This is the final part of a four-part series. You can find the Metropolitan Division here, the Atlantic Division here, and the Central Division here.
Starting goaltender John Gibson and backup Ryan Miller have been sensational in-goal for the Ducks, which has been necessary as the team in front of them has created a guard of honour for opposing players to the net. It may not be a popular opinion, but Anaheim fans should actually be unthankful for the superb goaltending. Why? A quick glance at the standings shows a team tied with Vegas for the final playoff spot in the Pacific. However, glance at any other statistical category and you will find them towards the bottom of the league. The most glaring issue is shot totals. Anaheim averages 26.7 shots per game, worst in the league, and gives up 35.6 shots per game. Only Ottawa gives up more. That’s a 33% difference. This has long been an issue with Randy Carlyle coached teams. If Anaheim was getting merely league average goaltending, they would be further down the standings, but Randy Carlyle would either be forced to change his systems, or be out of a job, which quite honestly may be the best thing for the franchise.
With 52 goals in 22 games, only one other team in the league has been more inept at putting the puck in the net. Thankfully that team is in their division (looking at you, Los Angeles). A look at the player stats must be depressing. Max Domi was traded to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk in the off-season, and Domi has been averaging over a point per game. Galchenyuk has nine points. Goaltending has been fine, they are fairly even in shot share, but they just cannot score. If they don’t fix it quickly, the Coyotes could be in the draft lottery race yet again. General Manager John Chayka’s seat must be getting warmer. Speaking of flames…
Top of the division? Check. Top five in the league in goals? Check. Marquee free agent signing James Neal producing as expected? Not so much. The 31-year-old winger signed a 5 year contract in the off-season that pays 5.75 million per year. It seemed like a fairly safe bet at the time, after all Neal had scored at least 20 goals each season since 2011. This season he is on pace to score 10. That’s nowhere near good enough. Head Coach Bill Peters has tried to find a fit for him in the line-up, but nothing seems to be working thus far. This contract could become an expensive mistake. A quote from Bill Veck comes to mind. “It’s not the high price of stars that is expensive, it’s the high price of mediocrity.”
Like the Titanic and an iceberg, Edmonton General Manager Peter Chiarelli and bad decisions come together with spectacular results. Chiarelli took a team with the greatest player of his generation, and has carefully and methodically made the team worse around him. Whether it’s giving out anchor contracts to Milan Lucic and Kris Russell, or trading away talented players for mediocrity, there is nothing Peter Chiarelli will not do to make this franchise worse. He has already pulled every GM’s get out of jail free card in firing the Head Coach, one has to think that if things do not improve quickly in Edmonton, Chiarelli is toast.
Los Angeles Kings
Last year Anze Kopitar recorded 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists) to lead my fantasy team to victory, and less importantly his team to the playoffs. This season he is on pace to score only 48 points, just over half his total from last season. Lack of offensive production has plagued the Kings, and it has resulted in them currently sitting in last place in the entire league. Kings fans will have expected much more from their captain.
San Jose Sharks
San Jose will make the playoffs, that’s pretty much guaranteed in a division as weak as the Pacific. However fans will likely be disappointed with the performance of two players in particular. Goaltender Martin Jones, and star defenseman Erik Karlsson. Jones has a GAA of 3.00, and a save percentage of .892. Both numbers are worse than the league averages of 2.87 and .909 respectively. Meanwhile, Karlsson has 15 points so far this season (0.63 points per game), far from terrible, but well below his career point per game average of 0.83 points per game. If San Jose wants to beat the likes of Winnipeg and Nashville to advance to the Stanley Cup final, they need better play from their star players, particularly this duo.
To say Vancouver’s defense has been terrible is kind of like saying that invading Russia in the winter is a bad idea. It’s obvious to any casual fan. Starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom has to apply sunscreen prior to each start, as his defense has left him hanging out to dry way too often. Vancouver fans will no doubt be pleased with the play of their young offensive superstars Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, but when the only team letting in more goals than you is Ottawa, there’s a serious problem.
Vegas Golden Knights
After a slow start to the season, the Golden Knights are back in a playoff spot. It’s hard to put the blame on any one player. Whereas last season it seemed like every player had a career best season, every player this season seems to be struggling. They’re not terrible by any means, but just slightly worse. Backup goaltender Malcolm Subban has struggled when given the start, yet to pick up a win all season, and sporting an ugly GAA of 4.03. William Karlsson scored 43 goals last season, but he’s on pace to record about half that total. Anywhere you look in the line-up you find a similar narrative. Vegas can be ungrateful for team wide regression.
That concludes our unthankfulness series, for which you can be immensely thankful. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck
stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com