Ryan Dadoun

In The Crease

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Pacific Division Preview

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Phoenix Coyotes


Forwards  

 
The Coyotes won’t have Ray Whitney back and at the time of writing, it’s not clear if Shane Doan will return.  Consequently, they’ll be looking for big things from Steve Sullivan, who signed with them over the summer, and Antoine Vermette, who is coming off of a disappointing 37-point campaign.  Andy Miele might also make the team and provide them with some much needed secondary scoring.  Overall, they aren’t going to win many games by overpowering their opponents offensively.  

  Defense  

 
Assuming that they keep Keith Yandle – and given that they’re currently well below the salary floor, there’s every reason to believe they will – he should easily rank among the top five on the team in points.  Oliver Ekman-Larsson should also eat up over 20 minutes a game while providing fantasy-worthy offensive numbers.  Beyond that, Zbynek Michalek should get in front of a lot of pucks on a team that ranked in the bottom third in blocked shots last season.  

  Goaltending  

 
The Coyotes’ goaltending was their key strength last season and the reason the Phoenix Coyotes made it all the way to the Western Conference finals.  Mike Smith had a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in what was easily the best season of his career.  They’ll need more of the same from him if they want to even make the playoffs in 2012-13.

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
As I mentioned earlier, at the time of writing Doan is still an unrestricted free agent, but he might end up re-signing with the Coyotes.  They have already lost Whitney, but Phoenix is hoping to fill the void with Sullivan.  They also acquired Michalek from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Harrison Ruopp, Marc Cheverie, and the 81st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  Pittsburgh used that pick to take Oskar Sundqvist.  Until the Coyotes climb over the salary floor, we have to assume they’re not done pursuing players via the free agent and trade markets.  

  Player To Watch

 
David Rundblad has plenty of offensive upside and he might make the Coyotes’ roster out of training camp.  He’s more of a player to grab in keeper leagues, but even those in single-season formats should keep an eye on him.

  San Jose Sharks


Forwards  

 
As was the case last season, the San Jose Sharks figure to be led by Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton.  That’s a pretty strong group of forwards and if Martin Havlat can stay healthy after being limited to just 39 games last season, then they’ll have two explosive scoring lines.  

  Defense  

 
In 2011-12, Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns all consumed at least 22:32 minutes of playing time per game.  Boyle specifically ranked seventh in the NHL by averaging 25:34 minutes per contest.  Now that they’ve thrown Brad Stuart into the mix, the Sharks, on paper, have one of the best top-two defensive pairings in the league.  

  Goaltending  

 
Antti Niemi was prone to hot-and-cold streaks last season, but he finished with a respectable 2.42 GAA and .915 save percentage.  He figures to put up solid numbers in 2012-13 while starting in at least 60 contests.  Thomas Greiss should be penciled in as the team’s backup and he’ll do a fine job in that role.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
The San Jose Sharks had a relatively quiet summer, but they did manage to bolster their defense when they acquired the negotiating rights to Stuart from the Detroit Red Wings.  They then signed Stuart to a three-year, $10.8 million contract.  They also signed Adam Burish to a four-year, $7.2 million one to serve as a bottom-six forward.  

  Player To Watch  

 
Ryane Clowe took a sizable step backwards last season with 17 goals and 45 points.  He’s someone who should provide you with 20 goals, 50 points, and 100 penalty minutes next season.  He should get top-six minutes and be surrounded by enough talent to bounce back and even flirt with the 60-point mark.

  Los Angeles Kings


Forwards  

  When everything is clicking for the Kings, as it did during the playoffs, they have one of the best group of forwards in the league.  Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, and Simon Gagne are superb offensive talents when they’re at their best.  Naturally, not all of those players will be able to both shine and stay healthy next season.  However, the sheer volume of talent on their roster should allow them to overcome any individual struggles.  

  Defense  

  Drew Doughty will once again lead their defensive corps and he is by far their most valuable blueliner from a fantasy perspective.  That being said, Slava Voynov had 20 points in 54 games during his rookie season and he’s a good bet to take another step forward next season.  The rest of their blueliners simply don’t do enough offensively to warrant consideration, but guys like Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, and Matt Greene are part of the reason Jonathan Quick had a sub-2 GAA last season.

