Who’s new: F Tyler Kennedy
How they make the playoffs: Antti Niemi shows his Vezina Trophy finalist season was no fluke, giving a talented group in front of him a chance to win every time he starts. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski pick up the slack as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau age.
How they miss the playoffs: The conversion of Brent Burns to a forward doesn’t pay dividends on the score sheet and hurts the Sharks badly on the blue-line. Beyond Dan Boyle, there isn’t much defence in front of Niemi, and things go terribly wrong.
4. Anaheim Ducks*
Last season: 30-12-6, 66 points, 2nd seed in West, lost in conference semi-finals to Detroit
Who’s gone: LW Bobby Ryan
Who’s new: F Jakob Silfverberg, D Mark Fistric
How they make the playoffs: Still in their primes, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry continue to put up impressive numbers, joined by Silfverberg, who is almost as good as Ryan. The goaltending situation with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller works itself out.
How they miss the playoffs: Sheldon Souray’s wrist injury is a crushing blow to the Ducks, especially on the power play. They miss Ryan’s scoring ability as a lot of games turn into shootouts.
5. Edmonton Oilers*
Last season: 19-22-7, 45 points, 12th in West, missed playoffs by 10 points
Who’s gone: F Magnus Paajarvi, C Shawn Horcoff, C Eric Belanger, G Nikolai Khabibulin
Who’s new: LW David Perron, F Steve McIntyre, C Boyd Gordon, D Andrew Ference, D Denis Grebeshkov, G Jason LaBarbera
How they make the playoffs: Dallas Eakins looks like the perfect young coach to get this team over the hump. The core of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov plays well together and Edmonton gets back in it for the first time since 2006.
How they miss the playoffs: The same reason as years past: the defence isn’t good enough. Justin Schultz is still a young player, but the Oilers can’t stop opponents from scoring goals in bunches, and Devan Dubnyk isn’t the answer.
6. Phoenix Coyotes
Last season: 21-18-9, 51 points, 10th in West, missed playoffs by 4 points
Who’s gone: C Boyd Gordon, G Jason LaBarbera
Who’s new: C Mike Ribeiro, F Tim Kennedy, G Thomas Greiss
How they make the playoffs: Ribeiro makes things happen offensively, most notably as a power-play star. The combination of stable ownership and a contending team makes for a great in-arena atmosphere and a bright future in Arizona.
How they miss the playoffs: Mike Smith falters when forced to steal games for the Coyotes, who don’t have enough firepower up front. Beyond Norris Trophy candidate Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the defence is a mess.
7. Calgary Flames
Last season: 19-25-4, 42 points, 13th in West, missed playoffs by 13 points
Who’s gone: LW Alex Tanguay, D Cory Sarich, G Miikka Kiprusoff
Who’s new: C Sean Monahan, RW David Jones, F T.J. Galiardi, D Kris Russell, D Shane O’Brien, G Karri Ramo
How they make the playoffs: Everything goes right, as Ramo turns into a star after his stint in the KHL and leads the league in shutouts. Injuries ravage the rest of the Pacific Division, while young players like Monahan grow up fast.
How they miss the playoffs: Goaltending is, predictably, a disaster, and a team lacking in talent from top to bottom has a historically bad season. New president Brian Burke has his patience tested on a full rebuild, but a top-three draft pick helps for the future.