It is the holiday spirit, It is cold outside (Okay that is a lie), teams are on the Christmas break, so why not be festive also?
For Around the Pacific normally we check in once every two weeks or so and highlight different things within the division. For this edition, with the halfway point quickly nearing, let’s roll out the gifts and stocking stuffers to each and every team in the Pacific division. What do they need most? What could they use just a little bit to push them in the right direction?
There are plenty of teams with deficiencies in this division, so the gift ideas are endless. Without further delay, our stocking stuffer holiday edition of Around the Pacific.
Main Gift: A healthy Connor McDavid
Even if the Oilers were still semi-floundering at times when McDavid was in the lineup, there was hope. There was hope in watching the young star develop and make a difference in the NHL. He was entertaining, he was altogether productive, and the Oilers were a better team because of him. While an up and coming Leon Draisaitl and an underrated Taylor Hall are becoming big difference makers with the Oilers, McDavid carried plenty of weight. Without him in the lineup the Oilers are looking as thin as ever as injuries are piling up around the lineup. He was the third best 5v5 scoring forward, fifth in corsi for percentage, and fourth in shots for per 60 minutes.
As of this week, he was skating again but is still unsure of a return date.
Stocking Stuffer: Better goaltending
Amongst the 32 most regular starting goaltenders in the league, Cam Talbot currently ranks dead last in adjusted even strength save percentage. The drop off is also quite large. After Karri Ramo, in 30th with a .913 save percentage, Talbot ranks in with a .896. He is also facing 30.45 shots a game, which is in the top 10 of most shots faced per 60. Nevertheless Talbot, whom the Oilers were looking forward to this season, has not lived up to expectations thus far.
Main Gift: Some Offense
While the Ducks have been exceptionally unlucky this year, with one of the lowest even strength on ice shooting percentages and PDOs, there is no denying that they are pretty thin offensively. The two highest goal scorers on the team by a per 60 rate are Chris Stewart and Rickard Rakell with a 2.21 and 2.10 goals per 60 respectively. How does that rank amongst the NHL’s 547 forwards who have played at least 200 even strength minutes this year? 228th and 267th. The team, as a whole, ranks dead last with 61 goals and a 1.85 goals per game rate. That is 12 goals and .30 goals per game behind the next weakest team, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Stocking Stuffer: a time machine in order to un-trade for Kevin Bieksa
Have we mentioned that Kevin Bieksa has been pretty bad? How bad you ask? Well, he is posting career lows in 5v5 ratings of Shots, iFenwick, iCorsi, goals for per 60, and is having a pretty rough year (but not career worst) in categories like fenwick, and corsi. According to Burtch’s dCorsi impact rating, Kevin Bieksa is having his third worst season ever. One of the seasons worse than this one was 2014-15, the year before Anaheim signed him to his two year extension post trade. He and Cam Fowler are playing over 20 minutes a night and have been the most victimized pairing for the Ducks in terms of scoring chances against.
Los Angeles Kings
Main Gift: A more balanced Offense
One thing that made the Kings threatening in the past was balanced scoring. They were not a pure offensive team, but what they lacked in top end scoring they made up with in rolling four lines that could produce at least a little here and there. This year, however, with diminishing production from Dustin Brown, an injured Dwight King, and the incredibly snake bitten play of Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis, the Kings have been relying heavily on hot lines carrying the offense. If there is any one thing that can help the Kings, it’s scoring from the bottom six. Carter, Lucic, Kopitar, and Toffoli have carried the mail so far, but more will be needed later in the season and into the playoffs.
Stocking Stuffer: A consistent Jonathan Quick
Let’s be real, the Kings have been doing fine even with Jonathan Quick’s up and downs. However, it would be nice if he didn’t have wild swings of inconsistency. To be fair, most goalies do have some swings during the season. With the Kings playing on such a delicate line of offense versus defense however, a bad game or stretch from Quick usually spells bad news for the Kings. Little less peaks and valleys might help them avoid the winter slump.
