With most NHL teams about to hit the 20-game mark, it’s time for some reflection and a review of how all 30 of the league’s clubs have fared thus far one quarter of the way through the 2016-17 season.
Up first is the NHL’s Pacific Division.
The NHL’s Pacific Division at the Quarter Mark
Anaheim Ducks: 9-7-3, 21 points, first in the Pacific
Early on there are ample candidates for the Anaheim Ducks top performers. The trio of Nick Ritchie, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf has combined to create one of the best top lines in the NHL. Perry and Getzlaf are tied for the team lead in points with 15 each, while Ritchie sits tenth on the team with five. They aren’t just dominating the boxscore, they’re also dominating the play. Perry and Ritchie lead the Ducks in Corsi for percentage (CF%) with 55.37 CF% and 54.19 CF%, respectively, and Getzlaf places fourth at 51.6 CF%.
When it comes to which players have been performing the worst, it unsurprisingly goes to Jared Boll, and Kevin Bieksa. The two are third and fourth worst on the team in terms of CF%, and have a combined two points. Topping it off, Anaheim is getting just 12.5% of the goals with Boll on the ice.
The most surprising player is undoubtedly defenseman Josh Manson. He had a dominant season last year alongside Hampus Lindholm. Manson has proven he’s a more than capable defender, and together he and Cam Fowler were one of the best shutdown pairings in the league. Now that Manson has returned to Lindholm’s side, Fowler’s CF% has cratered, and his ability to be used as a shutdown defender disappeared with Manson.
As far as upsets are concerned, it’s difficult to single out one player currently on the roster who has significantly underperformed. This is why you need to go off roster, to Shea Theodore. He’s an outstanding defenseman, and he will be a force on the blue line in the future. Unfortunately, he showed he wasn’t ready for that task just yet. It’s a disappointing falter in his development, but not the end of the world.
What’s the outlook for this team? The Ducks are a playoff team, capable of contending in the Western Conference. There’s no reason to think they can’t be a Stanley Cup threat. Whether or not they can achieve that potential remains to be seen.
-Colton Prail, @
Edmonton Oilers: 10-8-1, 21 points, second in the Pacific
Finally, after years of prognosticators proclaiming the Edmonton Oilers were finally ready to take a step forward only to be disappointed yet again, this team actually looks like it’s finally on an upward trajectory.
Tied for first in the division in wins (10) and points (21), first in goals for (54) and second in goal differential (+3), the Oilers look like they can actually push for a playoff spot, despite a recent five-game losing streak. Their team possession numbers at five-on-five (51.73 CF%) are eighth in the NHL and third in the Pacific.
Naturally newly-minted youngest captain in NHL history Connor McDavid is leading the club in scoring, and sits second in the NHL with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 19 games.
However there have been concerns that too much of the offensive responsibility has been put upon McDavid’s shoulders. While the Oilers are ninth in goals for per game, just two other players (Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl) have double-digit point totals. Edmonton will need more contributions from players like Milan Lucic (nine points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (eight points) if the club wants to sustain its position in the playoff race.
Also of concern is the inexperience of the team, though Lucic has reportedly emerged as a strong leader. As one of the youngest teams in the league, some hiccups (such as the recent losing streak) are bound to happen. It’ll be up to Head Coach Todd McLellan to keep an even keel and guide this team to the post-season.
Los Angeles Kings: 10-9-1, 21 points, third in the Pacific
The Los Angeles Kings have probably been the second-best team in the NHL over the last five years. From a possession standpoint, they look much like they have in recent years; usually the Kings can be found at the top of the league in possession metrics, but this year they’ve so far settled for third.
The Kings season started in about the worst way possible. Just 20 minutes into their first game starting goalie Jonathan Quick left the game and was expected to miss about three months.
That meant the net was handed to Jeff Zatkoff for the time being. Zatkoff started the next three games before sustaining an injury. The good news for the Kings is that Zatkoff looks just about ready to return. The bad news is that he didn’t look ready for a starting role in his three starts before getting injured. Questions have swirled around the league about if the Kings could be looking at possible trade options to secure the net until Quick returns, or if the club will continue with Zatkoff and Peter Budaj.
To make matters worse new captain Anze Kopitar hasn’t played since November 11 due to injury and has just two goals on the season.
The Kings stumbled out of the gate and still don’t seem to quite have found the level that most probably expected from them.
A lot of that can be blamed on their record away from the Staples Center. While they have a respectable 7-2-0 at home, they’re a less-than- ideal 3-7-1 on the road. To their benefit is the fact that most of the Pacific, as expected, looks weak.
The Kings still look like and should be a playoff team even if they may not seem quite the force they were two years ago.
– Patrick Dejbjerg
San Jose Sharks: 9-8-1, 19 points, fourth in the Pacific
Despite a strong start to the season, the San Jose Sharks have found themselves in a bit of a slide recently. Following an October that ended with the club at 6-3-0 and second in the division behind the high-flying Oilers, November has proven to be somewhat of a disappointment.
