May 26, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8, left) controls the puck in front of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8, right) during the first period in game six of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion. The Sharks defeated the Kings 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NHL: Power Ranking the New Pacific Division

If you haven’t heard, starting this year the NHL is moving to its new set of divisions.  The new layout consists of four divisions with two in each conference.  They are now named the Pacific, Central, Metropolitan, and Atlantic divisions.

Also, they have grouped it such that both western divisions have seven teams in them and both eastern divisions have eight, thus making it a bit easier to make the playoffs in the west.

The new Pacific Division retains everyone except for Dallas and then adds Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.  The central then becomes Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.

The biggest change there? Both Columbus and Detroit are now in the eastern conference, alleviating their travel schedules quite a bit.  Now here are our rankings below, starting from lowest to highest…

7. Calgary Flames: This goes without saying, but the team that traded away plenty of assets at the trade deadline last year, including longtime Flame Jerome Iginla, is definitely going to be last in this division.

Offensively they lack any type of great scorer and they have all kinds of questions at the goaltending position.  Clearly this team is in rebuilding mode and their ranking shows that.

6. Phoenix Coyotes: The addition of Mike Ribeiro is definitely a step in the right direction, but I don’t know if he alone can help the Coyotes match the firepower of the top three teams on this list.

That being said, they do have a pair of great defensemen who can produce in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.  They do have potentially one of the best goaltenders in the division, but he will have to prove he is more than a one hit wonder before he gets that title.

5. Edmonton Oilers:  Led by a slew of first-round draft picks, sooner or later they are going to have to live up to their billing.  With all that quality young talent, I could see them finally making the jump to a playoff team this year.  To get there thought, they will have to compete with some veteran teams that know what it takes to not only make the playoffs, but to also make a deep run.

These Oilers still have to learn what it takes, but no doubt they are hungry.  I would say they are definitely the dark horse in this division and would not be surprised to see them further up the list by the end of the season.

4. Anaheim Ducks: After being one of the best teams in the NHL for the first half of the season along with the Blackhawks, the Ducks struggled during the second-half of the season.  Luckily for them they amassed enough points during that first half and were able to compensate for their slump.  Also, the losses of Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne hurt their chances quite a bit.  Still, they have Correy Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, so do not count them out.

3. Vancouver Canucks:  First off, having the Canucks in the same division as the Sharks could make for some fun hockey throughout the season since the two absolutely hate each other.  Not only are they chippy and don’t mind getting physical, they are extremely skilled, especially with the Sedin Twins manning the ship.

Their biggest question mark, however, is at the goaltending position where Roberto Luongo is now the clear starter after Corey Schneider was traded away during the NHL draft.  If Luongo can get back to his old form with new fiery coach John Tortorella, they could easily be the best team in this division.

2. San Jose Sharks: After locking up Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski for the long-haul the team is in good shape for years to come.  Guys like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle are playing in the final year of their contracts, so if that does not motivate them to win now, nothing will.

With Antti Niemi looking like the Stanley Cup caliber goaltender he was with Chicago, and a defense that had enough depth they were able to move Brent Burns to forward, the Sharks look as strong as ever.  They will have to solve their offensive issues that plagued them all last season though, or else it could be another tough race all the way to the playoffs.

1. Los Angeles Kings: What is there to say?  They’re skilled, they’re young, they’re fast; you could go on and on.  With captain Dustin Brown at the helm and the defense anchored by Drew Doughty, the Kings will no doubt be the team to beat in the division this upcoming season.

With Jonathan Quick solidifying the back-end, the Kings are top to bottom the most well-rounded team in the Pacific.  Add in their physicality and willingness to wear opponents day in and day out, and you have a team headed by former Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter has tuned to be a top contender to win the Stanley Cup once again.

Tags: Anaheim Ducks Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings NHL Phoenix Coyotes Power Rankings San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks

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