Main Gift: The fountain of youth for the Sedin twins
Every year people say that the Sedins will decline, and every year the duo produce like they are in their 20’s again. This year both Daniel and Henrik are hovering at around a point per game pace. Daniel is flirting with a pace that would see him score the most goals of his career, and put up the most points since 2010-11. Between both of them they have posted 68 points in 36 games. That amounts to almost 40% of the team’s total 186 points from forwards. That is from just two players. They are currently sitting at 25.88 and 22.28 in goals for % relative to their teammates. After Jannik Hansen at 15.69%, It is Brandon Prust and Adam Cracknell at 8.71 and 3.85% for regular forwards. These guys are simply carrying the Canucks this year.
Stocking Stuffer: Something other than mediocrity from the special teams
The Canucks currently rank 22nd in both powerplay and penalty kill. They are also negative in goals for and goals against rations per game. They are somehow winning games and staying relevant in the division, but they could definitely use a boost in special teams in one category or the other.
Main Gift: A goaltender
Mike Smith started hot and sank like a stone. Now with an injury that is going to put Smith out for a long period of time, the team is looking at a long term tandem of Anders Lindback and Louis Domingue. With the way Arizona plays, they cannot afford to have a leaky goaltender. The young Domingue has looked good in very few starts, but Anders Lindback has been a tire fire thus far. Do they attempt to ride a young Louis Domingue as much as they can? Is it his time to shine? It will not be hard to replace the .901 save percentage or .891 save percentage of Smith and Lindback, but it is a tall ask to be a developing goalie in front of a team that leaks chances frequently.
Stocking Stuffer: Something to preserve their ridiculous shooting percentages
The Yotes are still relevant, and when you look at the shooting percentages of everyone on their team, it is completely insane that they have yet to tail off. Their top four goal scorers currently; Boedker, Duclair, Domi, and Doan, are all shooting at 13.8, 27.8, 16.4, and 16.0 percent. As a team they currently have the highest shooting percentage in the NHL at 9.39. Off the top 20 shooters in the Pacific division right now in terms of percentage, the Coyotes have five on the list.
San Jose Sharks
Main Gift: A clone of Joe Pavelski
Pavelski has quietly been one of the most productive forwards in the NHL over the past five seasons. This year he is busting it open and is on pace to score 43 goals and put up 86 points. Both would be career highs for him. He had 10 points in his last five games before the Christmas break, a streak which includes five goals. He might be one of the hottest scorers in the NHL right now, and his performance against the Kings on Tuesday night (12/22) was masterful. He is leading the Sharks offense, and is also leading in the face-off dot where he currently holds a 56.6%.
Stocking Stuffer: Better performances from Alex Stalock
It is tough to be a back up in the NHL. You play infrequently. You often get back to back scenarios thrust upon you. It is altogether hard to get a rhythm going for long stretches because the starts are so spotty. At the beginning of the season it was not clear what the scenario would be with Stalock and Jones, but 37 games in it is clear. Stalock has played nine of the 37 games and posted just a .890 save percentage. With Jones experiencing his first NHL season as a starter, their may be a point where the grind wears on him. If Stalock cannot put in better performances it may force Peter DeBoer to ride Jones more than they had hoped in his first season as a No. 1.
Main Gift: All the corsis
The Flames were not an analytics darling team last year. They were quite the opposite. Many felt they played over their heads and squeaked into the playoffs on guts and luck. 2015-16 is singing a different tune to the second round cinderella run that the Flames had. They are still bottoming out in possession stats, struggling with goaltending, and are sitting four points from the bottom of the conference with the second worst goal differential. They are 24th in corsi for percentage despite many pundits feeling this number was bound to turn around with their offseason acquisitions. It has yet to come together for them in terms of possession stats, and this is the very thing that made people sour on them last season.
Stocking Stuffer: A powerplay
The Flames currently have the worst powerplay in the league. It is clicking at 11.4% right now, and they have scored just 12 goals in 105 attempts with the extra man. They have a loaded powerplay unit as well with Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Hudler, GIordano, and Wideman to name a few. As a team they have a league worst 8.5% shooting percentage on the powerplay currently.