As we sit here on February 8 the Pacific Division is down to a five team race and you could even narrow it down to four teams fighting for two spots, if you, like I believe the odds of the Vegas Golden Knights not making the playoffs are something like a million to one.
So that leaves, the Sharks, Kings, Flames and Ducks the remaining four teams all clamoring for two spots. The Kings, Flames and Sharks have 29 games remaining while the Ducks have just 27 games left to try and find a way to punch their ticket to the post season.
Here is a breakdown of what lies ahead for each of the four teams and who may be on their shopping list as the trade deadline approaches.
San Jose Sharks (28-17-8, 64 points, 2nd Pacific Division)
Home Games Remaining (17) Road Games Remaining (12)
The Sharks are tied with the Kings for the fewest goals scored amongst Western Conference teams currently in a playoff position. There is no timetable for the return of Joe Thornton from his knee injury. Thornton is both third on the team in goals scored and points and the Sharks were already looking for help down the middle prior to his injury. Depending on his return, it may change the focus of GM Doug Wilson as the deadline approaches.
There are a lot of centers available on the market for Wilson to choose from. They include Power Play specialist, Mark Letestu of the Edmonton Oilers, Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens and Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators. Wilson may also look to add a top six forward with names like Evander Kane, Rick Nash, Patrick Maroon and Thomas Vanek topping the list.
Games remaining until the deadline……
Vegas, Edmonton, Arizona, Vancouver, Dallas,
Anaheim, St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, Minnesota
Los Angeles Kings (29-19-5), 63 points, 3rd Pacific Divison)
Home Games Remaining (15) Road Games Remaining (14)
The Kings trademark continues to be team defense. Only the Boston Bruins (124) have given up fewer goals than the Kings 128 on the season. Still, if LA wants to make a significant playoff run they are going to have to improve their blueline. Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez provide the foundation but beyond that the Kings have a group that are all better suited as third pairing defenseman. Kevin Gravel, Derek Forbort, Christian Folin, Paul LaDue, Kurtis MacDermid and Oscar Fantenberg have all rotated through the defensive pairings but none of the aforementioned players are suited to playing in a top four roll on a Stanley Cup contender.
The Kings could dip into the trade market for a blueliner with impending UFA’s Mike Green and Erik Gudbranson both being available. The question would be is how much of the future General Manage, Rob Blake be willing to sacrifice. The Kings are paying the price for past deals made by former General Manager, Dean Lombardi over the past couple of seasons for his deadline deals.
Don’t forget, Jeff Carter, who has played just six games this season is expected to return by the first week of March. The return of Carter will give Coach John Stevens plenty of options of spreading out the offense.
Games remaining until the deadline……
Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, Winnipeg (next 7 games)
Calgary Flames (27-18-8, 62 points, 10th place, Western Conference)
Home Games Remaining (13) Road Games Remaining (17)
The Flames are mystifying to me. I just don’t know what to make of the Flames. Their goal differential is (-1) which would tell me they are just average. Their 150 goals scored is the fewest among the Pacific Division teams battling for a playoff spot. Their top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland has accounted for 62 of the teams 150 goals scored (41%) so expect a top six forward to be on the Flames shopping list.
There are a lot of different ways the Flames could go in their pursuit of a top six forward. They could go the rental route and pursue someone like a Michael Grabner. Grabner, an impending UFA, may be able to be acquired at a discount as many believe he will re-sign with the Rangers next season.
The Flames are also rumored to be looking at what it would take to pry Andrew Shaw or Mike Hoffman from the Habs and Sens, respectively.
Games remaining until deadline…..
Panthers, Bruins, Avalanche
Devils, Rangers, Islanders, Bruins, Predators (next 5 games), Vegas, Coyotes
Anaheim Ducks (26-19-10, 62 points, 11th place, Western Conference
Home Games Remaining (15) Road Games Remaining (12)
The Anaheim Ducks just complete a five-game Eastern road swing picking up five out of a possible 10 points, going 2-2-1. On the surface, going 500 on the road is not shameful, the road trip started off promising with a win at Boston, snapping the Bruins 18 game streak of not losing a game in regulation. The Ducks followed that up with losses to the Senators (in overtime) who are 29th overall and the Montreal Canadiens (27th overall). Earning one of a possible four points against two of the leagues bottom feeders is not acceptable for a team fighting for a playoff spot.
General Manager, Bob Murray, has never been shy to make a deadline deal but he may not have many bullets left after his trade of Sami Vatanen to the Devils for Adam Henrique.
The belief is the Ducks would still like to add to their top six, with the names of Mike Hoffman, Evander Kane, Michael Grabner all on their shopping list.
Games remaining until the deadline……….
Oilers (2), Sharks, Stars
Wings, Blackhawks, Wild, Vegas, Coyotes