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A Look At The Pacific Division

by Dan Rosen / San Jose Sharks
During the past week, has analyzed each division. With about a month-and-a-half left before training camp, Dan Rosen focuses on the Pacific Division.

It'll take until at least Christmas to know how the decisions made by all 30 teams will alter the playing field in the NHL for the 2011-12 season. But with the offseason news in quiet mode, there's no better time to look back at what has transpired and look ahead to what could be in store for next season.

San Jose changed its look with two blockbuster trades while Anaheim continues to wait for Teemu Selanne's decision on whether he'll return or retire. Phoenix has had to replace some key parts while Los Angeles added a significant piece in Mike Richards. And after falling just shy of the playoffs last season, Dallas has made wholesale changes, including behind its bench.

Here is the entire breakdown of the division:


Last season: 48-25-9, 105 points (1st place Pacific, 2nd place Western Conference)
Additions: Martin Havlat, RW; Michal Handzus, C; Andrew Murray, C; Brent Burns, D; Jim Vandermeer, D
Subtractions: Dany Heatley, RW; Devin Setoguchi, RW; Ben Eager, LW; Jamal Mayers, RW; Kyle Wellwood, C; Kent Huskins, D; Ian White, D; Scott Nichol, C
Up-and-comers: Justin Braun, D; Nick Petrecki, D; Brandon Mashinter, LW; Fraser McLaren, LW; Cameron MacIntyre, RW; Tommy Wingels, RW

Clearly perturbed at the fact that his team was outplayed in the Western Conference Finals for the second straight spring, Sharks GM Doug Wilson has used this offseason to alter the look of his team. In separate deals with Minnesota, Wilson acquired Havlat to help the Sharks' speed up front and Burns to complement the offense of Dan Boyle and the physicality of Douglas Murray.

Wilson had to pay a hefty ransom to add the speedy Havlat and multi-faceted Burns. He gave up Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, prized prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft pick to the Wild. However, he obviously felt something wasn't working as the perennially contending Sharks again failed to get over the hump and into the Stanley Cup Final.

To fill out his team's defensive depth, Wilson added Jim Vandermeer, who should give the Sharks a physical presence on their third pair. He could be matched with the offensive-minded Jason Demers, which would give the Sharks three multi-faceted pairs, including the popular Boyle-Murray pair and the new second pair of Burns with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Braun will make a push, too.

Handzus should fit in nicely as the Sharks' third-line center behind captain Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Murray signed a two-way contract, giving the Sharks flexibility to use him as a fourth-line center or a swing-man between San Jose and Worcester of the AHL.


Last season: 47-30-5, 99 points (2nd place Pacific, 4th place Western)
Additions: Andrew Cogliano, C; Jean-Francois Jacques, LW; Kurtis Foster, D; Matt Smaby, D; Jeff Deslauriers, G
Subtractions: Todd Marchant, C; Andreas Lilja, D; Ray Emery, G; Jarkko Ruutu, LW
Up-and-comers: Nick Bonino, C; Peter Holland, C; Kyle Palmieri, C; Emerson Etem, RW

While still waiting for Teemu Selanne to make a decision on whether he's going to return for another NHL season or retire, the Ducks believe they bolstered their center depth by adding Cogliano. He figures to push Saku Koivu for the second-line center responsibilities, but at worst will be on the third line.

However, Selanne's decision is a big one. He might be 41 years old, but he proved last season that he can still bring it. Selanne had 80 points in 73 games, finishing second on the team behind Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy winner Corey Perry.

Bonino went pointless in 26 games last season and Palmieri scored just 1 goal in his 10 appearances, but both could be full-timers on the big club this season. Bonino could replace the retired Marchant as the Ducks' fourth-line center. Holland will make a push, but he has top-six potential and the Ducks are set with Ryan Getzlaf and Koivu centering their top-two lines.

The Ducks also appear set on defense with Lubomir Visnovsky coming off a career year and Cam Fowler returning after a successful rookie season. Foster will replace Sutton and Smaby should fill in for Lilja, who was a part-time player. Toni Lydman, Francois Beauchemin and Luca Sbisa are all back as well, meaning the Ducks shouldn't have to dip into their system for defensive help.


