The Honda West Division is a strange division indeed. There are more questions than certainties, but it’s time to take a stand. Here’s how the division will finish this season.
Out of the Playoffs
I hate to lump the California teams into this together, but they’re all in trouble this year. I don’t care about claims from the Sharks about how dominant Erik Karlsson has looked at camp. Quinton Byfield isn’t even starting with the LA Kings, just like Trevor Zegras isn’t starting with the Anaheim Ducks. Even if they did they’re not going to resurrect those franchises in their rookie seasons. The Sharks haven’t upgraded in net no matter what they tell you. John Gibson can’t score goals for the Ducks. LA… well… yeah. There’s not a whole lot to get excited about if you’re a California hockey fan.
In this category we have two teams going opposite directions. The Arizona Coyotes are in a rebuilding phase that’s just starting under Bill Armstrong and are going to trend further down this season as Armstrong figures out who he likes and who he doesn’t over the course of the regular season. I’m not saying they can’t turn it around, but they’re going to get worse before they do.
The Minnesota Wild are at least getting better under Bill Guerin, who has wasted no time in remaking this team. Many figured when Guerin took over he’d give it some time to look at his roster, but changes began almost immediately and paid dividends. I like that Guerin has been bold and makes no apologies for doing what he can to realize his vision for the team. That said, they’re going to have to improve on what we saw last year to make the playoffs in the HWD. I believe they will get into the post-season but that’s about it. In another year or two and with a few more moves (and perhaps being rid of either of those massive albatross deals to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise) the Wild will be a team to be reckoned with.
The Cream of the Crop
This leaves the remaining three teams in the division at the top. The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights are teams that have it together right now. St. Louis still has the bulk of its Stanley Cup winning team on board, except for captain Alex Pietrangelo who is now in Vegas. Torey Krug has come in to try to fill Pietrangelo’s skates and may be able to do just that. One other massive thing in St. Louis’ favor is that they can bang bodies and wear teams down, something I consider a massive key to playoff success.
However, the Blues aren’t sneaking up on anyone. Neither are the Avalanche. Boasting perhaps the best all-around player in the game with Nathan MacKinnon and a future Norris Trophy winner in Cale Makar, the Avs are stacked. But I’m still not on board with the goaltending tandem. I think the Golden Knights are deeper. And if teams figure out how to shut down the top line for Colorado, there’s not quite as much depth scoring as Vegas has.
Yes, I believe the Golden Knights will be the class of the HWD this year. They are simply deeper and more talented than any other squad in the division.
Here’s my predicted order of finish:
- Vegas Golden Knights
- St. Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Minnesota Wild
- Arizona Coyotes
- Anaheim Ducks
- LA Kings
- San Jose Sharks
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!