2009-10 NHL Preview: Pacific Division

Joe Thornton

Total Pro Sports – With the start of the 2009-10 NHL Season upon us it’s time to take a look and see how each team stacks up. As per the norm, each preview will be broken down by division in order of how we think the team will finish.

Lets take a look at the Pacific Division for the 2009-10 NHL Preview.

San Jose Sharks1. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks managed to disappoint yet again in the playoffs last year after being eliminated in the 1st round by the Ducks. They’re hoping that the addition of a superstar winger and new captain will change the result, time will tell.

Despite loosing some depth in their trade with Ottawa the Sharks still have some very talented forwards. Joe Thornton will look to remain as one of the best playmakers in the league and Devin Setoguchi will look to build off of a great sophomore season that saw him collect 65 points. It’ll be interesting to see how Patrick Marleau reacts to his captaincy being taken away and how long it takes for Dany Heatley to find chemistry on the top line.

San Jose is set on defence with a good combination of toughness and offence. Dan Boyle and Rob Blake will yet again be the key catalysts for offence on the point. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will also be able to supply some scoring from the point and Douglas Murray will use his aggressiveness and toughness to hold things down in the Sharks end.

Evgeni Nabokov will be looking for his 3rd 40+ win season in a row and with an unknown backup in Thomas Greiss  it isn’t that unrealistic as Nabokov will most likely end up playing 65+ games in the regular season.

Anaheim Ducks2. Anaheim Ducks

Despite the loss of two key defencemen over the summer the Ducks still have a solid roster and will look to build off of a fairly successful playoff run that saw them beat the Sharks and give the Red Wings everything they had.

Up front Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry still lead the Ducks offence. Teemu Selanne will be able to help out with the secondary scoring and Bobby Ryan should have a great sophomore season. Saku Koivu should be solid as the team’s 2nd line centre and Joffrey Lupul will look to forget his days in Philly and rekindle the success he had in Anaheim before being traded to Edmonton.

On defence veteran Scott Niedermayer leads what will be an underrated group. Ryan Whitney will be helping out Niedermayer with offence from the blue line and Luca Sbisa will show why he was picked 19th overall in the 2008 draft. Nick Boynton will look to build off of a successful 2008-09 season with Florida and James Wisniewski will have a solid season as he collected 11 points in 17 games with Anaheim after being traded from Chicago last season.

In net the Ducks will have a healthy battle between Jonas Hiller and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Jiggy struggled last season which saw him loose his starting job to Jonas Hiller who had a great showing in the playoffs. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money down on Hiller to win the starting job.

Dallas Stars3. Dallas Stars

Dallas had a terrible 2008-09 that saw them end with just 83 points and end up on the outside looking in during the playoffs.

Dallas really missed captain Brenden Morrow last season as he was only able to play in 18 games in which he managed 15 points. They’ll also be looking for a solid season out of Brad Richards as he was able to collect 48 points in just 56 games last year. The underrated Mike Ribeiro will be looking to crack the 70+ point mark for the 2nd season in a row and Loui Eriksson should be good for 30+ goals again. Budding power forward James Neal will look to improve from a successful rookie season as well as Fabian Brunnstrom who had 29 points in 55 games.

Although the Stars defence is fairly young and talented they’ll sorely miss the play and leadership of one Sergei Zubov.  Matt Niskanen will be taking Zubov’s spot as the go-to guy on the point on the power play with help from Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. Mark Fistric and Nicklas Grossman will give the team some solid defensive play and Jeff Woywitka will look to solidify himself as an NHL defenceman.

Marty Turco will have a great rebound season and Alex Auld is a solid reliable backup who can also start a few games if Turco happens to fall to injury.

Los Angeles Kings4. Los Angeles Kings

As expected the Kings had a terrible 2008-09 season. However, there’s some optimism surrounding this young team heading into the season.

Anze Kopitar is the star of the Kings offence, although he took a bit of a step backwards last season recording 66 points and Dustin Brown brings a combination of toughness and scoring ability. There are some big question marks regarding three players: Alexander Frolov, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. Frolov seems to be on the outs and has been rumoured to be playing on the checking line. Ryan Smyth brings with him some leadership qualities but he’s run into some injury trouble the last couple of seasons which will effect his offensive production. Big fan of Justin Williams and think he’ll be great on the team’s top line, but he’s another case of a skilled winger who can’t seem to stay healthy.

Whether the Kings improve on last year will rely fairly heavily on how the team’s defence performs. Drew Doughty had a great rookie capaign while Jack Johnson is still struggling to find his game in the NHL. Both Matt Greene and Sean O’Donnell are tough hard-nosed defencemen that will play solid in the Kings’ end and they’ll be getting some help in that department with the offseason addition of Rob Scuderi.

In net there should be a good battle for the starter’s job between Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Quick. At the end of the day though, the Kings will most likely just go with the hot hand rather than have a true #1.

Phoenix Coyotes5. Phoenix Coyotes

If there’s one team to feel sorry for for the 2009-10 season it’s the Phoenix Coyotes. They have a decent roster on paper, but the off-ice destractions on the sale of the team may be too much to handle for the players.

Up front the ‘Yotes are lead by the usual suspects in Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller. Despite only registering 28 points, Mikkel Boedker still had a successful rookie season displaying his speed, offensive and defensive abilities. Speaking of speed, Matthew Lombardi is expected to use his to put up some points and Scottie Upshall will be looking to act as the team’s tough pest while adding 30-40 points. Robert Lang was a savy pickup and will most likely be the team’s #1 centre.

On the backend Phoenix is looking fairly solid. Although his plus/minus takes a hit, Ed Jovanovski is a decent defenceman who plays tough and can also score some points. Zbynek Michalek will look to continue to grow as an NHL defenceman after putting up 27 points last season and Adrian Aucoin will look to continue his offensive play after back-to-back 30+ point seasons.

Ilya Bryzgalov will once again be looked upon to try and stand on his head. Although he is on Phoenix he should still be able to register around 25-30 wins as he’ll most likely end up starting 65+ games this year. Jason LaBarbera is a good backup but nothing special as he suffers from streakiness.

Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Anze Kopitar, Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars, Drew Doughty, Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Thornton, Los Angeles Kings, Marty Turco, Mike Modano, NHL, NHL Preview, Pacific Division, Peter Mueller, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Getzlaf, San Jose Sharks, Scott Niedermayer, Shane Doan,