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Experts Analysis

2015-16 Preview Part 6

by Ryan Dadoun
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

We've reached the sixth and final instalment of our 2015-16 preview series.  The remaining five teams finished in the bottom-five slots of the Pacific Division.

 

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CALGARY FLAMES

 

2014-15 Finish: 45-30-7 record, second round loss to Anaheim (4-1)

 

Noteworthy Gains: Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton

 

Noteworthy Losses: Raphael Diaz

 

Biggest Strength: It'd be hard not to go with their defense at this point.  They have a serious Norris Trophy contender in Mark Giordano and four other blueliners that could potentially be on another team's top line in Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell, and Dougie Hamilton.  That kind of depth is enviable and while the fact that Wideman's contract expires in 2017 and Russell's in 2016 means that this group likely won't be together for too long, at least for now Calgary's blueline stacks up favorably against the best in the league.

 

Biggest Weakness: Getting Michael Frolik certainly helps, but the Flames' offensive depth beyond their top line of Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan is suspect.  That line had to do a lot of the heavy lifting as far as no other Flames forward even got 35 points last season.  The silver lining is that their defense helped pick up the slack as Wideman, Giordano, and Brodie each chipped in over 10 goals and 40 points.

 

Player to Watch: When it comes to the Flames' secondary scoring woes, Sam Bennett might be the answer.  The 2014 fourth overall pick spent most of the 2014-15 campaign on the sidelines because of a shoulder injury.  Once he recovered he was sent to OHL Kingston where he scored 11 goals and 24 points in 11 contests.  After Kingston was eliminated, Bennett made a strong impression with Calgary in the playoffs, which put him in a very strong position going into training camp.  He's almost certain to make the Flames' opening game roster and might prove to be a valuable secondary scorer in his rookie season.

 

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LOS ANGELES KINGS

 

2014-15 Finish: 40-27-15 record, ninth in Western Conference

 

Noteworthy Gains: Christian Ehrhoff, Jhonas Enroth, Milan Lucic

 

Noteworthy Losses: Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Andrej Sekera, Martin Jones, Robyn Regehr, Mike Richards

 

Biggest Strength: Experience.  While the Los Angeles Kings finished just shy of the playoffs last season, this core isn't far removed from winning two Stanley Cup championships in three years.  This is a group that knows how to win and will be hungry and - for the first time in a while - well rested going into the season.

 

Biggest Weakness: Their defensive depth is suspect.  Who knows what will happen with Slava Voynov, but assuming he doesn't return to the Los Angeles Kings, then the Los Angeles Kings could be once again ask Drew Doughty to play close to half of every game.  Of course signing Christian Ehrhoff does help, but that gain at best cancels out the loss of Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr.

 

Player to Watch: Tanner Pearson got off to a tremendous start last season with seven goals and nine points in eight games, but he fizzles out after that and didn't play past Jan. 10 because of a fractured left fibula.  He's got a lot of potential and could play a key role on the Kings' second line, but there's no question that he's a gamble after the extreme up-and-down campaign he had.


SAN JOSE SHARKS

 

2014-15 Finish: 40-33-9 record, 12th in Western Conference

 

Noteworthy Gains: Joel Ward, Paul Martin, Martin Jones

 

Noteworthy Losses: John Scott, Matt Irwin, Antti Niemi

 

Biggest Strength: The San Jose Sharks are certainly not hurting for weapons up the middle.  Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Joe Thornton are three great centers and none of them would look out of place on the first line.  Of course, San Jose doesn't always use them as centers, but the fact that they all can play that position is a great luxury.  While Joe Thornton's age (36) is increasingly becoming a consideration, it wouldn't be surprising to see each of them surpass the 60-point mark again this season.

 

Biggest Weakness: Their goaltending - or at least that might prove to be the case.  Alex Stalock and Martin Jones both have potential, but they've only played in a combined 83 career NHL games and are significant risks.  Stalock is coming off of a rough campaign while Jones' 2.25 GAA in Los Angeles last season has to be taken with a grain of salt given his .906 save percentage and the fact that he only started in 11 contests.  Perhaps one or both of them will step up in 2015-16, but San Jose is certainly taking a big risk.