  Goaltending  

 
Quick should be among the league-leaders in 2012-13 in both GAA and save percentage while starting in at least 65 games.  The only real question is who his backup will be.  At the time of writing, Jonathan Bernier is still a member of the Kings, but he wants to get out from under Quick via a trade.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
After winning the Stanley Cup, the Kings’ main objective was just to keep their team intact.  With that in mind, they signed Dwight King to a two-year extension reportedly worth $1.5 million and inked Dustin Penner to a one-year, $3.25 million contract.  

  Player To Watch  

 
We haven’t gotten a fully healthy season out of Simon Gagne since 2008-09, but he’s still only 32 years old, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he has a comeback season left in him.  That being said, it remains to be seen how he’ll fit into the Kings’ lineup.  There’s a chance that Dustin Penner’s rise in the playoffs has pushed him out of the Kings’ top-six.  

  Dallas Stars


Forwards  

 
Do Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney have another strong season left in them?  Will the fact that Derek Roy is expected to miss the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery ultimately kill his comeback attempt?  Speaking of comebacks, how will Brenden Morrow fare after his disappointing 26-point 2011-12 campaign?  The Stars offense is far from a safe bet, but there are certainly enough potential stars in their top two lines to make them intriguing.  

  Defense  

 
Stephane Robidas has fallen from his high of 41 points in 2009-10 to just 22 points last season.  He probably won’t hit the 40-point mark again, but he might still improve offensively compared to his 2011-12 campaign.  At this point though, Alex Goligoski is their top offensive defenseman, although it’s worth noting that Robidas is the more physical of the two and tends to block more shots.  

  Goaltending  

 
Richard Bachman got a one-way contract, so it’s safe to pencil him in as the team’s backup.  That being said, Kari Lehtonen will get the vast majority of Dallas’ starts when healthy.  Lehtonen is a good goaltender, but in the Pacific Division, the Coyotes and Kings have a clear edge in this department.  

  Summer Roster Movement  

  The Stars went out and signed Jagr, Whitney, and Aaron Rome as unrestricted free agents.  They also traded Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Cody Eakin and a 2012 second rounder that ended up being Mike Winther.  In July, they dealt Steve Ott and Adam Pardy to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Roy.  

  Player To Watch  

 
There’s a few interesting stories on this team, but to me, Roy is the most interesting of him.  If he bounces back when he recovers from his shoulder surgery, then the Dallas Stars could be the surprise team of the 2012-13 campaign, even if Jagr and Whitney regress from their 2011-12 showings.  

  Anaheim Ducks


Forwards  

 
There have been trade rumors swirling around Bobby Ryan, but if he ends up staying, the Anaheim Ducks will continue to have one of the best top lines in the NHL.  Although they underperformed last season, Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf are a dangerous combination.  Teemu Selanne should continue to be among the team’s offensive leaders despite the fact that he’s 42 years old.  Unfortunately, beyond those four, the Ducks don’t really have much in the way of secondary scorers.

  Defense  

 
With Lubomir Visnovsky gone, there’s a gaping hole in the Ducks’ top power-play unit.  Sheldon Souray, who they signed over the summer, might join Cam Fowler as Anaheim’s top two defensemen in terms of power-play minutes, but that’s only if Souray stays healthy.  Given that Souray almost never manages to play an entire season, Luca Sbisa or Francois Beauchemin might be given a golden opportunity at some point.

  Goaltending  

 
Jonas Hiller had a shaky season, but he did improve dramatically after the All-Star Game.  He will be the team’s starting goaltender, but Viktor Fasth and Jeff Deslauriers are expected to compete for the backup job during the pre-season.

  Summer Roster Movement  

 
The Ducks decided to take a big risk by signing Souray to a three-year, $11 million contract.  They further added to their defensive corps by inking Bryan Allen to a three-year, $10.5 million deal.  At the same time Sheldon Brookbank and Niklas Hagman left as free agents while Lubomir Visnovsky was traded for a 2013 second rounder.  

  Player To Watch

 
Getzlaf set a new career-low with 11 goals and his 57 points was his lowest total since his 57-game rookie campaign.  On top of that, his minus-11 rating made 2011-12 his first negative season.  Given the talent he’s likely to play alongside, the stage seems to be set for a bounce-back campaign.


Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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