Last year we brought a bold new feature to the Jewels from the Crown family: the first ever JFTC Pacific Predictions roundtable. You can relive all the hilarity here, featuring:
-six out of ten of us picking the Kings to win the division last year!
-ten out of ten of us picking the Sharks to make the playoffs!
-only one of us picking the Ducks to win their third straight division title, and it's a guy who isn't even a part of this blog!
-that same guy picking the Canucks 5th, and no one picking them higher than 3rd!
-five people picking the Coyotes to finish in 5th, and only one of us (the immortal Blobert P) picking them to finish 7th!
-nine out of ten people picking the Oilers to miss the playoffs....we nailed that one, at least.
-and finally, six out of ten people picking the Flames to finish 7th, and no one picking them higher than 5th.
So yes, we got a few things wrong last year. Yeah. On the upside, our panel is a little bit different this time around, so maybe we can get more than "the Oilers will be bad" right! No guarantees, though. Seriously, I would not even bet Monopoly money on these picks if I was you. That's valuable paper and you're just throwing it away.
Without further ado, let's meet this year's panel!
The New Jewels Guy Who Hasn't Proven He Can't Be Trusted Yet
Two Dope Girls, One Set of Picks
-Chanelle & Diane (@thxbud)
We've averaged out everyone's picks to bring you our consensus, which you may then take to whatever the opposite of "the bank" is (the money pit? the paper shredder? I dunno). We'll go in reverse order this time, because SUSPENSE! I'll give you my thoughts on each team before throwing it over to our roundtable for more, so let's get started!
7. Arizona Coyotes
Average Ranking: 7
Sheng (7th): Boy, where to begin. Is it a sign that we're old when Brad Richardson is your offseason's prized veteran UFA signing? Or is your team terrible, horrible, no good, very bad? On the bright side, I hear Chris Pronger's been working out. Anyway, picking on Arizona is low-hanging fruit, so here's some encouragement: Imagine Auston Matthews skating with the Coyotes who eviscerated the Kings in mid-September's rookie games.
Robyn (7th): They have a lot of amazingly talented prospects in the minors and the organization is taking the (wise) long road with them and not rushing even the most exciting ones in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair up to the NHL. That said, their NHL roster is plain awful.
Nick (7th): A fake team that is the actual worst.
(The rest: Eric & Chris- 7th)
6. Vancouver Canucks
Average Ranking: 5.875
Man, has there ever been a less respected 100-point team than the Canucks? Well, I guess the 2013-14 Avalanche, sure. But no one seems to give the Canucks any credit for what they did last year. And with good reason- with their middling 49.9% Corsi at evens (good for a cool 19th in the league last year), the Canucks were a sneaky-bad overachiever. Luckily for them, the Flames stole most of their spotlight in that regard, but this is a team that really didn't have much business finishing 2nd in the Pacific, much like Calgary's 3rd place finish was absolutely ridiculous. But where the Canucks & Flames part is in their very different offseasons: the Flames clearly got better with the additions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik (both players that should have positive effects on their terrible possession stats), while the Canucks pretty clearly got worse, trading decent center Nick Bonino for trash-garbage-trash center Brandon Sutter, decent winger Zack Kassian for skating garbage clown Brandon Prust, and good backup goalie Eddie Lack for, uh, really nothing at all. Their top line's combined age is over a hundred, which is not a joke and is actually true. Their forward depth behind that is basically nonexistent, unless some kids spectacularly overachieve. Ryan Miller is also old and overrated, and presumed backup Jacob Markstrom has been a spectacular failure at the NHL level so far in his career. So no, I do not think the Canucks will be very good. I have them finishing in 6th, as many of our other panelists seem to agree.
Nick (6th): Just a bad hockey team. Not the worst, but no good at all.
Robyn (6th): Lol Brandon Sutter. Also, Vey and Sbisa both suck and they have major question marks with Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom in net.
Chris (6th): Their good players are getting older and bound to regress. They added a center whose reputation far exceeds his actual numbers. They don't really have any exciting prospects who could revitalize them. I'm sad just thinking about their outlook.
Andrew (6th): They certainly had the worst offseason of any Pacific team, trading away a lot of young talent (Lack, Kassian, and Bonino especially) for lackluster returns. The forward group after the Sedin-Sedin-Vrbata line is just awful, and even that top line is a bit of a question mark given that all three players on it are in their mid-thirties. The defense is in somewhat better shape but even there expect bad players like Luca Sbisa to get way too many minutes.
