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With the arrival of August, the dog days of the hockey offseason are upon us—and there’s unlikely to be much puck-related news of note from now until the opening of training camps in September.

Specifically—with the already infamous Lucic/Neal swap and the Vegas Golden Knights’ dumping of Nikita Gusev—the Pacific Division looks relatively settled moving forward. There will still be some shuffling, of course—with the Canucks, among other teams, looking to cut excess cap—but we’ve now got a fairly solid idea of what each team is going to look like in the 2019/20 season.

And that’s important information if you’re a fan of the Vancouver Canucks—and particularly if you’re one of those fans dead-set on a playoff appearance in the spring of 2020.

Last season, the Canucks finished fifth in the Pacific with a 35-36-11 record and 81 points. With the overwhelming strength of the Central Division—in which all seven teams have a realistic shot of making the playoffs—Vancouver is going to need to leapfrog at least one of their Pacific neighbours in order to escape the regular season, and quite possibly two of them. They’ll also need to stay ahead of all three of the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, and Los Angeles Kings.

All of which will, of course, depend heavily on how those franchise’s offseasons stack up against the work done by Jim Benning and Co. in the summer of 2019.

Below, we’ll take a look at which Pacific teams got better, which got worse, and which stayed about the same. Please note that teams are ordered by their position in the standings at the end of 2018/19—we’re not making any predictions quite yet.

 

Calgary Flames

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 50 25 7 107 Lost in 1st Round

Incoming Players: Cam Talbot (G), Milan Lucic (LW), Brandon Davidson (D) 

Outgoing Players: Mike Smith (G), James Neal (LW), Garnet Hathaway (RW), Oscar Fantenberg (D), Dalton Prout (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Juuso Valimaki (D), Dillon Dube (C/LW)

The Flames were the class of the Pacific in 2018/19, but they enter the current season with a slightly diminished roster. Though James Neal didn’t do much during his one year in Calgary, flipping him for Milan Lucic is an undeniable downgrade—to say nothing of swapping out Mike Smith for Cam Talbot. Calgary also lost a valuable role player in Garnet Hathaway.

They’ll still be good in 2019/20, but they won’t be as good—especially not if they have to ditch another player to accommodate their RFAs.

The Calgary Flames GOT SLIGHTLY WORSE.

 

San Jose Sharks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 46 27 9 101 Lost in 3rd Round

Incoming Players: Dalton Prout (D), 

Outgoing Players: Joe Pavelski (C/W), Gustav Nyquist (LW), Justin Braun (D), Joonas Donskoi (RW), Joakim Ryan (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Dylan Gambrell (C), Ivan Chekhovich (LW)

The Sharks put the majority of their eggs in the 2018/19 basket—and came up just short of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then, they’ve lost their captain in Joe Pavelski and several important depth players including Justin Braun and Joonas Donskoi. They didn’t add anyone of note—unless the rumours of Patrick Marleau making a return on the cheap prove true.

Aside from Pavelski, most of the San Jose core remains intact—but they’ll still have a difficult time replicating their success in 2019/20.

The San Jose Sharks GOT WORSE.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 43 32 7 93 Lost in 1st Round

Incoming Players: Garret Sparks (G)

Outgoing Players: Erik Haula (C/W), Colin Miller (D), Nikita Gusev (LW), Ryan Carpenter (C/RW), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (LW)

Rookie Arrivals: Cody Glass (C), Nicolas Hague (D), Jimmy Schuldt (D)

The Golden Knights took a non-traditional route to building an expansion team, and reaped the benefits in their first season—but now the shine is starting to wear off. Due to their salary cap situation, Vegas bled assets this offseason—and failed to add any players of note. They’re hoping that rookies can enter the roster to fill the gaps, but that’s a gamble that may not pay off.

The Golden Knights look like they could take a major step back in 2019/20—but then again, they’ve surprised before.

The Vegas Golden Knights GOT WORSE.

 

Arizona Coyotes

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 39 35 8 86 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Phil Kessel (RW), Carl Soderberg (C) 

Outgoing Players:  Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW), Richard Panik (RW), Nick Cousins (C), Josh Archibald (RW), Kevin Connauton (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Barret Hayton (C), Kyle Capobianco (D) 

The Coyotes lost a bunch of players in the offseason and only added two of note—but it’s a case of quality over quantity. The addition of Phil Kessel gives Arizona their first real star forward in years, and Carl Soderberg is no slouch, either. Every player who left is replaceable from within the organization.

