The unpredictable start to the 2015-16 NHL season in the Pacific Division became even more evident when the struggling Edmonton Oilers defeated the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday, Oct. 21. Topsy-turvy standings coupled with changes in direction by some of the teams have changed the expected script multiple times in just two weeks.
While picking a team for which Todd McLellan is head coach to beat the one that helped him get his chance at head coaching (as a top assistant on the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings) might seem predictable, doing it with the Oilers was not. The first four games of the 2015-16 NHL season were regulation losses as it appeared they were not as close to being postseason contenders as many had thought.
Now Edmonton has three wins, all earning the important regulation/overtime win (ROW) for tiebreaks. Yet its new coach and another top pick in this summer’s draft joining forces in a down-and-up 2015-16 NHL season is not even in the top half of stories throughout the Pacific Division.
The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings were supposed to be the two Pacific Division teams in contention for the Stanley Cup. Both lost their first three games in regulation but might be turning it around.
The three-time defending Pacific Division-champion Ducks earned a point for their shootout loss in the second game of the 2015-16 NHL season but dropped four before soundly beating a very good Minnesota Wild team Monday. The two-time Stanley Cup-champion Kings lost their first three in regulation but have two ROW since.
The Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks were thought to be the other likely postseason teams in the Pacific Division. Neither has a win in the last two games nor ROW in the last three.
For the Sharks, earning two points in each of the first four games gave them cushion in the 2015-16 NHL season standings. If they can adjust for a few games while Paul Martin is out and several more while still without Logan Couture, they could easily get back to where they are now—looking down at the rest of the Pacific Division.
The Flames won their second game of the 2015-16 NHL season but have not even gotten to overtime in the other five games, including 0-4-0 at home. They were thought by many to be overachievers last season but won a Stanley Cup-playoff series, got captain Mark Giordano back and added off-season talent.
The Vancouver Canucks are undergoing a transition that seemed to have them destined to fight the Oilers for the best of the rest. Instead, they have been the steadiest team in the Pacific Division with a 3-1-2 record so far this 2015-16 NHL season.
Finally, the Arizona Coyotes were the one team everyone agreed was going to struggle. Instead, they won their first three games including an Anthony Duclair hat trick. Now they have dropped three, with the latest loss coming Tuesday in overtime. Have they crashed or does their early success on the 2015-16 NHL season suggest there is more potential?
The longer each team does not follow the projected preseason storyline, the more interesting the Pacific Division is and the higher the chance a new one is being written. If the norm for these teams is Anaheim and Los Angeles as Stanley Cup contenders, San Jose and Calgary winning, Vancouver and Edmonton competing and Arizona losing, that is going to be established by American Thanksgiving.