Projecting the bottom four teams of the Pacific Division in 2022–23

Continuing our look at the Pacific Division teams prior to the first puck drop of the 2022–23 regular season, we have the projections for the teams expected to finish in the bottom half of the division. There’s lots to cover, so without further ado, let’s get right into it.

#5: Vancouver Canucks

Last season

It was a tale of two season for the Canucks in 2021–22, with a coaching change remarking a noticeable difference in results and morale surrounding the franchise. Despite a strong finish, the Canucks were not able to threaten for a playoff spot after their lacklustre start landing them fifth in the Pacific Division.

Management and coaching

There were wholesale changes to the front office and coaching jobs, with Patrik Allvin getting his first look as a GM. Hopes around the team have already begun to grow after the dread and decay that set in during the back half of former GM Jim Benning’s regime. The front office as a whole was further bolstered, featuring Emily Castonguay and Cammi Granato as assistant GMs.

Likewise, the established legend of Bruce Boudreau revitalised the franschise and fan base. Known for authoring great successes in the regular season, so the quick turnaround to respectability should not come as too much of a surprise.

Editor’s Note: The following paragraph contains sensitive topics including child abuse, which may be distressing for some readers.

Further, away from the ice, the organization has much more serious issues at hand, as owner as courtroom affidavits written by owner Francesco Aquilini’s adult-aged children allege that he physically and psychologically abused them when they were children. We hope the victims involved are able to find closure as the legal proceedings play out.


Undoubtedly one of the strengths of this roster, the goaltenders offer a strong backbone to this Canucks team. Thatcher Demko is on the cusp of being unanimously accepted as an elite netminder, if he hasn’t achieved such a level already. It has been a steady rise for the American, who comes from great pedigree leading back to his draft season, at least.

Behind Demko was veteran Jaroslav Halak, long the golden standard of 1B goalies around the league. Though his best might have been behind him, he did offer a sense of security. Now, for the role, the Canucks will turn to an in-house option, considering the very strong play of Spencer Martin last season during a limited sample.


The blueline is perhaps the foremost area of concern for the Canucks, although the optics of the situation have improved noticeably since the firings of Allvin and Boudreau.

Quinn Hughes is undeniably the top option. The eldest of the Hughes brothers, Quinn offers a great deal of skill and looks to author a long career as one of the league’s touchstone offensive defencemen. Although Luke Schenn is not a top-pair defender in his own right, he managed to hold up beside Hughes offering talents quite symbiotic with those of Hughes.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers are thought of as greatly diminished from their former selves, though when paired together and relied upon heavily, the duo showed reasonably well under Boudreau.

Travis Dermott is a capable defender lower in the lineup, his quality greatly appreciated by the Canucks. He will likely anchor a third pair that might see some interesting names rotated beside him, including the promising Jack Rathbone.


The Canuck sported a forward group with promise the past few seasons, yet this year’s version looks to be a new high for quality within the group. The expectation should be that the group lives up to its strong level of play under Boudreau more so than falling flat as they did under former coach Travis Green.

Last season J.T. Miller was the Canucks’ top option, a rare blend of equal parts talent and power, Miller has continued to grow his effect on the game. Elias Pettersson may be the foremost name to watch going forward, as the skilled Swede has shown flashes of being a true star.

Brock Boeser is a bonafide first line talent and could reach 40 goals if things break right this season. Unfortunately injuries have plagued the winger fairly consistently, including being sidelined for the opening of this season. There is a lot of depth with Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, and Ilya Mikheyev, who should help out on the penalty kill.

Jump candidates

A trio of potential impact players exists between Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander, and KHL star turned NHL rookie Andrei Kuzmenko. It is possible all three are thought of more as second line level contributors.

Jack Rathbone could feature as a puck moving option on the left side, though such might require injury, or perhaps Hughes or Dermott switching over the the right. There has been some buzz for a couple seasons now and it’s show time for the 23-year-old.


The Canucks have come out of a tough spot and the new regime has already started to turn the mood in acquiring futures as much as they have toward the on ice product. The question of whether a rebuild or a retool is required might be out of the spotlight or perhaps deferred after the Miller extension. With so many key pieces in place the Canucks have to be focused on a strong performance in the present, yet just as important to their Cup hopes might be in drafting and developing a strong blueline.


