Anaheim Ducks: A
I thought the Anaheim Ducks would be at the bottom of this division, and possibly the NHL. I was not at all prepared for their young stars to take over in the way that they have this season, and because they’ve been so effective, I believe that the Ducks will be in playoff contention all season.
It’s possible that they could still miss out, but I feel that with the young core that has been assembled, taking this step forward in the 2021-2022 season is a major win. The Ducks were abysmal last year, finishing last in the West Division and sporting one of the worst goal differentials in the league.
Yet, here they are. Anaheim doesn’t have to make the playoffs for this season to be a success. As long as the Ducks don’t have some type of meltdown late in the season, there will be nothing but positives to take from this year.
Calgary Flames: B
Another team that has exceeded my expectations, though not nearly by as much, is the Flames. Calgary has been a bit puzzling in the way that they have failed to find success in recent years, but this year seems more appropriate for this roster.
The defense has been very strong all season for the Flames, and I trust that that will continue with Jacob Markstrom in goal. The reason, then, that I only gave this club a B, is that I knew all along that it should be this good. It’s the fact that it has underachieved lately that made me feel low on Calgary coming into this season.
There should be some pressure in Alberta to keep the winning ways going in the second half of the season. The Flames have not been quite as good since the calendar flipped to 2022, but the games in hand that they have over some division rivals could bode well for their playoff hopes.
Calgary can’t afford to miss the playoffs again, but I’m not going to give the Flames too much praise for performing the way that they should. Still, they’ve rebounded nicely so far, so the grade is a B.
Edmonton Oilers: F
Does an F seem a little too harsh? Maybe, but I think it’s time to be brutally honest when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers. The talent at the top of this lineup cannot be overstated, but the depth behind those stars is wildly insufficient.
Let me give the Oilers at least some credit. The team made some quality moves in the offseason to bring in more talent, and for the first quarter of this season, it worked. However, the lack of depth in Edmonton is a large problem that needs to be continuously addressed, and the Oilers have done nothing lately to make the team better.
Instead, this team is struggling through a terrible stretch of hockey that has it well outside the playoff picture. The Pacific Division looks a little stronger than I expected, but I still don’t believe that it’s one of the better divisions in the NHL. As a result, the top-heavy Oilers should struggle in the playoffs, rather than struggle to even get there.