Last season: 43-26-13, 99 points (3rd place Pacific, 6th place Western)
Additions: Mike Smith, G; Alexandre Bolduc, C; Boyd Gordon, C; Raffi Torres, LW; Curtis McElhinney, G; Justin Pogge, G
Subtractions: Ilya Bryzgalov, G; Ed Jovanovski, D; Eric Belanger, C; Andrew Ebbett, C
Up-and-comers: Andy Miele, C; Brandon Gormley, D; Mark Visentin, G; Chris Brown, C

Phoenix GM Don Maloney successfully completed his No. 1 task this summer on July 5, when defenseman Keith Yandle signed a five-year contract extension. Yandle is only 24 years old and he's the defenseman Phoenix will build around. With Jovanovski leaving for a reunion in Florida, Yandle should assume the No. 1 responsibilities on the Coyotes' blue line.

However, even with Yandle locked into a long-term contract, the Coyotes' defense-first philosophy will be tested this season without Bryzgalov standing between the pipes. Bryzgalov has been one of the NHL's best regular-season goalies over the last three seasons, but he signed a nine-year contract with Philadelphia, so Maloney replaced him with Smith.

Smith struggled in his one season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he'll be tasked with being the last line of defense on a team built to keep the puck out of its own net. He won 13 games with the Lightning last season, but finished with a 2.90 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.

Miele, this year's Hobey Baker winner after a huge senior season at Miami University, could turn into an important player for the Coyotes, especially with Belanger now in Edmonton. He's a self-described "playmaker that scores goals," and the Coyotes need him to do both. Torres and Gordon will add some grind and grit in third-line roles.


Last season: 46-30-6, 98 points (4th place Pacific, 7th place Western)
Additions: Mike Richards, C; Simon Gagne, LW; Colin Fraser, C
Subtractions: Wayne Simmonds, RW; Brayden Schenn, C; Ryan Smyth, LW; Michal Handzus, C; Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW
Up-and-comers: Andrei Loktionov, C; Justin Azevedo, C; Dwight King, LW; Slava Voynov, D; Thomas Hickey, D; Jake Muzzin, D

With Anze Kopitar and Richards, the Kings have one of the best 1-2 center punches in the NHL. Toss in left wings Gagne and Dustin Penner along with right wings Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, and you've got the Kings' top six right there.

Who centers who will be decided in training camp, but Richards has a history of playing with Gagne in Philadelphia so they seem like a logical pair. If Williams joins them, the Kings would have a line of all ex-Flyers. In fact, Gagne dubbed the Kings, "Philadelphia West." Coach Terry Murray, assistant John Stevens and general manager Dean Lombardi all have ties to the Flyers as well.

Other than the big additions of Richards and Gagne, Lombardi has remained relatively quiet, but that has Kings fans on edge because he still has one major piece of business to tend to -- re-signing star defenseman Drew Doughty, a restricted free agent.

Lombardi is on record saying it's on track to get done; it's just a matter of when. Doughty is still open to offer sheets from other clubs, but it appears unlikely that he'll get one. His contract will carry a hefty fare, and that has limited Lombardi's ability to dive deep into the free agent market. He did try to lure Brad Richards to L.A., but the big-ticket free agent chose the Big Apple instead.


Last season: 42-29-11, 95 points (5th place Pacific, 9th place Western)
Additions: Michael Ryder, RW; Jake Dowell, C; Radek Dvorak, RW; Vernon Fiddler, LW; Eric Godard, RW; Adam Pardy, D; Sheldon Souray, D
Subtractions: Brad Richards, C; Jamie Langenbrunner, RW; Karlis Skrastins, D; Jason Williams, C; Jeff Woywitka, D
Up-and-comers: Tomas Vincour, C; Philip Larsen, D; Jack Campbell, G;

Despite being a team that lasted until the last game played in the 2010-11 regular season before falling short of a playoff berth, the Stars went through a major overhaul this summer as GM Joe Nieuwendyk changed coaches and watched his No. 1 center leave via free agency only to bring in a host of new players, including a key contributor off the Bruins' Stanley Cup-winning roster.

Ryder, who had 17 points in 25 playoff games for Boston, signed a two-year contract on July 1, a day before the Stars officially lost Richards to the New York Rangers. Fiddler, Pardy, Souray, Dvorak and Dowell also signed with Dallas soon after the opening bell on the free-agent signing period rang.

Souray is obviously one of the more intriguing signings, as the former all-star will look to regain some of his swagger in Dallas. If Souray, who is 35, is able to kick-start his career after languishing in the AHL last season, the Stars' blue line will get a major jolt of energy and their power play will get a monster shot from the point.

New coach Glen Gulutzan will have to find someone who wants to step up to be the Stars' No. 2 center. They're deep on the wing with Ryder, Brenden Morrow, Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Steve Ott and Dvorak, but they lack depth at center behind Mike Ribeiro. It very well could be Ott. Fiddler is likely a third-line, checking-line pivot.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | Senior Writer

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