The NHL conference realignment that happened at the end of the season presents an opportunity for teams to cut back on travel and play other teams that are more closely aligned with them in respect to geography.
The Pacific division now consists of seven teams: the Anaheim Ducks, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes, the San Jose Sharks, and the Vancouver Canucks.
I’m going to be presenting my thoughts on the top players from the new Pacific division. My ‘roster’ consists of four centers, four right wingers, four left wingers, six defensemen, and one goaltender. One difficult part of choosing a roster from the pacific is that there are several teams who are in the midst of rebuilding, where some of their younger players have yet to show their full potential, specifically Edmonton and Calgary.
Here are my forward lineups:
Line one consists of Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim) at center, Corey Perry (Anaheim) at right wing, and Taylor Hall (Edmonton) at left wing.
Point-wise, these three together are very dominant. All were in the top fifty NHL players for points last season, while Getzlaf and Hall were in the top fifteen.
Getzlaf and Perry have had significant success together. Both were on the Stanley Cup championship Anaheim Ducks roster in 2007, as well as Team Canada at the Olympics in 2010.
Hall was the first overall draft pick for the Oilers in 2010. His name is among the top of the NHL for points each season. All were invited to the Team Canada orientation camp for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia (the camp took place in late August).
For line two, Henrik Sedin (Vancouver) is the center, while Nail Yakupov (Edmonton) is at right wing and Daniel Sedin (Vancouver) is at left wing.
All three are Europeans, with a very fluid style of play. Whether or not you like the style of play that the Sedin twins have, it’s hard to justify that they aren’t two of the best players in the NHL and pose as one of the greatest duos in the league. Although they have yet to hoist the Stanley Cup, they have had success in the regular season and have performed well in the playoffs.
Yakupov is one of Edmonton’s recent first overall draft picks. Yakupov is full of potential and is expected to become a leader in the Oilers’ franchise in the upcoming years.
Line three has Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles) at center with Lee Stempniak (Calgary) at right wing and Mike Cammalleri (Calgary) at left wing.
Kopitar is full of talent, and has been one of the key reasons for the recent successes of the Los Angeles Kings, specifically the Stanley Cup championship in 2012.
Talking with Calgary Flames fans in the past couple years, there isn’t much to celebrate about the organization, especially after losing their captain, Jarome Iginla. Stempniak and Cammalleri are two things they are able to celebrate about however. Although the two of them are in their thirties, they should each still have five years left in their careers.
Line four consists of Joe Thornton (San Jose) at center, Shane Doan (Phoenix) at right wing, and Dustin Penner (Los Angeles) at left wing. This line is a line that brings years of experience, as well as a physical aspect of the game.
While all three have the ability to put the puck in the back of the net, the real concern for an opposing team would be avoiding the three of them at all costs. They all have a well-built reputation for being able to dominate the game by using their body. And the leadership that comes with having these three players on a bench would be an asset to any team.
Thornton specifically has been on the Canadian Olympic team for the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. Doan also has Olympic experience, while Penner has been on two teams that have won the Stanley Cup.
The defensive pairings are as listed:
Justin Schultz (Edmonton) and Keith Yandle (Phoenix) is the top defensive pair. Both were on the list of top scorers for the NHL defensemen last season. Both have also made leadership movements within their respective organizations. Yandle was a part of the USA Olympic team in 2010, and has been a part of the NHL All-Star game in 2011 and 2012.
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) and Francois Beauchemin (Anaheim) make up the next defensive pair for the Pacific division. Doughty brings the experience of being the youngest player on the 2010 Canadian Olympic gold medal team, as well as being a member of the 2012 Kings Stanley Cup championship team. Along with other players listed on my roster, Beauchemin was also on the 2007 Stanley Cup championship Anaheim Ducks team.
The third defensive pairing for the Pacific division consists of Brent Burns (San Jose) and Dennis Wideman (Calgary). Burns has spent the majority of his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, but has been with the San Jose organization for the past couple years. Although he doesn’t have any Stanley Cup championships or Olympic successes, he has been a consistent player throughout his career which is essential for defensemen. Wideman is similar in respect to the lack of trophies to show, yet is a very consistent player in his own right.
The Pacific division is unique in that they have an ample amount of outstanding goaltenders. In the Pacific there is Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, Jonas Hiller of Anaheim, Miikka Kiprusoff of Calgary, Mike Smith from the Phoenix Coyotes, and Antti Niemi from San Jose to name a few. Any team would be ecstatic to get to decide on a list of goaltenders such as those names.
Antti Niemi is my choice for the starting goaltender. His accomplishments consist of a Stanley Cup championship with the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as consistently being one of the top goaltenders in nearly all statistical areas. Consistency puts him ahead of Luongo, while his prime age also puts him ahead of other goaltenders.