The Coyotes made a lot of progress last season, and that looks to continue in 2019/20.

The Arizona Coyotes GOT BETTER.

 

Vancouver Canucks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 36 11 81 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: JT Miller (C/W), Tyler Myers (D), Micheal Ferland (W), Jordie Benn (D), Oscar Fantenberg (D) 

Outgoing Players: Markus Granlund (C/W), Ben Hutton (D), Derrick Pouliot (D), Luke Schenn (D), Ryan Spooner (C/LW),

Rookie Arrivals: Quinn Hughes (D), Zack MacEwen (C/RW)

Of all the teams in the Pacific Division, the Canucks probably made the most improvement to their roster. A trade for JT Miller was followed by three high-profile UFA signings—with the addition of Micheal Ferland to the forward corps being perhaps the most exciting addition of all. The blueline is revamped, and Vancouver managed to do it all without losing any players of any particular importance.

The Canucks will improve in 2019/20—but will it be enough to make the playoffs?

The Vancouver Canucks GOT BETTER.

 

Anaheim Ducks

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 37 10 80 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Michael Del Zotto (D), Nicolas Deslauriers (RW), Chris Wideman (D), Andreas Martinsen (C/W) 

Outgoing Players: Corey Perry (RW), Andy Welinski (D), Jake Dotchin (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Sam Steel (C), Maxime Comtois (C/LW), Josh Mahura (D)

You know you’ve had a nondescript offseason when Michael Del Zotto leads your list of acquisitions. Standing pat is exactly what the Ducks were in the market for, however, as they go through the motions of a rebuild and attempt to inject youth into the roster. The buyout of Corey Perry is a case of addition by subtraction, and it opens up more room for their exciting stable of rookie talent.

The Ducks will almost certainly remain in the basement in 2019/20, and may even sink lower.

The Anaheim Ducks STAYED THE SAME.

 

Edmonton Oilers

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 35 38 9 79 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Mike Smith (G), James Neal (LW), Markus Granlund (C/W), Joakim Nygard (LW), Josh Archibald (RW) 

Outgoing Players: Andrej Sekera (D), Milan Lucic (LW), Kevin Gravel (D)

Rookie Arrivals: Evan Bouchard (D), Tyler Benson (LW)

What to make of the Edmonton Oilers? In the short-term, they improved by swapping Milan Lucic for James Neal—even if they’ll pay for it in the long-term. They also solidified their goaltending situation a bit with Mike Smith and added a handful of depth options—but they’re still a long way from surrounding Connor McDavid with a competent NHL roster.

The Oilers improved—but not by enough to make a difference—heading into 2019/20.

The Edmonton Oilers GOT SLIGHTLY BETTER.

 

Los Angeles Kings

  Wins Losses OT Losses Points Playoff Result
2018/19 31 42 9 71 Did Not Qualify

Incoming Players: Joakim Ryan (D), Martin Frk (RW), 

Outgoing Players: Peter Budaj (G), Dion Phaneuf (D), Brendan Leipsic (C/LW), Jonny Brodzinski (C/W)

Rookie Arrivals: Carl Grundstrom (LW), Nikolai Prokhorkin (LW), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (C) 

The Kings are currently in a tough situation. They’ve committed to a rebuild of sorts, but they continue to have a lot of high-priced veterans on the roster—and few prospects ready to challenge them for NHL spots.

Los Angeles is in a bit of a developmental “no man’s land,” and they’ll continue to wallow there for at least the 2019/20 season.

The Los Angeles Kings STAYED THE SAME.

 

Final Thoughts

Looking at it purely in terms of who got better and who got worse, the Pacific Division seems to stack up nicely for the Vancouver Canucks—they improved, and most of the teams around them did not.

Reality, however, is often disappointing—and it’s never quite as simple as it seems.

For instance, the Calgary Flames got slightly worse during the 2019 offseason—but they also notched 50 wins last season to the Canucks’ 35. Sure, Vancouver got better—but did they improve enough to swing a 15-win gap? Probably not.

The stage is certainly set for Vancouver to jump up a spot or two in the Pacific, but they’ll be in a battle all season to do so. At the very least, the playoffs now look like a not entirely unlikely outcome in 2019/20—and that’s a lot more than could be said about last year’s team.


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