2011-12 Pacific Division Preview
Teams are listed in order of predicted finish.
*Denotes playoff pick
Nothing much has changed in Silicon Valley, other than five generations of computer technology, and the Sharks are once again a team that can and should compete for the chance to play for the Cup in June. Despite many past power-packed squads in San Jose, this has yet to happen, but Burns, Havlat and Handzus are the latest imports who'll try to get it done. An immediate challenge: injuries in net. Thomas Greiss may have to man the barricades until Antti Niemi (leg cyst) and Antero Niittymaki (lower body injury) return to full health and form.
The top trio of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and reigning Hart Trophy-winner Corey Perry will send serious shivers through every opposing team when they take the ice, but after that there is too much age and mediocrity. Jason Blake and Saku Koivu would make for a nice second-line left wing-center combination, but only if this was 2006 or so. In 2011, there are too many candles on each player's birthday cake.
Last season, 42 of Phoenix's 82 games were decided by one goal, and thanks mostly to Bryzgalov, the Coyotes got at least a point in 34 of them. With less stellar netminding, another cut-rate payroll and a lame-duck ownership atmosphere, this is a franchise that has cried financial wolf too many times for people to care anymore.
Crawford was fired by GM Joe Nieuwendyk, top scorer Brad Richards was gone for the Big Apple. and what remains is a wobbly franchise with murky prospects and ownership uncertainty. Several good players remain, however, including heart-and-soul captain Brenden Morrow, scorers Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro, and newly imported ex-Bruins shooter Michael Ryder. But first-year coach Glen Gulutzan will do well to get Dallas as close to the playoffs as Crawford did. The Stars will win their share of games, but there's just not a lot to get excited about here.