Pacific Division Preview: How the West Will Be Won

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mike Smith #41 and Travis Hamonic #24 of the Calgary Flames stop Rourke Chartier #60 and Marcus Sorensen #20 of the San Jose Sharks from scoring during their preseason game at SAP Center on September 27, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mike Smith #41 and Travis Hamonic #24 of the Calgary Flames stop Rourke Chartier #60 and Marcus Sorensen #20 of the San Jose Sharks from scoring during their preseason game at SAP Center on September 27, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Pacific Division
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 30: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #41 and Tomas Nosek #92 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after Bellemare assisted Nosek on a short-handed second-period goal against the San Jose Sharks during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on September 30, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks 5-2. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Vegas Golden Knights

Head Coach: Gerard Gallant

Key Additions: Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty

Key Losses: James Neal, David Perron, Nate Schmidt (Serving 20 game suspension)

Strengths: Forwards, Goaltending, Rushes off Turnovers.

Weaknesses: Defensemen

Predicted Point Total: 101, 2nd in the Pacific

It’s time to give credit where credit is due. The Stanley Cup Final appearance, and Pacific Division Title by the Golden Knights was by no means a fluke. They have a deep forward corps, very good goaltending, and a solid puck moving D corps.

The team brought back essentially the same guys from their Stanley Cup run with a few additions.  They bring back the entire coaching staff of current Jack Adams award winner, Gerard Gallant, who played no small part in the Knights spectacular season.

In an attempt to ensure they didn’t follow up their record breaking season with a stinker in the Pacific Divison, the Knights didn’t stand pat. They allowed a few notable UFAs to walk, while adding a few much hyped players in Max Pacioretty and Paul Stasny.

The additions certainly make up for the subtractions and as a result team win production should not suffer in the Pacific Division. However, last season, every single Knights player had a career year, which will be hard to replicate. Additionally, its unlikely the Knights take anyone by surprise this season. A totally WAG (wild a** guess) for the Knights record is 47-28-7 for 101 points.

Forwards – The Vegas Golden Knights were a deep forward team before they made a magical run to the Stanley Cup finals. The lost perennial clutch scorer James Neal and 70 point scoring third liner David Perron to the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues respectively.

James Neal was a key piece to the Knights run, and was essentially replaced with Max Pacioretty  in a notable trade with the Montreal Canadians. The Knights gave up a very good prospect in Nick Suzuki, a third line grit player in Tomas Tatar, and a second round pick.

In an upgrade over Perron, the Knights acquired the services of Paul Stastny via free agency to a 3 year $6.5M Dollar deal. A very solid second line center who is responsible defensively.
Additionally, the Knights resigned notable RFA and best nickname in all of hockey, William “Wild Bill” Karlsson on a one year show me deal at $5.25M.

Bottom line, the Knights incredibly talented forward corps became even better.

Coaching staff – As referred to above they are the reigning Jack Adams award winning staff led by Gallant. The coaching staff brought together a gaggle of players who have never played together before, were essentially cast offs, and turned them into a contender. That is spectacular work.

Goaltending – According to Hockey-Reference, Marc Andre Fleury sported an elite .927 save percentage and 2.24 GAA in 46 games last season, while the rest of the conglomerate of goaltenders managed to put together a respectable league average save percentage and GAA.

Defense – The Knights have a very mobile puck moving defense led by Shea Theodore, recently resigned to a 7 year contract at a $5.2M AAV according to CapFriendly. Theodore will be relied upon to log big minutes and make up for the absence of Nate Schmidt. Colin Miller, Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt are a solid top four behind Theodore.

The reason this is the Knights sole weakness is because of offseason drama created by one the Knights best defenseman. Nate Schmidt, a castoff of the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, was smacked with a 20 game suspension in accordance with the leagues doping policy. This is a big hit for the Knights and could have a significant impact on the Knights season in the Pacific Division.

The Golden Knights are still going to be a very dangerous team in the Pacific Division. The forward corps improved significantly enough to prevent any drop-off from the teams emotional inaugural season, while the award winning coaching staff returns.

The defense should be able to weather the effects of losing a top two defenseman for 20 games but not without some overall impact on the team. Also, its doubtful all of the Knights have career seasons two seasons in a row.

While, a 100 point season isn’t out of the question, the Knights likely wont reproduce the point total from last years Cinderella story.

-David Boettcher

Next. Sharks Decide on Opening Day Roster. dark

Look. We don’t know what the hell is going to happen. We do know this however, that the Pacific Division is going to be one hell of a dogfight.