(The rest: Sheng & Thx Bud- 6th, Eric- 5th)
5. Edmonton Oilers
Average Ranking: 4.875
The Oilers are going to be better. That much is clear. It'd be pretty much impossible to add the best prospect since Sidney Crosby and not get at least a little better. In addition to McJesus, the Oilers also added a very capable defenseman to their back end in Andrej Sekera (a player who we Kings fans got a tantalizing taste of), another backup goalie-turned-hopeful-starter in Cam Talbot (hey, maybe third time's the charm for this plan, who knows?), and a capable, proven head coach in Todd McLellan. Even with the recent bad news of a Jordan Eberle injury in preseason (he'll be out 4-6 weeks, it sounds like), the Oilers are headed in the right direction and should see some early signs of turning a corner this season. I have them finishing in 4th, higher than most, but I also think they'll end up missing the playoffs quite comfortably (both Wild Card seeds will go to the Central for the 2nd straight season). Most of the roundtable disagrees with me here, but let's start with someone who doesn't!
Andrew (4th, but out of the playoffs): The addition of McDavid clearly gives the Oilers an excellent long-term outlook. Some regression to the mean from their goaltenders and a slightly less disastrous blueline should also help them put up a better point total. But for a team as bad as the Oilers, significant improvement does not necessarily mean a playoff spot. Incidentally, I don't think much of the attempt to fix the bottom six with the additions of Lauri Korpikoski and Mark Letestu. I expect the Oilers to have major depth issues at both forward and defense.
Chris (5th): They added a coach probably at least as good as his predecessor. They added a 2nd/3rd level defenseman. Oh yeah, they also added a generational player. Even if their defense still blows, they should put up enough offense to luck into a fair few wins.
Robyn (5th): Two words: Connor McJesus. Also, Sekera should help to solidify their back end a bit. If Talbot and Nilsson and/or Scrivens manage to combine for at least league average goaltending, they should be able to outscore their opponents on enough nights to win a lot of games.
Nick (5th): I suspect a gap between 3-4 and the rest of the division. The Oilers are improved and probably, finally, on their way, but they have too much ground to cover for now.
Eric (6th): There are so many good reasons to pick the Oilers to make a move in the Pacific Division this season. Connor McDavid joins three other #1 picks in a young, talented lineup. Cam Talbot could be THE ANSWER in goal. Our good friend Andrej Sekera provides a steadying blue line presence. The problem is that the defense is still really bad. If you don't believe me, read the team weaknesses as listed by Copper and Blue in their team preview. They'll give up too many goals to contend.
(The rest: Sheng & Thx Bud- 5th)
4. Calgary Flames
Average Ranking: 4.125
The Flames are a particularly difficult team to predict this year. On one hand, as mentioned in my rundown of Vancouver, I think the Flames had a great offseason. They absolutely robbed Boston blind for Dougie Hamilton in one of the most one-sided trades of the last decade, and added Michael Frolik, a solid depth forward with a good possession pedigree. On the other hand, the Flames were absolute trash garbage last season, and I really think everyone needs to keep in mind just how bad they were. Their 44.5% Corsi at evens was better than exactly two teams last year- Colorado and Buffalo. They have a lot more ground to make up than people seem to realize, given their poor possession. They also don't have a huge edge in goal to lean on, as we've seen from some other teams that overachieved their possession in the past- their .910 team sv% was below league average, 18th in the league. This is a team that was carried entirely by an unsustainably high shooting % last year and some major success in late-game dramatic comebacks, two things that seem highly unlikely to repeat themselves. So I apologize in advance if this makes no sense, but bear with me: my prediction is that the Flames will finish worse than they did last year (I have them 5th and out of the playoffs), but be a better team than they were last year (their possession stats should see modest improvement, thanks to the additions of Hamilton & Frolik and continued progression from their young guns). The Flames, much like their provincial rivals, are headed in the right direction long-term, even though this year should be a pretty heavy step back for them in the standings. Let's see what everyone else thinks:
Eric (4th): Someone has to be the Avs of this season. Problem is, Calgary didn't stand pat thinking they were good enough with the group they snuck in with last year. Dougie Hamilton makes for a darn good #3 d-man behind Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, and takes minutes away from pylons such as Deryk Engelland. They also picked up Michael Frolik and introduce Sam Bennett to regular-season hockey. So they won't plunge into last place. They will plunge into fourth, but they'll steal enough points from the weaker Pacific teams to grab the final playoff spot. (Maybe Montreal will be this year's Avs!)