Coach Bruce Boudreau is not one for poor regular season performances and this Canucks roster has enough talent to be a playoff threat. We should expect a team hungry to build off of the positive second half results of last season.

#6: Anaheim Ducks

Last season

At the turn of the new year the Anaheim Ducks were among the foremost surprises of the first half before fading down the stretch. Finishing with a 31–37–14 record, good for seventh in the Pacific Division, the Ducks’ poor record was at least easier to swallow thanks to some up and coming talents throughout their lineup.

Management and coaching

With long time GM Bob Murray relieved due to workplace conduct, Pat Verbeek stepped into the role to change the fortune of the long declining Ducks. In his first offseason with the team we have already seen some signs that the new regime is putting its own stamp on personnel.

Former Oilers coach Dallas Eakins has proven to have more success in instilling pro habits into his young players more than he has on ice success, and another losing season might be enough to put Eakins on the hot seat. Even without any editorialising of his coaching abilities, the hire of a new general manager is often succeeded by a coaching change.


The losing nature of the past several seasons in Anaheim have not done any favours for their goalies’ statistics, so much so that the once bright, Vezina Trophy reputation held by John Gibson has faded. Still in his 20s, there is a lot of runway for Gibson to regain the form that his talent and pedigree suggest, but such a development is almost certainly linked to improved defensive play in front of him.

The Ducks clearly expect to ride their starter, as backup Anthony Stolarz isn’t likely to start many games outside of back to backs or injuries. That said he has been a fairly stable force in his time as a Duck, so perhaps he can continue a similar performance. In all he’s a reasonable back option for a Ducks team that will have bigger questions throughout the rest of their lineup.


Perhaps the biggest area of concern for the Ducks, the blueline is far from settled in. There is some hope that new additions and development from their young players can turn things around.

On the right side Jamie Drysdale looks to continue his ascension to top pair defender, a level that might take some time yet to reach, but one that the smooth skating, puck moving defenceman has the quality to achieve. Behind him, John Klingberg joins Kevin Shattenkirk as veteran puck movers who still have something to contribute despite ageing into smaller roles. There is some question as to whether or not Klingberg can regain his prior quality, as his play seemed to decline with the coaching change for the Dallas Stars (Rick Bowness).

The left side bears its own degree of puck moving prowess as well, giving the Ducks what might be one of the more modern, or attacking, bluelines across the league, despite not being thought of as among the best overall. Cam Fowler will likely feature heavily on this, his off side, in top minutes with Drysdale. Urho Vaakanainen came over from the Boston Bruins at the deadline last season and might be ready to claim a significant role. Dmitri Kulikov had a resurgent season on the third pair of a strong Minnesota Wild team and will look to continue that trend on a Ducks team that is not as strong.

In all, it’s a blueline that needs to solidify itself and until then is worthy of scrutiny. There might be a lack of size or at least defensive capabilities, especially with Hampus Lindholm being traded away last season.


Trevor Zegras headlines as a skating highlight reel who hasn’t yet fully blossomed. The substance is still catching up to the style, but it looks quite possible that Zegras is able to continue his growth towards being a top centre. With the Ryan Getzlaf era officially at a close, Zegras steps in as the focal point of the forward group.

He doesn’t exactly have the most ideal supporting cast, though Troy Terry has reached a level worthy of all-star considerations. Terry is a deft puck handler in his own right and had a great season beside Zegras in 2021–22.

The x-factor, as far as top line forwards go, is Mason McTavish. After shooting up rankings in his draft year, the forward has seen his stock continue to grow on his world tour playing games in the NHL, AHL, NL, and OHL, not to mention as a member of team Canada at the Olympics, World Championship, and U20 World Juniors.

McTavish can play both centre and wing, and combines an athletic and aggressive power game while skill as a playmaker and sniper alike. He’s all but expected to earn a spot out of camp and could well push into the conversation as the Ducks most effective forward this season.

There is a smattering of bonafide middle-six talents across the forward group, with Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano looking to continue the chemistry they showed for their brief time together on the New York Rangers. They join the likes of Jakob Silfverberg, Max Comtois, and Adam Henrique as respectable options. The Ducks best case scenario sees these players pushed further down the lineup by younger players like Isac Lundestrom, who has yet to work his way into top-six consideration.

This a forward group that leaves a bit to be desired, but does have some budding signs of promise.

