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Pacific Division: Teams With the Biggest Unanswered Questions

Every team in the Pacific Division has questions heading into the 2023-24 NHL season. Which is the hardest to answer?

Going into the 2023-24 NHL season, the Pacific Division is looking like it will be a three-horse race, with the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, and Los Angeles Kings the favorites to be playoff contenders. Calgary is a wild card, while Anaheim and San Jose are likely miles away from really competing. The Seattle Kraken should be good again, and the Vancouver Canucks are still working on their identity.

Which team has the biggest unanswered question going into the season and if it remains unanswered, could it derail that respective team’s season?

The Anaheim Ducks and Their Coaching

A young team with skill, the Ducks added some grit and experience this summer, but the biggest question is coaching, where Greg Cronin is now running the show. After a lengthy coaching career that spans involvement in launching the U.S. National Team Development Program, and stints as an assistant or head coach at various college and pro levels, 60-year-old Cronin makes his NHL head coaching debut.

His AHL record with the Colorado Eagles shows he can lead winning teams, but how will the Ducks’ top stars respond to the change behind the bench? He’s a stickler for details and development, and he doesn’t shy away from criticizing his players. Will the Ducks buy-in and move up in the standings?

Who Is Staying in Calgary?

Elias Lindholm, along with several other Flames players including Noah Hanifin and Mikael Backlund, remains without a contract extension. The biggest question there is who is staying and who is leaving.

Calgary Flames know that they might have a chance to retain two stars, but one is leaving.

Such a cluster of impending free agents is never ideal heading into a season where the team made sweeping changes in management and coaching, and some of their big-name stars are looking for rebound seasons. It sounds like the Flames are waiting to make the big trades and that is only going to increase the speculation surrounding the team.

Can Jack Campbell Bounce Back?

Stuart Skinner had a solid 2022-23 season but struggled a bit in a pivotal playoff series against the Golden Knights. Jack Campbell played well in the post-season but had lost the confidence of the coaching staff. The Oilers need Skinner to show more consistency and Campbell needs to be the player Edmonton thought they were signing as a big-ticket free agent.

It’s too early to suggest Campbell isn’t being considered the starter this year, but the job is likely Skinner’s to lose. Campbell needs to have a better year or there could be trouble in goal for the Oilers.

Is Dubois Going to Mesh With the Kings?

Acquiring 25-year-old Pierre-Luc Dubois was a big move this summer for the Kings. They paid a hefty price to get him and then gave him big money to stick around. The problem with Dubois is that he’s built a bit of a reputation for being less than fully committed.

Pierre Luc Dubois Kings trade rumors
Pierre Luc Dubois Kings trade rumors

What are the Kings getting? He has a ton of potential when motivated.

Is This Team Fully Committed to a Rebuild?

There is little doubt the San Jose Sharks will finish near the bottom of the standings, but how much do they commit to getting the best odds at the top pick in next year’s draft? And, how many other trades might they make to pick up other first-rounders?

As the team moves into a scenario where they play the youngsters and live with their mistakes, how much progress can they make and who can this team build around?

Can Seattle Do It Again?

The Seattle Kraken were incredible in 2022-23, but in a competitive Pacific Division, can they do it again? Losing Daniel Sprong and Morgan Geekie in free agency hurts, as does the departure of defenseman Carson Soucy.

What other steps can a player like Matthew Beniers take and will Shane Wright stick in the NHL this year?

Will Elias Pettersson Buy Into the Canucks’ Vision?

Beyond playoff absences and poor starts in the past two seasons, off-ice and locker-room controversies have plagued the team. JT Miller is excited about the upcoming season, but how long before he ruffles feathers again? And, if things don’t go well, what does that mean for superstar Elias Pettersson, who delayed contract talks until after the upcoming season? The Canucks need to prove they are good and get through a season relatively drama-free.

What Big Name Joins Vegas Next?

The Golden Knights head into the new season with a lineup that closely resembles their championship-winning team, but everyone knows the Golden Knights have trouble sticking to the status quo. This summer, they traded Riley Smith to the Penguins and most insiders expect they’ll go big-game hunting at some point.

Their biggest question mark last season was in goal where they went through multiple goaltenders before finding a hero in Aidin Hill. But, that was the playoffs and a 27-game sample. Can he be the man over the stretch of an entire season?

Next: Oilers Odds Of Trading the 2024 First-Round Pick Extremely High

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