Nick (4th): Much closer to legitimate. Progress from their young players and improvement to the roster makes them a viable contender for a low end playoff spot.
Robyn (4th): They probably won't win the crosis battle, but Bob Hartley's blue collar work ethic instilled in his players makes them a difficult opponent. I do expect regression but with smart trades like Hamilton, they probably won't suck as much as many people expect.
Chris (4th): No doubt, the Flames had some extreme luck last year. They also had striking similarity to the Avalanche the year before them. Calgary had the 5th ranked PDO, 21st ranked GF%, and 27th in SF%. Colorado in 2013-2014: 3rd in PDO, 8th in GF%, 25th in SF%. Unlike Colorado, they added more skill with Hamilton and their best players are young and should still be trending upward on the aging curve. I think they have the players and capability to do better than the teams I've ranked below them.
Andrew (5th): Last year's Flames were an incredible fluke, and even adding a bunch of new talent in the offseason won't save them from some painful regression.
(The rest: Sheng- 4th, Thx Bud- 3rd)
3. San Jose Sharks
Average Ranking: 3
Yes, another one where the average works out perfectly, though this time it's not because we're in unanimous agreement (though we're pretty close). The Sharks seem like a prime candidate to bounce back this year, for a number of reasons. They weren't as bad as they appeared to be at times last season, finishing tied for a respectable 13th in even strength Corsi at 51.3% (the same mark as the division-winning Ducks, actually). They made a number of solid offseason additions; the Paul Martin contract will probably start to look really bad in just a couple of years, but for this season at least he should be a really solid addition that will help improve their back end. Joel Ward is a very solid depth forward that gives them more options in their top 9. This is a team that probably would have made the playoffs this year even if they had done nothing, just based on the fact that they weren't that bad last year to begin with, but with their modest additions they should cruise past the rest of this sub-mediocre division right into a top 3 divisional playoff seed. I have them 3rd, and many of my colleagues agree:
Andrew (3rd): I see them as a comfortable playoff team. They had major depth issues last year but the acquisitions of Ward and Martin go a long way towards addressing that. Their core veterans (Thornton, Vlasic, Pavelski, Marleau, and Couture) can all still play at a really high level.
Sheng (3rd): San Jose's surprisingly long Vegas odds are baffling. Calgary AND Edmonton are better...really? The Sharks made a few astute acquisitions in the offseason and still boast a wealth of high-end talent. While they don't quite cut it as a serious Cup contender anymore, they aren't appreciably worse than the team that was one win away from knocking out the 2014 champs.
Chris (3rd): The Sharks added two quality players this offseason in Ward and Martin. If going by nothing else than his AHL numbers, Jones should be at least an average goalie for them. Their core guys remain and are very good, and they still have a very good power play. They hit bad luck last year and had the 4th worst PDO last year. They have all the tools to bounce back.
Robyn (2nd): Doug Wilson made some smart acquisitions over the summer and they have a fine collection of young players who are going to be terrifying when they come into their own. Pete DeBoer is a question mark for me, though, and I'm not sure yet what he can do with a much better roster than the one he led before he was fired.
Nick (3rd): Still good, though I suspect there will be a gap between the top 2 and the rest of the division.
(The rest: Eric- 3rd, Thx Bud- 4th)
2. Los Angeles Kings
Average Ranking: 1.875
Before you call us huge homers or whatever, let's get one thing straight: the 2014-15 Los Angeles Kings were a damn good hockey team. They missed the playoffs last season because the NHL is an incredibly stupid league that rewards mediocrity and failure, not out of any real fault of their own. Here's some basic facts if you need convincing: the Kings had the same point total last year as the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Champions (95), their 37 regulation wins was tied with St. Louis & Montreal for 4th most in the league last year (the most of any non-playoff team, with really only San Jose's 34 coming close, and 1 more than the eventual champion Blackhawks), and they of course dominated in puck possession yet again, with their 55.3% even-strength Corsi the best in the league by a wide margin (2.3% higher than 2nd place Chicago). Yes, the Kings were damn good last year, and it's frankly ridiculous that they weren't in the playoffs, but anyway! The good news is, I really do think this year's Kings team could be even better than last year's. They've let several awful players go (Regehr & Stoll immediately come to mind, but there's a few others too) and replaced them with younger options that should play, at worst, about the same, if not better. They added Milan Lucic to the top line, giving them a very strong top-six forwards group. And Christian Ehrhoff is a sneaky-good signing for the defense corps. Overall, I'm really bullish on this Kings team, and since I didn't go through with this last year, what the hell.....I've got the Kings finishing 1st in the division! Yee-haw! Let's see if anyone else is willing to come out on this here limb with me:
Eric (2nd): I'm never picking this team to win the division again. (that's a no huh?)
