San Jose finished third in the Pacific Division last year, but how do they match up with their division rivals following free agency?
After finishing fifth in the Pacific Division during the 2014-15 season, the San Jose Sharks bounced back with a very solid campaign last year. San Jose re-established themselves as one of the top teams out West en route to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
While team teal ultimately fell short of their goal, the Sharks are in strong shape heading into the upcoming season.
Now that a majority of the free agents have signed on in new places, let’s take a look at the landscape of the Pacific Division and how San Jose fits into that picture.
Whenever you look at this division, it always starts in California.
Team teal should be well-positioned to make a better run within the Pacific Division next year after bringing in depth pieces in Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko while also bringing back Tomas Hertl.
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San Jose has the deepest forward unit in the division as Peter DeBoer has a plethora of talent up front. With Schlemko adding a bit more depth on the blue line and Martin Jones manning the nets, the Sharks should be considered the favorites for the division crown.
The reason behind this confidence is the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks haven’t really done much in the way of improving their rosters. The Kings are going the Sharks route in stripping Dustin Brown, who’s been flat-out terrible in recent seasons, of the captaincy position and naming Anze Kopitar the new captain.
However, L.A. hasn’t really done anything in the way of addressing some of their depth concerns, especially on defense where San Jose really exposed them. The Kings lost Milan Lucic and their biggest move has been adding Teddy Purcell. They’re going to rely heavily again on the trio of Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, but San Jose still should have the upper hand.
In looking further South, who knows what is going on with the four-time division champs after losing a fourth-straight Game 7 at home. Anaheim went back to Randy Carlyle behind the bench, but they’ve lost some talent from their forward units. They will still rely heavily on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but they may struggle to score again.
The one thing the Ducks have going for them is their defense should be very stout as long as John Gibson can handle the workload and expectations of a number one netminder.
Meanwhile, the intriguing teams in this division are the young, up-and-comers. The Calgary Flames will be everyone’s trendy pick to return to the postseason after bringing in a pair of former Blues in Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott. They’ve got a bevy of young, dynamic forwards headlined by Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau, along with adding Matthew Tkachuk in this year’s draft.
If they get any semblance of defense or goaltending, the Flames will be a division contender.
Likewise, the Oilers and Coyotes should both be interesting teams to keep an eye on with their young talent. Edmonton certainly captured plenty of headlines by trading Taylor Hall and signing Lucic. The Oilers, at some point you’d figure and heading into a new arena, will turn it around at some point.
Finally, the Vancouver Canucks are a team that will likely be in the basement of this division. Sure they signed Loui Eriksson, but there isn’t really much else to like about this Vancouver team which only held on for much of the season because they found a way to lose in overtime.
After a season in which many people pegged the Kings and Ducks as the cream of the crop in the Pacific, heading into next year, this division feels pretty wide open.
The Sharks, on paper, have the makings of a division champion but they will certainly be challenged from their Southern California rivals along with some up-start teams that want to make a splash next season.