The new 24 team NHL playoff format has opened the window for many teams to squeeze into playoff contention, giving some players a chance to capture Lord Stanley for the first time. So who deserves to capture their first ring among the Pacific Division playoff teams? Let me break it down for you.
Arizona Coyotes: Derek Stepan
Stepan is best known for his time on the Rangers. He was a major boost down the middle for New York when he arrived. He was drafted in the 2nd round by New York in 2008 and made his debut in 2010. His most famous goal is of him scoring the game 7 overtime goal against Washington in 2015. He had to say goodbye to the Big Apple in 2017 when he was traded to Arizona along with goalie Antti Raanta. Stepan has fit in well with the young, energetic Coyotes team, but hasn’t truly shined like they may have hoped. He had a shot at the cup in 2014, which was a loss to Los Angeles in five games in the final. Stepan has waited long enough for another chance and this could be his year.
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Oh, captain my captain. Giordano has had his fair share of moments in his career to be proud of. An undrafted defenseman out of Owen Sound becoming captain is pretty spectacular in this league. Also getting passed the torch to captain the Flames after Iginla left is not an easy task and Giordano has been excellent. Since his debut in 2005-06, he has tallied 483 points in 893 games. Not too bad. Capturing the Norris trophy last year for the league’s best defenseman adds to his solid career highlights. He is looking to solidify that resume as one of the best in franchise history by helping Calgary win the cup for the first time since 1989. Go for it Gio.
Edmonton Oilers: James Neal
The “Real Deal” James Neal is back in the playoffs. Throughout his career, Neal hasn’t had much luck in the playoffs in terms of sealing the deal. He lost back-to-back finals with Nashville and Vegas in 2017 and 2018. However, he still remains a very lethal goal scorer in this league. The former 2nd round pick of Dallas has played on six teams in his career and four teams in the last four seasons. Neal now lands in Edmonton playing alongside McDavid. A healthy Neal is a bad sign for any opponent that comes Edmonton’s way this year. That wicked wrister and will to go to the net is deadly. Neal has suffered enough in this league these last couple seasons and a championship will make it all worth it.
Vancouver Canucks: Alex Edler
The 2004 3rd round pick of Vancouver has been through everything with the Canucks. Edler was a solid piece of the Canucks team that went to the final in 2011. Unfortunately for him, they were bounced in seven games on home ice. Not known for his offense, Edler is a solid shutdown defender who has shown extreme loyalty with Vancouver over the years. Playing his whole 13-year career in Vancouver is impressive. A championship this year would help fulfil a satisfying career. It would also bring Vancouver their first hockey championship since they were the Millionaires in 1915. That’s 105 years since they last won a championship. Now that would be a great time for Edler and Vancouver to end their respective droughts.
Vegas Golden Knights: Deryk Engelland
A man who has touched all our hearts. Engelland was selected from Calgary in the expansion draft in 2017. He is not known for his offensive skill set in this league but is a reliable shutdown defender for Vegas. With no official captain on the team to this day, Engelland has taken on a major leadership role. After the Vegas shootings in the fall of 2017, he gave a heartfelt speech to the Vegas faithful before a game explaining what the city meant to him. He lived in Las Vegas and continues to do so and is the ultimate example of a hometown hero. Engelland and Vegas came up short against Washington in the 2018 Stanely Cup Final. This would be a perfect year for the 38-year-old to become a champion and bring a championship to the NHL’s newest team.
There you have it, my picks for the player I would like to see life the cup from every team in the Pacific Division. Do you agree with my picks? Who would you like to see lift the cup this post-season? Let us know in the comments below.