 

Player to Watch: There are certainly interesting young players that are expected to be on the Sharks' roster this season, but Patrick Marleau is an interesting case and arguably, at least in the short-term, a higher stakes pick.  With the exception of the lockout shortened campaign, Marleau saw his streak of five straight 30-goal campaigns come to an end when he scored 18 goals and 57 points in 82 games last season.  Now he has had an off campaign before that he bounced back from, but that was in 2007-08 and the big difference now is that he'll turn 36 in September.  We might simply be witnessing the beginning of his decline, but if he still able to bounce back, then it would be a major boost for San Jose.

 

EDMONTON OILERS

 

2014-15 Finish: 24-44-14, 13th in Western Conference

 

Noteworthy Gains: Connor McDavid, Anders Nilsson, Cam Talbot, Mark Letestu, Andrej Sekera, Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart

 

Noteworthy Losses: Viktor Fasth, Matt Fraser, Boyd Gordon, Martin Marincin

 

Biggest Strength: The answer here is obvious as Edmonton has a staggering number of young, skilled forwards with tremendous upside.  Having Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl, and now Connor McDavid all within their organization is a tremendous luxury. Of course, things haven't gone smoothly, in part due to issues with the rest of the team, and also because of setbacks like Hall's injuries as well as Yakupov's struggles.  All that being said, the potential is there for Edmonton to have the most dangerous offense in the league in a couple years.

 

Biggest Weakness: Of course, even if the Oilers' young forwards develop as projected, they can only be part of the solution.  The Edmonton Oilers' have problems in just about every other aspect of the game, although to Peter Chiarelli's credit, he has taken steps to round out the team over this summer now that he's taken over as the general manager.  Acquiring Griffin Reinhart for example makes the Oilers' long-term defensive situation look far more promising.  Their goaltending though is still a big question mark.  Perhaps Cam Talbot can be the solution in Edmonton, but he's still somewhat light on NHL experience.  If the Oilers have another disappointing campaign then it will likely be because their goaltending didn't live up to Edmonton's hopes.

 

Player to Watch: There's a lot of interesting players to keep an eye on in Edmonton, but as I'm forced to pick just one, I have to go with McDavid.  It's an obvious choice, but there's no way around the fact that he's perhaps the most hyped rookie since Sidney Crosby.  Will he be as good as Crosby?  Time will tell, but he certainly has the potential to be that type of player.  A forward who consistently competes for the Art Ross Trophy every year, barring injury.  As stated above, Edmonton has plenty of young skilled forwards outside of McDavid, but even in that company, McDavid stands out as the one with the most potential.

 

ARIZONA COYOTES

 

2014-15 Finish: 24-50-8 record, 14th in Western Conference

 

Noteworthy Gains: Antoine Vermette, Anders Lindback, Zbynek Michalek, Steve Downie, John Scott, Brad Richardson, Boyd Gordon, Nicklas Grossmann, Dylan Strome

 

Noteworthy Losses: Lauri Korpikoski, Sam Gagner, Mark Arcobello, Tye McGinn, John Moore

 

Biggest Strength: Their prospect pool.  That might be a cheat to pick, but it's also true.  In the short-term, the Coyotes just don't seem to have much going for them outside of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but give them a couple years and that might change.  They have so many promising young players, especially when it comes to forwards.  Some of the highlights include Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, and, of course, Dylan Strome.

 

Biggest Weakness: For now though, their offense is their biggest weakness.  The only forward with Arizona to get over 40 points last season was Sam Gagner and even then he only got 41.  On top of that, he was traded over the summer.  Even factoring in their promising young forwards, this could easily be the worst offensive team in 2015-16.

 

Player to Watch: Mike Smith isn't the reason why the Coyotes were horrible last season - there was no single reason for that - but he was certainly a contributing factor.  With a 3.16 GAA and .904 save percentage, he had his worst campaign with Arizona to date and he had some rough patches with them previously.  He was the hero of this team back in 2011-12 and if he can back to that level then the Coyotes might surprise people, but he's a very risky pick in fantasy drafts.

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