Nick (2nd): They're still good! The defense might be the best group of 6 guys they've run out there since they started contending. The depth is weak at forward but the top end talent is excellent.
Robyn (3rd): Underwhelming success is the name of the game and there is no one better at it than the Kings. I expect them to lock down the third and final spot in the division just barely whilst losing to the likes of Calgary or Edmonton.
Andrew (1st): Admittedly, I predict this every year and it never happens. But I think this LA team should be roughly as good, possibly slightly better, than last year's team, which deserved a much better point total than it finished with. It's worth remembering that LA posted more regulation wins and a better 5v5 goal differential than the Ducks last year. (finally somebody out here with me! thank u, man of leaves)
(The rest: Sheng, Thx Bud, & Chris- 2nd)
1. Anaheim Ducks
Average Ranking: 1.25
Let's just get this out of the way first: the Ducks are slowly morphing from "fake good team" into "actual good team", and last year was another step forward on that journey. They won their third straight division title and finally had something resembling decent puck possession. At the same time, they still had a ridiculous record in one-goal games of 33-1-7, which set a new NHL all-time mark for most one-goal wins in a season. That's not likely to repeat itself, so they'll need to keep improving in puck possession and/or I guess go back to just shooting 10% in all situations, whatever. Somehow the Ducks will figure out a way. They always do. But, optimistically, I'm putting them 2nd in the division. They have to miss out on the division banner one of these years.....right? Most of the rest of our panel does not agree:
Thx Bud (1st): Logic tells us the ridiculous PDO the Ducks have enjoyed the last few seasons has to ease up at some point, but they keep managing to win a bunch in the regular season. By now we're just tired of betting on that. It also seems like Bob Murray and Bruce Boudreau try to have an Anaheim Ducks team more like the LA Kings every year to counterbalance the luck (but, you know, a version that scores more goals). They aim for heavier, more punishing and possession-driven hockey. In some ways it seems to be working. On the other hand, it seems like a key part of their strategy is acquiring as many of the most insufferable Canucks possible, so they're still annoying. Having Ryan Kesler AND Kevin Bieksa on the same roster as Corey Perry is impressive, like the Ducks will soon be able to have them morph into a Megazord of bastards.
Andrew (2nd): They're quite good--the Ducks have developed a nice young defense to complement Getzlaf and Perry--but I don't think this team will be as dominant as most people expect. I do like the Hagelin addition for them.
Sheng (1st): Anaheim is clearly the deepest team in the division. But there's a question of timing as their top forwards are on the verge of exiting their prime, while a youngish backend is entering theirs. So why aren't Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry aging as rapidly as fellow '03 draftee Dustin Brown? Jinx.
Robyn (1st): Bruce Boudreau is an amazing coach at getting occasionally underwhelming teams to achieve great success in the regular season. There's none better at getting that dirty banner. On paper, the Ducks have one of the deepest teams in the league top to bottom. I'm not super crazy about their bottom 6, but other than that, it shouldn't be difficult to see them easily clinching the division for a fourth straight year.
Nick (1st): I think they made enough moves to make them a truly good team. They're going to compete for the Western Conference again.
Eric (1st): Remember the shortened 2013 season, when Anaheim stunned everyone by blowing away the rest of the Pacific Division? And they did it all with a 47.7% CF? I miss those days; I prefer lucky Anaheim to good Anaheim. The Ducks followed that up by breaking even in possession in 2013-14 before putting up a solid 51.2% in 2014-15, a figure which got better as the season went on. (At least, until they took their foot off the gas with plenty of breathing room in March.) There are red flags; Anaheim won an absurd amount of one-goal games last season, and their special teams leave a lot to be desired. But this team is, again, good. Too bad.
(The rest: Chris- 1st)
So there you have it. I want to reiterate one more time that any money you lose gambling based on these sure-to-be-bad-and-wrong picks is your responsibility and yours alone. Gambling on sports is a waste of time and money, man. This anti-sports gambling PSA has been brought to you by DraftKings; use the promo code "waste of time & money" and get your first entry FREE!**
And look, if many of these picks turn out to be wrong too, let's just come clean- we actually made our picks both years with this:
Enjoy tomorrow night's first taste of regular season hockey! Don't forget to stick with us at Jewels all year long!