Jump candidates

Up front, if either or both of Jacob Perreault or Brayden Tracey are able to push up into the lineup it would go a ways in giving the offence more credibility. Both had strong AHL seasons in 2021–22 and are certainly in range of making the jump to the NHL.

Perhaps a longer shot for this season, Olen Zellweger has continued to grow and impress since his draft year. A puck moving defenceman who can quarterback at a high level, Zellweger’s strengths are quite well represented on this roster already, which might give the Ducks reason to be patient in letting him play top minutes in the AHL.


The Ducks rebuild is not yet complete, but if some of their young players and prospects can hit their upside, their turnaround into playoff contention might not be far away.

Adding another star forward is easier said than done, but a lottery victory for the upcoming entry draft could vault the Ducks timeline ahead. Given the chemistry they’ve shown, Connor Bedard and Mason McTavish on the same team would be quite intriguing.

Regardless, at this point the path forward for the Ducks begins with the likes of Zegras, McTavish, and Drysdale ascending to elite levels.


This season might be a lot like last season for the Ducks, who showed entertaining flashes at too inconsistent rates to uphold the stretches of playoff worthy play.

A successful season would see the Ducks building off last season and playing in meaningful games deep into the spring. Although there might be good opportunities to seek at the deadline, such as Klingberg on his one year deal, with so much of their future already in the lineup the Ducks should be more focused on playing well instead of tanking.

#7: Seattle Kraken

Last season

A disappointing inaugural season, the Kraken were out of the playoff race early and ultimately.

Management and coaching

Ron Francis returns for his second season at the helm of the Kraken. Building a strong management group, including new minted assistant general Manager Alexandra Mandrycky, GM Francis drew optimism in the year leading up to the Seattle expansion.

Coach Dave Hakstol oversaw a disappointing result in the first season of his second stint as an NHL head coach. Some felt the Kraken failed to maximise their talent pool in the expansion draft, electing instead to focus on cap flexibility. Perhaps it was a slow start to the season or a strangely poor goaltending aggregate, but either way the on ice play saw less bright spots than perhaps the spectre of the early successes of the Vegas Golden Knights.


Philips Grubauer will look to regain his form after a rough go last season. Goaltending can be inconsistent season to season, but the main concern would be that his strong performances in Colorado for the Avalanche had more to do with the team in front of him. Needless to say the Kraken are ways away from the Cup Champion Avalanche.

If the Kraken can get some much needed improvements to the play of their blueline it should make the job easier for whoever is in net. As Joey Daccord showed signs of pushing for a true backup role and with Chris Driedger out long-term, the Kraken brought in Martin Jones, a first save type.


This should be the foremost area of concern for the health of the Kraken. By no means devoid of talent last season, short-tenured captain Mark Giordano and company were overmatched. The theme in the group this season is solid players being asked a lot of.

Former Oiler Adam Larsson figures prominently, perhaps too much so, as a defensive presence. In this respect Carson Soucy provides a similar play style lower in the group. Michal Kempny was brought in as a depth option who could earn a regular role.

Vince Dunn did not seem as effective, no doubt in part from being asked of much more than his success with the St. Louis Blues lower in the lineup. Justin Schultz is a decent puck moving defender, probably best suited in the fourth/fifth defender role he occupies at this point.

The biggest reasons for optimism this season should be the continued evolutions of Jamie Oleksiak and Will Borgen. Although not considered on top prospects lists, both defenders have continued to increase their roles season to season while possessing enough two way skills to warrant intrigue.


Though lacking an established star forward, the Kraken’s depth up front is undeniably the strength of their team. There is, however, the potential a star or two emerges this season. Matthew Beniers was excellent in his cameo at the end of last season and looked to be as much as the Kraken’s foremost driver of play. He very well could be the player to headline the NHL’s newest franchise.

Shane Wright is likely to make the team out of camp. Some might argue another year of junior might do him well, given the shutdowns of recent years, but we have seen a lot from the prospect over the years, enough perhaps that he might succeed deployed in a favourable usage.

The rest of the group is largely made of capable middle-six forwards. The tenacious Yanni Gourde and Brandon Tanev, fancy stat king Oliver Bjorkstrand, the speedy Andre Burakovsky, shooters Jared McCann and Morgan Geekie.

Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz are prairie boys with sweet playmaking skills, overshadowed only by all hands team member Joonas Donskoi. All this before two-way centre Alex Wennberg.

It seems no matter which order you build a Kraken lineup, it is hard to put a label from line one to four.

Jump candidates

Beniers and Wright is a strong looking centre core, something tangible that the Kraken can build on. Though fans should be patient, it might not be long until these two are recognized as a cut above the rest of the Kraken lineup.


The Kraken team appeared to have made some nice selections in their first two entry draft appearances and especially on the blueline. If some of these prospects continue growing, the future will brighten for the Kraken.


Until the blueline improves, and perhaps with a coaching change, the Kraken will not be turning the corner. The focus should be on competing, especially with Berniers and Wright in the lineup, as the Kraken would do well to flirt with the playoff bubble at points.

#8: San Jose Sharks

Last season

The Sharks finished sixth in the Pacific Division, meddling in the dangerous waters of middle ground. Seen as an ageing team on the downswing, there has not been much buzz around the team of late.

Management and coaching

The Sharks made the move to dismiss longtime GM Doug Wilson, hiring former Shark (and Oiler) Mike Grier. The NHL’s first Black GM, Mike joins his brother Chris of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins as a general manager for a major sports team. Some of the NHL’s biggest developments over the decades have been ideas borrowed from the NFL, including the scouting combine, and as Grier puts his stamp on the franchise it will be interesting to monitor if we can spot any influences in this regard.

Dan Quinn joins in his second crack as an NHL bench boss after mixed results in his first stop with the New York Rangers.


Perhaps since the days of Evgenii Nabokov as starter, there have been doubts in the Sharks crease. There is however some hope in this respect at the moment.

James Riemer has perhaps been overextended as a true starter over the years, but has held up well. He certainly comes in as a respectable 1B so to speak, capable of delivering in a true timeshare.

His crease mate will be the ascending Kaapo Kahkonen. The big Finn has shown some pedigree over the years and at a young age has shown some positive results as an NHLer. His acquisition was one of potential long-term upside at last year’s deadline, maybe years too late for the relieved GM Wilson.


The Erik Karlsson and Burns experiment didn’t quite live up to its billing. Perhaps the positional and stylistic overlap and fights for power play time were never meant to live up to the potential. Their age-induced decline and that of the Sharks as a whole had more to do with it. Regardless, Karlsson remains as the unquestioned top option in puck moving and on the right side.

There are a number of defensive blueliners, Mario Ferraro, newly signed Matt Benning, as well Radim Simek and newcomer Markus Nutivaara. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is long since his peak from, but by reputation profiles similarly.

The biggest reason for upside lies with Ryan Merkley, who might well surpass Burns’ level in recent seasons as an offensive option behind Karlsson on the right side.


The most overlooked part of the Sharks is their centre depth. To have such an important position in good standing bodes well for the success of the Sharks roster as a whole.

Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture are a capable 1-2 punch down the middle, while Nick Bonino and Nico Sturm are effective third line checking types. Bonino has long had strong shot suppression results, while Sturm is a noticeable physical presence, especially in the offensive zone.

Behind power winger Timo Meier there is a lack of talent on the wings overall. The likes of Kevin Labanc and Alex Barabanov are likely a bit higher in the lineup than one might hope.

Jump candidates

Speaking of hope, there is some young talent that could greatly impact the Sharks quality this season. The transition talents of William Eklund would be greatly appreciated in this group.

Equally pleasant would be a strong season for Thomas Bordeleau, a highly skilled playmaker from the NCAA who can play centre. If the pair of highly skilled rookies can impress the Sharks could start looking quite a bit more ferocious.


With potential options in house, particularly at key positions, there is a chance for the Sharks to return to playoff contention with the Hertl-Couture-Karlsson core.


Although there may not be great expectations on the Sharks this season, there are at least some paths to their playoff viability. If their best players can remain productive and healthy, and with some improvements from key youngsters the Sharks would do well to remain competitive and relevant into the spring.

Onto the regular season

Only time will tell how the eight Pacific teams will stack up by the end of the season. The division definitely looks to be split into two tiers with the top and bottom teams forming a bit of a separation layer. However, it’ll intriguing to see which teams in the middle jump upward or fall downward.

The season is just about to get underway, let’s get to the hockey!

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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