucks made sure to do some major housekeeping having Bruce Boudreau stick around for another season and extending their leading scorer J.T. Miller.

“We want to be in the playoffs and competing for a Cup,” said Miller after signing an 8-year deal. “I think with more time and getting to know the guys more, some familiar faces, and the talent we have, I don’t see why it’s not possible.”

Vancouver got off to a slow start last season that led to Travis Green being fired and replaced by Boudreau. That ultimately was the main reason why they just missed a wild card by 5 points.

Thatcher Demko continues his excellent in net as young stars like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Vasily Podkolzin look to make their mark on the NHL.

4. Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings still appear to be just a couple players away from a deep playoff run. One need they fulfilled was landing a proven scorer on the wing.

Kevin Fiala signed with the Kings after putting up a career-high 33 goals and 85 points with the Minnesota Wild last season.

Kings captain Anze Kopitar should particularly benefit from having Fiala on his wing after longtime linemate Dustin Brown retired following last season.

Los Angeles will need veteran defenseman Drew Doughty to stay healthy and hope that their second overall pick in the 2020 draft, Quinton Byfield breaks out this season.

After finishing third in the Pacific in 2021-22, a wild card is well within reach.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

jack eichel pacific division
Sep 30, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) warms up before facing the San Jose Sharks in a preseason game at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The best addition for Vegas Golden Knights might be head coach Bruce Cassidy, who is coming off a solid six-year run with the Boston Bruins.

“That’s to be determined,” Cassidy said replied to a question about being a Cup contender. “I think on paper we’re strong on the back end, as good as anybody. I like our depth up front. We have some sandpaper, a good fourth line. They can give you some momentum. Our special teams will be strong, we’ve got lots of killers.”

Going from Peter DeBoer to Cassidy is one thing but this team lost a key piece when Max Pacioretty was jettisoned for future consideration to the Carolina Hurricanes due to cap issues. Add on top of that the offseason announcement that starting goalie Robin Lehner was out for the season and I just don’t see the Knights in postseason play.

Sadly for Jack Eichel, he will still be waiting to experience a playoff game after escaping the Buffalo Sabres last season.

6. Anaheim Ducks

Ryan Getzlaf, the longtime captain of the Anaheim Ducks, retired after last season, meaning the locker room will need a new voice to emerge.

In the meantime, the Ducks snatched forwards Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano from the New York Rangers, where they had a long playoff run last season, and also lured defenseman John Klingberg from the Dallas Stars on a one-year deal that will force him to play at his best.

Those veteran free agents signings will help young stars like Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Jamie Drysdale take the next step in their development.

Last season, the Ducks started off hot and faded hard. If John Gibson can steal a handful of games, Anaheim could be a dark horse for a wild card spot.

7. San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks watched one of their most popular players, defenseman Brent Burns, depart after 11 seasons with the club.

Matt Benning and Markus Nutivaara were added to San Jose’s defensive corps, while the Sharks will try to retool up front with the additions of Luke Kunin, Oskar Lindblom, Nico Sturm and Steven Lorentz.

The Sharks kept defenseman Mario Ferraro by signing him to a four-deal deal, while forward Alexander Barabanov and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen inked two-year contracts.

It’s obvious San Jose is going to infuse more youth into this lineup and that’s why they brought in David Quinn to coach the team.

8. Seattle Kraken

The Seattle Kraken acquired forward Andre Burakovsky from the Avalanche, where he also won a Stanley Cup title last season, but fell out of favor with the coaching staff and was scratched several times in the postseason. 

Oliver Bjorkstrand also arrived to shore up the forward ranks, and defenseman Justin Schultz and goalie Martin Jones will also be key additions for Seattle.

All eyes will be on youngsters Matty Beniers and Shane Wright, who both represent the future of the Kraken franchise.

Seattle is headed for another last place finish, but the fun is only getting started for the new kids on the NHL block.

–Field Level Media and The Daily Goal Horn