Beginning the month with a loss to the Arizona Coyotes, the Sharks have accrued a record of 3-5-1, including losses in the last three games, and have found themselves third in the division.
In terms of individual performance, those who have stepped up early in the season have, unsurprisingly, been the veteran leaders of Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Joe Thornton. With point tallies of 16, 14, and 12, respectively within the first 18 games, these three are clearly back to their scoring ways, and a CF% of 54.1 for both Pavelski and Burns and 54.8 for Thornton indicate productive possession. These three have formed the core of the San Jose squad in past years, and they look to be carrying the offensive weight yet again.
Inversely, there are a number of players underperforming in the Sharks slow start, chief among them being Mikkel Boedker, an off-season acquisition from free agency. After splitting last season between Arizona and the Colorado Avalanche, Boedker finished the year with an impressive total of 51 points. Sensing an opportunity to improve their scoring offense, the Sharks pounced, signing him to a four-year, $16 million deal.
Despite last season’s strong outing, Boedker has only added two points in the first 18 games and is credited with less than one shot per game. While his 53 CF% is strong, his lack of production is worrying for fans and management alike.
Despite the recent slide, however, it is certainly too early to be concerned about missing the playoffs. The biggest concerns for the Sharks will be improving scoring outside of Pavelski, Burns, and Thornton and the health of Tomas Hertl, who recently suffered a knee injury. Barring a complete collapse, however, the Sharks should be able to wiggle their way into the playoffs yet again.
-Sean Merz, @
Calgary Flames: 8-11-1, 17 points, fifth in the Pacific
In some ways, the Calgary Flames trip to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015 may have been a false indicator of whether this team was ready to contend again after missing the postseason for five straight years.
They followed up that short run by missing the playoffs last season and those struggles have continued. They’ve been, in a word, mediocre on both sides of the puck, particularly at home, where they have just three wins in 10 contests.
Most concerning must be the offense, where Johnny Gaudreau, the team’s unquestioned scoring star, had just 11 points in 17 games before having a finger broken. The Flames will need some of their depth scoring to step up, including their blueline group, which has produced seven goals combined thus far.
The Flames are in trouble once again, and without their franchise player. General Manager Brad Treliving may yet be able to salvage this season, especially as the team sits just two points out of a wild card spot and has posted strong possession numbers. However sitting 29th in goals against (64) and without their leading scorer, there are strong reasons for concern.
Vancouver Canucks: 7-10-2, 16 points, sixth in the Pacific
The early 2016-17 season has been a disappointing one for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans, with a losing record and rarely anything noteworthy up and down the roster. This isn’t to say that everyone has been a let down – the Sedins have been producing at solid paces considering their age, with 13 and 12 points in 19 games for Daniel and Henrik, respectively. Additionally, Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat have been pulling their weight scoring-wise, with 11 and 10 points to their names. That said, some players haven’t held their own quite so well; Sven Baertschi has just six points (and one goal), while the newly-signed Loui Eriksson has seven. With both players being considered top six forwards, the lack of production is certainly a large concern for the club.
In terms of who has come out of nowhere to benefit the club, defenseman Troy Stecher certainly fits that bill. The relatively unknown turned fan-favorite has demonstrated exceptional puck moving talent along with a relentless work ethic. Long-term, Stecher looks to be a big piece of the puzzle.
Another pleasant surprise has been Markus Granlund, who has quietly put up five goals, comfortably beating out expectations for the young centre.
The outlook for the Canucks isn’t especially positive. With a sub-par blueline and an inconsistent offense lacking in regular producers, expectations are at an all-time low. A playoff berth, barring a major turnaround, seems like a pipe dream at best, and Head Coach Willie Desjardins‘ job is most certainly in jeopardy. Hold on Canucks fans, it could get rocky.
-Markus Meyer, @
Arizona Coyotes: 6-9-1, 14 points, seventh in the Pacific
The Arizona Coyotes are once again in their accustomed position, at the bottom of the NHL with just six wins and 14 points through the first quarter of the season.
The biggest issue hasn’t been scoring, as the club has produced at a middle-of-the-road clip of 2.53 goals per game thus far. The problem is on defense (they current have a five-on-five CF% of 44.7, last in the NHL) and in goal, where the team has a inflated 3.29 goals against average.
Last year the dynamic rookie duo of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair looked like they were ready to run roughshod over the league as soon as this season. While Domi has lived up to that billing with 13 points in 17 games to lead the team in scoring, Duclair has completely fallen off the map, sitting 15th on the team in scoring with just one goal and three points.
One saving grace might be the return of starting goaltender Mike Smith, who made 43 saves to defeat the Sharks on November 19 after being out for more than a month. If Smith can provide some modicum of stability in the crease, it might give this young team enough time to find it’s footing. However, as it stands now, yet another high draft pick seems again more likely than a playoff position.