Expect a drastically different Pacific division next season

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nabbyandmarleau.jpgIt’s safe to say that just about every NHL team will see at least moderate changes this summer. Yet, when I was putting together some free agent articles (not to mention thumbing through posts about ownership changes around the league), it dawned on me that the Pacific division – in particular – will look very, very different next season.

In fact, let’s take a look at the division team-by-team to see just how drastic the changes might be.

Phoenix Coyotes

Let’s start with the most obvious situation. Naturally, there’s the team’s tumultuous ownership situation. But even beyond that, there are some big decisions they need to make regarding their on-ice product, with free agents including Lee Stempniak, Zbynek Michalek, Matthew Lombardi (unrestricted) and Wojtek Wolski (restricted). Even if the Coyotes stay in the desert, things will be very different.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks will have to let someone go, it’s just a matter of which players they choose to retain. They have key young players (Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski) and veterans (Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov) who could depart due to free agency. I’m not sure that the Sharks reign as the dominant Pacific division team is over, but it may be threatened.

Dallas Stars

Considering the fact that the Tom Hicks ownership era is nearing an end, it’s difficult to imagine the Stars committing much payroll to getting better. The roster could look very different in 10-11, anyway, though. Marty Turco is likely on the way out, Mike Modano might retire and Jere Lehtinen is also long in the tooth. Don’t forget that James Neal is a restricted free agent. It looks like it will be an end of an era (perhaps it should be called the “Remember what happened 10 years ago?” age) for the Dallas Stars.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings finally made the playoffs for the first time in ages and now the question is whether or not they can take “the next step” to become contenders. They seem to be the odds-on favorite to land Ilya Kovalchuk, which would certainly put them on the map. Whether he’s worth the salary cap gamble is another discussion entirely (although I think the Kings are one of the most logical destinations, beyond the big-money offer[s] from the KHL).

Anaheim Ducks

It could also be the end of an era for the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu might retire. Bobby Ryan is a restricted free agent (but I’d guess he’ll be back).

Every division will see some change this summer, but the Pacific is practically in an uproar. It should be a very interesting off-season for all five teams.

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    Video: Kings, Kopitar exploit Edler’s gaffe for OT win vs. Canucks

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    Alexander Edler probably feels some serious shame right now.

    The Vancouver Canucks defenseman is getting some heat for a bad blunder on what became the Los Angeles Kings’ overtime game-winning goal by Anze Kopitar.

    You can see the decisive goal in the video above, which meant a 2-1 overtime victory for the Kings over the Canucks.

    Just a (safe for work) sampling of the reactions toward Edler:

    Again, those are the more … sanitized reactions.

    Jacob Markstrom didn’t get the win despite keeping Vancouver in the game. The big Swede made 38 out of 40 saves, yet that last goal will burn.

    For Los Angeles, it’s another reminder that this team sure is scrappy.

    Let’s be honest: it’s better to go late into a game with a lead against the Kings, but a small margin makes for some serious discomfort.

    Malkin, Kessel dominate as Pens stump Sharks

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    Sometimes an angry Evgeni Malkin means a stray power play or two for his opponents, but it’s usually not the best idea to make him angry.

    Giving a player that big and talented extra motivation just seems like a bad idea, right?

    Joel Ward experienced that phenomenon on Tuesday, as Malkin responded to a blow from Ward with the goal you can see below.

    Malkin scored a goal and two assists while Phil Kessel found the net twice in Pittsburgh’s 5-1 win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    Malkin now has a four-game goal streak going (five goals, three assists). He also has 13 points in his past seven games.

    Marc-Andre Fleury deserves plenty of credit, too, as he stopped 33 out of 34 shots and continues to quietly generate some of the best work of his sometimes-polarizing career.

    This was a nice way for the Penguins to begin a four-game Western road trip, although they’ll need to wait a while to try to keep it going; their next game comes in Los Angeles on Saturday.

    Of course: Ryan Suter wins it for Wild vs. ‘Hawks after those wild quotes

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    You know what they say: “What a difference a game makes.”

    Even in the 82-game marathon that an NHL regular season is, that can be true.

    Ryan Suter admitted he went too far with comments during tough times, yet there he was on Tuesday night, grinning ear-to-ear after scoring the 2-1 goal that ended up being the game-winner.

    Heck, people were even joking about things. The healing powers of winning, right?

    As of this writing, this win places Minnesota in the last wild card spot, and they’re close to elbowing in on the Chicago Blackhawks (who own a standings point advantage, but have played two more games so far in 2015-16).

    Jeremy Roenick labels this 2-1 win as a “team win” for Minnesota, and it showed on that 2-1 goal, as the Wild showed off some picture-perfect passing and a willingness to crash the net for rebounds.

    Let’s face it, though; Devan Dubnyk deserves plenty of credit, too.

    It won’t be easy in the Central Division, and things may get heated again. Still, this is the sort of win that may just help Minnesota build up some confidence.

    Hey look: Flyers reel off three straight wins for first time in 2015-16

    Sean Couturier
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    When you’re talking about bright sides, most people believe that they boil down to the light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little success in the present while waiting for that bright future, though.

    The Flyers are providing at least a burst of sunshine lately, as Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators gives them … (drum roll) their first three-game winning streak of this season.

    Joy abounded.

    Even in recent darker moments, Philly’s been pretty impressive on offense, so Flyers fans are likely relieved to see a relative offensive outburst.

    Sure, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns – Radko Gudas might have gotten himself into some trouble, for instance – yet this is still a nice sign of life for a team expected to finish in the draft lottery.

    If that fails … hey, the future may require shades.