NHL Pacific Division Notebook: Hockey In Seattle a Reality

Seattle NHL

History was made yesterday, as the NHL became the second major professional sports league in North America to go to 32 teams. The 32nd member of the league was officially awarded to Seattle, making the worst kept secret in sports a reality. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the NHL did something smart before the NBA could. The league has tapped into a market desperate for a winter team.

The NHL hit an absolute homerun with the Vegas Golden Knights, and I think they just smack another fastball deep into the outfield. Seattle will have a world-class building to go with a large population and TV market starving for a team outside of the Seahawks and Mariners. Although the team won’t start play until October 2021, the excitement can be felt all throughout the hockey community.

Bottom line is, this is a huge win for the league and for the sport. The Pacific Northwest is a largely untapped area with strong hockey roots that is already throwing its money behind this team. With a strong ownership group and some strong hockey minds in place, this team has a chance to be a hit right from the start.

The league also achieves the conference and divisional balance it has been searching for, while finally giving Vancouver a legit geographical rival. There will be bumps along the way, but overall I think the NHL absolutely did the right thing yesterday in awarding Seattle the 32nd member team.

Central Coyotes:

The Coyotes won’t be happy, but a move to the Central Division makes far too much sense for them. You aren’t going to move any of the California teams, Seattle or Vancouver out there, and you aren’t going to split Vegas from LA either. You could move one of Calgary or Edmonton, but are you seriously going to split up the Battle of Alberta? You’d be an idiot to do so.

The Yotes aren’t happy, but what other option did the league have? Perhaps they could have sent Colorado to the Pacific and shifted both Edmonton and Calgary to the Central. In fact, I thought that might be the course of action for the league. The NHL cited Arizona’s increased attendance when teams from the Central are in town, and that’s certainly a good reason to send them considering their attendance woes.

The biggest reason I think Arizona was selected? If things don’t work out, Houston is next in line for an NHL time and would logically fit in the Central Division. Just something to keep in mind moving forward.

Quick Hits:

  • The Edmonton Oilers are a much more structured team under Ken Hitchcock, but the offense is almost all dried up. The good news? They are 4-2-1 under Hitch and have crawled their way back into the playoff race. Taking two out of three from St. Louis, Minnesota and Calgary, a stretch that starts tonight on NBCSN, is imperative. Peter Chiarelli is also feeling the heat to get his coach another top-six forward that can actually put the puck in the net. A reunion with Patrick Maroon should not be discounted whatsoever.
  • Is there a quieter team dominating right now than Calgary? A team that many thought was going to be built off of defense is using an elite offense to collect points with easy. Last night’s nine goal outburst covered up one of the worst defensive and goaltending performances I’ve seen all season long. Doesn’t matter, Calgary’s big dogs stepped up and they got two points. They are without doubt the best team in Alberta and I think are a mortal lock for the playoffs. Will be interesting to see if the Flames try and add a netminder between now and the deadline.
  • Really, really like Vancouver picking up Josh Leivo for scraps. He didn’t get a fair shake in Toronto because of the numbers game, but I think there is a player here. He scored well during his entire AHL career and I thought looked good when Mike Babcock actually used him. He’s going to get ample opportunity in Vancouver, and as of this writing has already scored in the Canucks’ game against Minnesota.
  • If I’m the LA Kings, I’m taking a long and hard look at rebuilding this thing. The core group isn’t getting and younger or any faster, and you could get a decent return on guys like Alex Martinez and Jake Muzzin. I’m not saying trade Kopitar and Doughty, but I’m saying it might be time to change out the cast around them and rebuild it.
  • How the hell are the Ducks in a playoff spot right now? They haven’t been playing good hockey all season long but John Gibson is playing at an elite level. If they sneak into the playoffs, I’d honestly consider Gibson for MVP, he’s been that good for them. How about Pontus Aberg, huh? He went from waived by Edmonton in preseason to leading the Ducks in goals through the first week of December. Todd McLellan’s trash is Randy Carlyle’s treasure apparently.
  • What is going on with the Sharks? They are sitting on the playoff bubble right now and have not taken off like many predicted coming into this season. I’m not worried about them yet, but I wonder at what point Doug Wilson starts to sweat a little. If this thing hasn’t revved up by the All-Star break, things could get interesting.
  • Vegas is getting a huge break by being exempt for the 2021 Seattle expansion draft. They’ve earned that break, however, because everyone thought they would be a tire fire still. That’s not the case at all, as the Golden Knights are starting to get some saves and some bounces now. Remember, they are still without big free agent addition Paul Stastny.

Photo Credit: Bala from Seattle, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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