2013-14 NHL season preview: Pacific Division

2013-14 NHL season preview: Pacific Division
September 30, 2013, 9:00 am

Players approve new rule

TORONTO -- A rule change involving icing the puck will be in effect for the start of the NHL regular season after it was approved by the players.

The NHLPA gave the go-ahead for the rule change that makes icing a race to an imaginary line across the faceoff dots instead of the puck, which was given a trial run during the preseason.

Previously, a player had to actually touch the puck after it crossed the red goal line. Icing is called when a team, in an effort to reduce pressure in its own zone, dumps the puck down the ice. When icing is called, play is brought back to the offending team's zone for a faceoff.

The rule change is to prevent serious injuries, such as the one that sidelined Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen for the entire season (see full story).

- The Associated Press

We began our four-part series previewing the 2013-14 NHL season with a look at the Central Division on Sunday.

Today, we break down the Pacific Division.

Capsules may not include latest injury or roster updates.
 
1. Anaheim Ducks
Really have to wonder what would have happened had the Ducks, not the Red Wings, won Game 7 in the opening round of the playoffs last year. Regardless, the Ducks, winners of their first Pacific title a year ago, are back and they look pretty strong. However, the trade of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa represents a huge offensive deficiency for them, even while welcoming back Dustin Penner after his sojourn with the Kings. Penner won his first Cup with the Ducks in ’07 and another two years ago in L.A. Could he, Ryan Getzlaf (49 points) and Corey Perry be a line once more? Can Viktor Fasth retake the starter’s job from Jonas Hiller? Forever young Teemu Selanne is good to go again.
 
2. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings got dashed in a short series against Chicago, ending their chance for a second Cup. Three of those losses came by a goal. It was that competitive. They welcome another ex-Flyer in Dan Carcillo while the roster lost Penner and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. Like the Flyers, injuries greatly impacted L.A.’s fortunes last season. One thing is certain: The Kings no longer have a No. 1 and No. 1A goalie tandem. Willie Mitchell needs to show he’s fully recovered from knee surgery. Coach Darryl Sutter is big on “hunger” and needs his veterans -- Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter -- to find it again. The Kings are still among the best in the west.
 
3. Phoenix Coyotes
Forward Mike Ribeiro never felt he got the kind of monetary respect for his value in Washington. Will he get such in the desert after signing a four-year, $22 million deal as the Coyotes' major acquisition during the offseason? Ribeiro is now reunited with coach Dave Tippett, who had him during some productive years in Dallas. All the rumors the past two summers surrounding defenseman Keith Yandle being traded never came to fruition. The Coyotes need a bounce-back season from Mikkel Boedker (seven goals). Goalie Mike Smith needs to be healthy after various ailments during the lockout year.
 
4. Vancouver Canucks
Another one of those western clubs that had some upheaval in the offseason with John Tortorella replacing Alain Vigneault. Torts promises to tone down in his image in a western Canadian city where his “big stick” PR approach simply won’t go over. Truth is, the Canucks could use a little of his brimstone because things have gotten rather stale with the Sedin Twins & Co., having failed to give the city a Stanley Cup despite a pretty consistent lineup, save for hiccups in goal. For whatever reason, the team fails in the postseason with a 2-12 playoff record since it led 2-0 against Boston in the 2011 Cup Final. Vancouver didn’t add any high-priced free agents and failed to get rid of Roberto Luongo’s contract, too. Need we say more? A healthy Ryan Kesler would be nice.
 
5. San Jose Sharks
At this point, you really have to wonder if the best years in the Sharks' franchise history are now behind them. Too many players have come and gone and too many chances for a Cup or Western Conference championship have eluded them. Frankly, the club from a few years ago that lost to Vancouver was better suited to make a Cup run than this current roster, which is now minus Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe and Scott Hannan. Meanwhile, Joe Thornton (34) is now a year older with very obvious declining stats. He’s not an 80-point player anymore. It remains doubtful whether ex-Penguin Tyler Kennedy can push this team to new heights. Also, no Raffi Torres (knee surgery) for quite a while.
 
6. Edmonton Oilers
New coach (Dallas Eakins), new GM (Craig MacTavish) but will the results on the ice be any different? And will the Oilers finally get back into the playoffs, where they haven’t been since losing the Cup to Carolina in 2006? Nine new faces are on the roster for Eakins, including defensemen Andrew Ference and Denis Grebeshkov, plus winger David Perron. Despite getting three No. 1 overall draft picks in the last four years, the Oilers haven’t been able to get over the hump on the fastest sheet of ice in the league. Edmonton will be without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner for a while because of injuries and that’s going to really hurt the Oilers through November while placing more pressure on Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov.
 
7. Calgary Flames
Seems the Flames are forever caught in the throes of turnover and tumult. And it continued right into the fall with Brian Burke taking over the reigns as director of hockey operations, while GM Jay Feaster’s overall power gradually evaporates on a club that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2009. The Flames didn’t land an impact player in free agency. Then again, this is not a destination, either. So Feaster went the trade route to bring in Shane O’Brien, David Jones, and TJ Galiardi. It won’t be enough in the competitive Pacific. No more Jarome Iginla. It’s Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempriak’s team now. They were tied for the club lead at 32 points last season. The Flames are hoping prospects Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan make the final roster cut. Hey, no Kipper in goal.