Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 1/25/13
1. The Los Angeles Kings Photo Credit: Gary Hershorn/REUTERS Despite the Kings’ sluggish start to the season, I have no doubt that they will find a way to bounce back and reclaim the division.  There is too much talent and consistency in LA.  Suffering virtually no losses from last year’s Stanley Cup team, the Kings are in great shape to keep doing what they have been doing.  A late start to the season allowed goaltender Jonathan Quick to recover from his injury, and although alternate captain Anze Kopitar hurt himself playing overseas, he has rejoined the team in the first week.  In order to be successful again, look for production from the Kings’ depth at center: Kopitar (who scored 76 points last season), Mike Richards (44), Jaret Stoll (21), and hybrid center/right winger Jeff Carter (34).  In addition, look for captain Dustin Brown to build on his 54 points from last season. 2. The Anaheim Ducks Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE Put simply, I just expect too much to come out of the “big three” of the Ducks – assuming none are dealt mid season.  First, 27-year-old Ryan Geltzlaf is coming off of a career low in goals (11) and points (57).  Bobby Ryan, who surprisingly survived last season in Anaheim and was not traded, put up solid numbers, with 31 goals and 26 assists.  Finally, winger Corey Perry had a letdown season after he scored 50 goals and tallied 98 points two years ago, but still put together a respectable 60 points last season.  Not only do the Ducks boast these three scorers, though.  Anchoring the back unit is young, 21-year-old defenseman Cam Fowler.  I may be placing unrealistic expectations on Fowler this year, but in what will be his third season in the bigs, I expect Fowler to lead the Ducks to the playoffs this year. 3. The San Jose Sharks (AP) Trending with the success of Bay Area teams in the last calendar year, I believe the Sharks will exceed expectations this year and finish above the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars.  Although the team hasn’t made any glaring improvements, I’m expecting Antti Niemi to improve on his first two years in San Jose.  Niemi’s GAA has hovered around 2.40 and his SV% around .918 over his first two years with the Sharks.  Although those numbers were enough to give the Sharks second in the division last year, he is going to need to do better to have the Sharks make the playoffs in 2013.  Expect normal production from veterans Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle.  One player I am intrigued by, however, is center Logan Couture.  The 23-year-old’s point totals have grown since his first season in the league in 2009, and I expect this trend to continue.  He has the possibility to play with great playmakers, and if Couture can step up, the Sharks can go places. 4. The Phoenix Coyotes Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr Although Phoenix finished atop the Pacific Division with 97 points last season, I cannot see them reproducing their magical year in 2013.  Hindered by the off-ice distractions of management and ownership, the Coyotes franchise was in limbo.  Factor in the Shane Doan chronicles, and the offseason drama put Phoenix in the spotlight.  In my mind, the star and the most important part of the Coyotes’ team is the play of Mike Smith.  However, he injured his lower body in a game against the Blue Jackets.  If he is not able to return to top form soon, the Coyotes are in big trouble.  One player I like this year is Oliver Ekman-Larsson.  After scoring 13 goals as a defenseman last year, I think if he can build on his totals, he is bound for stardom.  At only 21 years of age, he is a great up-and-coming new face of the Coyotes franchise.  For the Coyotes to make a push in the division, the team needs to stay healthy.  Only then will they be able to make a run at the teams on top of them. 5. The Dallas Stars (AP) I just have a gut feeling that I don’t like the Stars this year.  There is really no justification for that, except maybe a lack of star power.  Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson are solid players, but I just don’t see any standout offensive star.  Eriksson did put up 71 points last year and Benn did score 63, but gone is Mike Ribiero.  Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas make up a decent top defensive pair, but I don’t think it can control or match the other teams in this division.  The brightest spot of this team is goaltender Kari Lehtonen.  After posting a 2.33 GAA last year, I like Lehtonen’s play a lot.  I wish there was more I could say about the Stars team, but all they really have done is bring in Jaromir Jagr, who I strongly dislike, just like the rest of the league does.  The Stars are decent, but aren’t good enough to challenge the top of this division.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Three teams achieve separation in Aldridge chase

WATCH: Serena Williams wags finger at Wimbledon crowd, says, 'Don’t try me'

Report: Rajon Rondo headed to Sacramento Kings

Dez Bryant deal with Cowboys could be announced Monday

Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly sign long-term contracts with Columbus, Buffalo

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mavs solidify future, sign Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan

A-Rod, Yankees settle dispute over home run milestone bonus

Report: Robin Lopez, Knicks finalizing four-year deal

Becky Hammon will coach Spurs' Summer League team

Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: ‘I don’t think we have any issues’

Yankees get A-Rod's 3,000th hit ball for $150,000 donation

The top American sports moments since the last Fourth of July

Nine former college football rivalries that need to come back

The most patriotic uniforms in American sports

Jeanie Buss: Brother Jim will step down if Lakers don't make deep run within two seasons

DeAndre Jordan to Dallas: The Los Angeles Clippers are literally mad men

Remember when the Cincinnati Bearcats were the scariest team in America?

Are the Angels now the worst organization in baseball?

Five reasons the Browns should play Johnny Manziel

Blue Jays need rookies to keep producing for success in 2015

WATCH: Sean Doolittle gets cup check from teammate

University of Florida developing high-tech smart mouth guard

Pat McAfee is the best punter in NFL history

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Russell Wilson 'would definitely consider' playing for Mariners

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

LBS on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how how it went

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

A brief history of non-star All-Stars

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.