Kings Have Playoff Hope in New Pacific Division

The Los Angeles Kings had a tough time this season in the Honda West Division; the team finished with a record of 21-28-7, totaling 49 points. The top two teams in the division gave LA some trouble, as expected; they finished with a 2-6-0 record versus the Vegas Golden Knights and a 1-7-0 record versus the Colorado Avalanche.

The Kings are looking toward next season to re-establish themselves as a playoff team, and with the divisions going back to their pre-pandemic state, LA has every reason to see their goal as realistic.

Breaking Down the 2021-22 Pacific Division

There will be one change to the Pacific Division in the 2021-22 season. With the addition of the Seattle Kraken to the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division. This will make for an even eight teams in each division, totaling 32 across the league.

The Frontrunners: Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers

Since the team’s inaugural season, there has been a lot expected of the Golden Knights. The team has made the playoffs in all of their first four seasons, including one trip to the Stanley Cup Final and two runs to the semifinal. There is no reason to believe that Vegas wouldn’t be the heavy favorite to win the Pacific Division.

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate
Vegas Golden Knights celebrate (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Despite not being able to reach their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights still have a top forward core featuring Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, as well as the great goaltending tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner — the duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy this season for allowing the fewest goals. The Knights also got a ton of offense from the blue line this season, led by Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo, and unrestricted free agent Alec Martinez.

A team that had arguably the most disappointing playoff run was the Edmonton Oilers. They finished second in the Scotia North Division before the Winnipeg Jets swept them in the first round. Though Edmonton hasn’t been able to find any recent playoff success, they have performed in the regular season, making them the only team likely to even challenge the Golden Knights for the Pacific Division title.

Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Joseph Gambardella
Edmonton Oilers celebrate Leon Draisaitl’s hat trick. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

The Oilers have two of the top players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, so it is hard to imagine the team not having a good regular season. Edmonton also recently signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an eight-year, $41 million contract, adding to the team’s offense. Darnell Nurse emerged as a superstar for the team this season, putting up 36 points in 56 games, and had great analytics as well.

The Bounceback Season Hopefuls: Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames

Last offseason, both the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames made some big moves after being eliminated from the playoffs. The majority of the significant moves from the Flames came via the Canucks, as the team added Chris Tanev, Josh Leivo, and former Vancouver starting goalie Jacob Markstrom, who the Canucks replaced with Braden Holtby.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s safe to say that it didn’t work out for either team, as neither returned to the playoffs this season. The Flames finished fifth in the division with a record of 26-27-3, and the Canucks finished last in the division with a record of 23-29-4. Calgary is looking to shake things up this offseason, as rumors point to them moving big-name players.

Both teams still have star-studded cores; Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and Elias Pettersson on the side of the Canucks, and Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk for Calgary. They will all try to rebound next season in an attempt to bring their respective clubs back to the playoffs.

The Wild Cards: Seattle Kraken and San Jose Sharks

Without a roster, it is impossible to speculate where the Seattle Kraken will finish in the division. Though we might get a better idea after the expansion draft, it will still be hard to theorize. The Golden Knights proved that an expansion team can be one of the best in the league, but it also wouldn’t be shocking if the Kraken finished at the bottom of the division.

The San Jose Sharks are in an interesting position. In the 2018-19 season, the team went all the way to the conference final, but in the two seasons since, they have not come close to making the postseason. Though they’ve had a couple of frustrating seasons in a row, they don’t seem to want to rebuild.

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The Sharks still believe they have a shot at going to the playoffs with their current core, and while it is unlikely, much crazier things have happened. The team revolves around forwards such as Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture, as well as veteran defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. San Jose’s biggest area of concern is goaltending, but if they can figure out that side of things, a playoff push is possible.

The Rebuilding Team: Anaheim Ducks

Out of every team in the Pacific Division next season, the Anaheim Ducks are likely the furthest from the playoffs. They do have a bright future ahead of them, featuring Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, but the team is still a few years off from the postseason.

Jamie Drysdale Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ducks finished last in the Honda West Division in the 2020-21 season with a record of 17-30-9. They scored the fewest goals of any team in the league, just 2.21 per game on average. Without the solid play of goaltender John Gibson, their season would have turned even uglier, and we can’t expect much more from Anaheim next season.

Where Do the Kings Fit In?

The Pacific Division is arguably the weakest of the divisions next season. There is a lot of uncertainty for many of the teams, so anything can happen. The Kings have made it clear that making the playoffs in 2021-22 is their goal, and they are going to attempt to do so by acquiring players in the offseason. The Kings have already started on their mission by trading two draft picks to the Nashville Predators for Viktor Arvidsson.

The Kings need help offensively, and Arvidsson can help, as he is a former 60-point player. LA also lacks winger depth, so his ability to potentially fill a first-line winger role makes him of even more value to the team.

If the Kings can bring together their plethora of young forward prospects with their veteran players and offseason additions, we could see the team score significantly more next season. If this could be backed up by a solid season from Drew Doughty, similar to what we saw in 2020-21, a bounce-back campaign from Matt Roy, and another season of great goaltending from Calvin Petersen, LA could certainly see themselves in the postseason.

We can probably assume that the Golden Knights and Oilers will take the top two spots. If the Ducks, Sharks, and Kraken all miss the playoffs, that leaves the Kings with the two bounceback season hopefuls. If one of the two continues to struggle and LA puts the pieces together, Kings fans should see playoff hockey in 2022.


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