NHL Season Preview For Pacific Division, 2022-23

NHL Season Preview For Pacific Division, 2022-23
Tue 4th October 2022

We simply cannot wait for the new NHL season to start, and we are counting down the days until the very first puck drop. If you are like us and love the NHL, then you definitely need to have a read on below, as we take a look at each and every team from the Pacific Division and analyze their chances for success in this brand new season.

Anaheim Ducks

It was well known that the Anaheim Ducks are going through a rebuilding process but is pretty unclear how far they are on that road. Last season was very turbulent for the franchise. General Manager Bob Murray stepped down from the office after he had been placed on administrative leave for inappropriate workplace conduct, and he entered an alcohol abuse program.

Pat Verbeek stepped in and has picked up the process making a lot of changes. The team in general started last season pretty well but as the season progressed, they were one of the worst teams in the league, losing 11 straight games at one point.

The Ducks finished in 7th place in the Pacific Division and 13th in the Western Conference with a 31-37-14 record. Verbeek has his own vision and is eager to make changes not just because he wants to, but because he has to. Long-time team captain Ryan Getzlaf has retired after last season and the Ducks will have to find another leader.

Trevor Zegras is the player who has shown the quality to become the leader of the team even though he is entering in his sophomore season. He had a strong second part of the season recording 29 points in the last 33 games. Troy Terry is another prospect who can make a difference, especially on the offense.

The main question for the Ducks is if Dallas Eakins will remain as the head coach of the team. Verbeek has shown that he doesn’t hesitate much to make cuts and if the Ducks have a bad start of the season, Eakins will be on his way out. Taking everything into consideration, the Ducks are still one or two seasons away from making some noise in the league so it will be a miracle if they come even close to the playoffs.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are coming off a pretty good season as they finished on top of the Pacific Division and third place in the Western Conference with a 50-21-11 record. Calgary was seen as a dark horse candidate to win the Stanley Cup last season but things didn’t seem well as soon as the playoffs started. The Flames were huge favorites going into the series against the Dallas Stars but they needed an overtime in Game 7 to seal the deal against them. 

In the second round though, they stood no chance against the Edmonton Oilers, losing in five games. Last season’s success can be credited to Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, who both surpassed 100 points in a season for the first time in their respective careers. That kind of impact was expected from those two, but no one expected Erik Gudbranson to have the impact that he had.

But here comes the bad news for Calgary. All these players are now gone. Gaudrau and Gudbranson signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets while Matthew Tkachuk was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 first-round pick.

Now the Flames are going into the 2022-23 season with a totally new look. Nazem Kadri was brought in from the Colorado Avalanche and a lot will depend on his performance. The experienced center will probably take the team on his shoulders and the Flames fans will be able to sleep well.

The Flames were the third-best defensive team in the league last season and it can be expected to keep that reputation. It will be interesting to see the new look of the Flames. They will definitely need some time to find their identity but they definitely possess the quality to remain a playoff team.

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are coming off a great season with many ups and downs and have every reason to believe that the following one will be even more impressive. They started last season winning 9 of the first 10 games but soon things went down quickly. The crisis went so deep that Dave Tippett was fired as the head coach and Jay Woodcroft was brought in. 

Even though it was Woodcroft’s first job as a NHL head coach, he managed to turn things around quickly. The Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference with a 49-27-6 record. 

They had a tough test in the opening playoff round where they defeated the Los Angeles Kings in seven games. They kept their Stanley Cup dream alive after defeating the Calgary Flames in 5 games in the second round before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final.

This success can be credited mainly to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl who are probably the most dynamic duo in the game. McDavid recorded career bests with 44 goals and 123 points, while Draisaitl scored 55 goals and 55 assists for 110 points. With these two healthy and ready, the Oilers are a dangerous team that seemingly has everything they need to attack the Stanley Cup.

The defense was the Oilers’ weakness last season but with Woodcroft taking over the team, the improvement was visible. The goaltender position also may be vulnerable as starting goalie Mike Smith has left. Jack Campbell who arrived from the Toronto Maple Leafs will probably start the season as the first goalie.

With McDavid and Draisaitl on top of their game, the Oilers have nothing to worry about. The new coach is doing a great job and this team will head to the top of the league. It won’t be a surprise to see them back among the top four teams once again this season.

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings are coming off a breakthrough season that showed this team has character. They started the season poorly losing 6 of the first 7 games and soon after lost Drew Doughty to what was a season-ending injury. Things didn’t look well at all for the Kings but they regrouped and that paid off. 

They finished the regular season with a 44-27-11 record, which put them in third place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference. With that, the Kings put an end to the three-year playoff absence and almost caused an upset in the opening round as they pushed the Edmonton Oilers to seven games.

There will not be many new faces in the roster this season as general manager Rob Blake is trusting the current lineup. Only winger Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild and goalie Pheonix Copley from the Washington Capitals are the new faces in the Kings locker room.

Anze Kopitar was the best offensive player for the Kings and he is expected to have an even bigger impact in the year to come. Last season he led the Kings in scoring for the fifth consecutive year posting 67 points, 19 of which were goals. Adrian Kempe is another player who exploded as he scored 35 goals in 78 games after he had only 55 in his previous 312.

The defensive part of the Kings’ game will depend much on the question if Doughty will fully recover. The rest of the lineup are pretty young guys who have a lot to learn before they become valuable assets for the Kings. With the current roster, the Kings will not be competitive in the conference and will probably be back in the bottom half of the standings missing the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks

All the NHL fans who followed the league in the past decade are used to seeing the San Jose Sharks among the best teams in the league, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. The last season was no different as the Sharks posted a 32-37-13 record that put them in sixth place in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference.

