Packed Close in the Pacific

With less than two thirds of the season left to play, most divisions seem to fall into at least some semblance of top to bottom order with a substantial chunk of schedule now in the rear view mirror. The exception? The Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

Of the 5 teams termed “Pacific,” though Dallas and Phoenix might rightly maintain geographic gripes, all 5 teams look potent enough at this juncture to finish first, thus equally in danger of a last place result.Taking a look around the league, at least one team in every other division has gone belly-up or lightning speed forward through the early slate of games.

With confidence it can be determined the neither the New York Islanders nor the New Jersey Devils (surprising, this early at least) will win the Atlantic, the Leafs and Senators are extreme long shots at best in the Northeast, the Panthers and Canes can call it a year in the Southeast, Detroit is comfortably atop the Central, and the Oilers seem to have tragically spilled all over the Northwest.

Meanwhile, the Ducks, Stars, Kings, Sharks and Coyotes, while they may not blow away any onlookers in the win column, have put together remarkably solid seasons from top to bottom.Looking forward, however, this poses a problem.

At the current rate, not only will potentially deserving teams find themselves on the outside of postseason play looking in, but none of these cookie cutter outfits seem to have the firepower to make a mark atop the overall conference rankings.

Such a thorough collection of good not great units has little advantage on an individual team basis, discounting fan advantages such as competitive hockey and an intriguing playoff race down the stretch, were the status quo to hold.

Can the Ducks assert themselves atop this homogenous second tier grouping and make the jump to the elite level of NHL competition? Well, to this point, we stand as good a chance as the rest of our Pacific brethren.