It’s not unusual for NHL teams to overperform or underperform their preseason expectations because of all the variability, chance, and luck that plays into how any team does in any one particular season. In the Pacific Division, almost every team — maybe other than the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights — has been a surprise in either a positive or negative direction as we pass the halfway point of the season.
Let’s go team-by-team and look at which Pacific franchises are matching expectations, which ones are playing surprisingly well, and which ones aren’t performing up to par — with an eye toward the NHL betting lines:
Vegas Golden Knights
Of course, the trade for Jack Eichel — who still hasn’t played a game for the Golden Knights — was a big shakeup for Vegas, which has managed to be atop the Pacific despite long-term injuries to Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty at various points. The Golden Knights are almost exactly on pace for their projected 106.5 point total even if their chance to win the President’s Trophy (third-best preseason odds at +450) is looking slim.
On the BetUS Sportsbook, Vegas was the odds-on favorite (-200) to win the Pacific before the season, and they still should bring home the division crown considering how banged-up the Golden Knights have been. They were also +325 to win the Western Conference and +700 to win the Stanley Cup in the preseason, two tasks that are completely doable with how Vegas is getting healthier — and with Eichel’s return around the corner. Vegas is currently -125 to win the division.
Anaheim has unquestionably been one of the NHL’s biggest surprises. The Ducks’ preseason point total over/under was 70.5 and they already have 49 points in 44 games. They were +10000 — by far the longest odds — to win the Pacific and were uniformly considered either the worst or second-worst team in the Western Conference.
Thanks to the play of youngsters Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras and veteran Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim was able to get out to a strong start. The Ducks have since cooled off a bit but are still getting great goaltending from John Gibson and timely contributions from up and down their roster, which is how they’ve been able to hang around a few points behind Vegas. It might be tough for the Ducks to replicate their first-half success, but it’s credit enough for Anaheim to turn a rebuilding season into a potential playoff berth.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were also expected to be pretty bad as they had the third-longest division odds (+2500) and a mediocre 85.5 point total projection. Like Anaheim, they’ve benefited from strong goaltending — 36-year-old Jonathan Quick is having a great season — but Los Angeles’ offensive production has mostly come from veterans, like franchise icon Anze Kopitar and longtime Kings Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe.
Los Angeles also had a good offseason by bringing in Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault, who have both played well. The Kings are essentially tied with Anaheim in the standings and are within striking distance of the Golden Knights at the top so they can make some noise down the stretch. Even with that said, both LA and Anaheim are just +2000 to win the Pacific, which could be good value if you’re betting online.
Calgary GM Brad Treliving decided to keep the Flames’ core intact this offseason and add around the edges. Early on, that decision looked like a brilliant one as Calgary was 15-4-5 in early December and looked poised to take control of the division.
Things didn’t go well in December and have been so-so in January. However, the Flames have a bunch of games in hand on other Pacific teams so Calgary is in a pretty good spot for a team that was +1000 to win the Pacific before the season and is +200 to do so now. The Flames should be able to blow past their 90.5 point total projection granted that Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk can keep carrying a top-heavy offense.
Jacob Markstrom has also been a rock in goal for Calgary and the Flames need him to keep playing to his .924 save percentage behind the Flames’ middle-of-the-pack offense.
San Jose Sharks
San Jose actually had the second-worst odds to win the Pacific (+4000) before the season and has played to right around a point-per-game so far, which hasn’t exactly disproved those preseason projections. The Sharks are headed right for their 83.5 point total over/under even with huge offensive explosions form Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, which isn’t a great sign for how the second half of the season will go.
The Sharks are a below-average offensive and defensive team and just lost star defenseman Erik Karlsson until March after he underwent forearm surgery, dealing another blow to a team that already couldn’t afford to lose any of its playmakers. All things considered, San Jose has done a passable job based on where the Sharks were expected to be but they’re still likely on the outside-looking-in of the playoff race.
It’s safe to say that it has been a tumultuous season in Edmonton. The Oilers won 16 of their first 21 games with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl literally playing out of their minds. Then, the collapse began and Edmonton has gone 4-11-2 since, with both McDavid and Draisaitl expressing their clear frustrations with how the team has played. The goaltending situation has been particularly bad.
The Oilers had the second-best preseason odds to win the Pacific (+500) but their midseason swoon has pushed those down to +1000 and with good reason. Edmonton has won two in a row and has played fewer games than every team in the division other than Calgary, yet the Oilers really need to make some big moves in the next few weeks if they want to hit 97.5 points, their preseason over/under figure.
Expectations were low but optimistic for the Canucks who took a step back in 2020-21 after making the playoffs for the first time in four years in 2019-20. Their Pacific Division odds (+1600) and point total over/under (88.5 points) were both on the low end, however, there was hope that Vancouver’s youth would take a big leap forward and possibly contend in a weak division.
That dream was dashed pretty early on as the Canucks struggled out of the gates and head coach Travis Green was fired when Vancouver was 8-15-2. Bruce Boudreau was hired to replace Green and things turned around immediately as the Canucks won seven straight games before falling back to earth in the past few weeks. They’re in the mix in the Pacific but would need to run off another big streak to really put themselves in a good position. Thatcher Demko has been really good as the bell-cow goalie.
The Kraken are a good example of how unique Vegas was as an elite expansion franchise a few seasons ago. Seattle had the third-best Pacific odds (+850) before the Kraken had ever played a game but, now, they’re in last place and are functionally eliminated from division contention.
Seattle is averaging the third-fewest goals per game and has had dreadfully bad goaltending from Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, who the Kraken expected to form a pretty good goalie duo. It would take a miracle for Seattle to reach 93 points and exceed the preseason point total over/under and Kraken fans can blame separate six- and nine-game losing skids for that.