Handicapping Next Season’s Pacific Division

doughtyOver a month ago, the Stanley Cup was hoisted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, the teams have had the draft and the opening of free agency to help improve their clubs in an effort to dethrone the ‘Hawks during the upcoming season. With the majority of moves made already, teams are left wondering if they have done enough to improve their squads before the puck drops to open the season on October 7th.

Possibly the biggest question mark entering the 2015-16 season will be the LA Kings. After winning two Cups in three years, they missed the playoffs this past season. While bringing in Milan Lucic will likely pay off in spades, their defensive pairings remain in question, as outlined here. Much of the team’s eventual success will likely hinge on when and how they are able to piece their blueline together. If the Kings slip into the playoffs, they’ll likely be a threat, as they have been in years past. The most recent 2016 NHL Stanley Cup futures put the Kings at 12/1 odds, according to sports betting site MTS.

Further up the I-5 freeway, San Jose had an interesting off-season. A year after GM Doug Wilson said he would like to rebuild his club, much confusion still hangs around the Sharks. While most of Wilson’s actions contradict his statement, he did get a lot younger in net, adding former King Martin Jones to replace the departed Antti Niemi. However, after getting younger in one position, the Sharks also added a pair of 34-year-old veterans, in winger Joel Ward and defenseman Paul Martin. MTS has San Jose at 40/1, but even that may be a bad value for a team that likely will not only not contend this year, but for many years to come.

In one of the bigger moves of the off-season, the Calgary Flames added stud defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a lineup that already surprised plenty of people when they made the playoffs last year. As the saying goes, defense wins championships, and an already solid group of blue-liners just got a big addition. If they can find solid goaltending in the playoffs, their 33/1 odds may not be a bad bet.

The favorites out of the Pacific are last year’s divisional champs, the Anaheim Ducks. While the core of the Ducks remains relatively unchanged, there are plenty of new players looking to make an impact. Carl Hagelin will likely thrive playing on a line with either Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler, but other additions remain questionable. Chris Stewart has had a string of disappointing seasons since leaving the Avalanche years ago, while Kevin Bieksa replacing Francois Beauchemin is a downgrade on the back end. In net, star prospect John Gibson seems destined for the AHL next year after the team brought in Anton Khudobin to solidify their goaltending situation. At 10/1, MTS has the Ducks tied for the second-best odds to win the Cup next year, right behind the defending champs.

Full 2015-16 NHL Futures Odds to win the 2016 Stanley Cup, as of July 31, 2015:

Chicago – 11/2

Anaheim – 10/1

Tampa Bay – 10/1

New York Rangers – 11/1

Pittsburgh – 11/1

Los Angeles – 12/1

St. Louis – 14/1

Minnesota – 16/1

Nashville – 16/1

Montreal – 18/1

Washington –  18/1

Boston – 20/1

New York Islanders – 22/1

Dallas – 25/1

Columbus – 25/1

Winnipeg – 28/1

Detroit – 28/1

Calgary – 33/1

Edmonton – 33/1

Ottawa – 40/1

San Jose – 40/1

Vancouver – 50/1

Colorado – 66/1

Florida – 66/1

Philadelphia – 75/1

New Jersey – 75/1

Toronto – 100/1

Carolina – 100/1

Buffalo – 100/1

Arizona – 150/1

 

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