It is a tough pill to swallow for the Sharks fans as the majority of the best players from San Jose’s glory days are still with the team but the record is completely different. Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were all with the Sharks when they were on top of the conference and now as they finished 20 points short of even reaching the playoffs.

Every aspect of the Sharks game was below the league average and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them at the moment. Hertl was signed to an eight-year extension with the Sharks while Burns moved to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Wingers Oskar Lindblom, Luke Kunin, Steven Lorentz, Evgeny Svechnikov, defensemen Matt Benning and Markus Nutivaara as well as center Nico Sturm and goalie Aaron Dell were all added to the Sharks roster in the off-season, but none of them seems like a player that can have a major impact. Hertl and Meier are the players who will take most of the load on their backs especially in the offense. 

Couture is another player who can make difference but that is where the Sharks threats end. The defense will struggle again and the goal position is up for grabs with Adin Hill going to the Vegas Golden Knights. This will be another tough season for the Sharks fans who will be watching their team search for its identity and it will be no wonder if their search leads nowhere this season.

Seattle Kraken

The city of Seattle got another sports team in a major professional league and that is all that matters for now. The Seattle Kraken had no success in their inaugural season in the NHL but, truth to be said, no one really expected anything from them.

The Kraken finished at the bottom of the Pacific Division and 15th in the Western Conference with a 27-49-6 record. A few of those wins came against some of the top teams in the league, which is a clear sign that the team will have more to offer in their second season in the league.

The Kraken struggled to score last year finishing with the fourth-worst scoring average in the league. Defensively they were slightly better posting the fifth-best expected goals against per 60 at 5-on-5 in the entire league. The good news is that the Kraken’s game can go only up in the upcoming season. 

In the off-season, they signed Andre Burakovsky on a five-year, $5.5-million deal. He is not the kind of player who will make a major difference but will definitely be a valuable asset in Seattle’s offense and have a chance to become the leader of this team in the future. Oliver Bjorkstrand is another player whose acquisition brought excitement among the Kraken fans.

Philipp Grubauer will be the starting goalie for the Kraken as Chris Dreidger still recovers from offseason ACL surgery. Just like the Kraken, Dave Hakstol is entering his second season as an NHL head coach. His job seems safe at the moment but if at least minor improvement is not seen, he may get sacked.

One thing is for sure, the Kraken are still a big question mark but surely not a team that can be underestimated. Finishing higher than the bottom three teams in the conference would be a win for them.

Vancouver Canucks

The last season was another disappointing campaign for the Vancouver Canucks who finished fifth in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference with a 40-30-12 record. This record does not look that bad but it could have been much worse if some changes weren’t made during the season. The Canucks had a terrible start and by December both general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green were fired.

The team is still developing under the new GM Patrick Alvin and head coach Bruce Boudreau, who did the best possible job with the team since he got to the bench. Many roster changes were made prior to the last season and that was the case this time around as well. 

Ilya Mikheyev, Andrey Kuzmenko, Curtis Lazar, Dakota Joshua, Christian Wolanin, Wyatt Kalynuk and Collin Delia will be the new faces in Vancouver while Jaroslav Halak, Juho Lammikko, Jayce Hawryluk, Matthew Highmore, Nic Petan, Justin Bailey, Sheldon Rempal, Brad Hunt and Madison Bowey will continue their careers elsewhere.

JT Miller was the leading scorer last season with 32 goals and 99 points, and he is expected to be that type of player again. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes each scored 68 points which is a good record considering that they were struggling with injuries in the previous season. These three guys will have to step up big time in order to get the Canucks back in the playoff conversation.

Vancouver’s defense was pretty good last season as they allowed 236 goals, which put them in 8th place in the entire league. Goaltender Thatcher Demko had a lot to do with that and if he has another great season, playoff hockey may be back in Vancouver.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off their worst season in franchise history. Not that they were that bad, but this was the first time since they joined the league in 2017 where they missed the playoffs. The Golden Knights finished fourth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the Western Conference with a 43-31-8 record.

They were in the playoffs in the picture until the last week, but they failed to deliver even against teams with no chance to advance. That was pretty disappointing for Vegas’ fans as they were used to seeing their team deep in the playoffs.

During the last season, the Golden Knights brought in Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres who seemed like the missing piece. Eichel quickly adapted and had a decent season but the team’s success simply wasn’t there. They were 12th in the league with 266 scored goals, a number that will definitely go up in the 2022-23 campaign.

Besides Eichel, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson are the players who are expected to hit the nets on any given night. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore are the players who will do the dirty work on the defensive end, something that didn’t function well last season. 

Another reason for their failure last year was the decision to part ways with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. With him gone, the Knights struggled to find consistency in this position and that issue may still need time to be dealt with.

The Golden Knights will be a good team in the upcoming season and if they will be a contender in the West depends on them. Missing the playoffs last season was pretty surprising, but don’t be in disbelief if that happens this year as well.

When the 2022 NHL season does eventually begin, make sure SportsTips is your go-to destination for NHL picks. We will provide NHL picks for each and every game of the season from our experts, so you can place your bets with more confidence!

Marko is a former athlete who meanwhile got his law degree. He has followed basketball since the ‘90s and is very familiar with all levels of the game, from the NBA, and the NCAA, all down to European leagues and international competitions. He is also very fond of tennis, soccer, NHL and MLB and can provide reliable previews and analysis that will lead you to placing a winning bet.