blackhawks

NHL Season Preview: Central Division

Arguably the toughest division in the NHL last season with four teams finishing with 100+ points

St. Louis Blues

In typical Blues fashion, St. Louis was shown the door in the first round of the playoffs last season after a STRONG regular season that saw them finish tops in the Central

Key Additions
None to report

Key Departures
F T.J. Oshie to WSH
D Zbynek Michalek
D Barret Jackman

The Blues appear to be the same team on paper as they were last season. Losing Oshie will hurt a bit but I’m confident they will put up yet another stellar regular season. Oshie hadn’t posted the postseason numbers you’d like to see from a guy like him, netting only five goals and four assists in 30 playoff appearances. The Blues will rely on team chemistry and increased production from upcoming stars like Vlad Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.

Prediction: Second round exit from the playoffs

Nashville Predators

In his first year with the Preds, head coach Peter Laviolette certainly brought the #jam getting the squad to finish second in the central last season

Key Additions
D Barret Jackman UFA

Key Departures
None to report

Had the Preds not faced the Hawks in round 1 of the playoffs last season, things may have ended a bit differently for them. Despite the first round exit, the Preds have a bright future and will most likely have a similar regular season compared to last. The addition of Barret Jackman on the backend is basically unfair because they already have Shea Weber, Seth Jones and Roman Josi. That defense, plus the stellar goaltending of Pekka Rinne saw the Preds finish top ten in goals against last season and adding Jackman may get them into the top 5 this year. That just the defense, I haven’t even mentioned budding superstar Filip Forsberg. He’s awesome. Kid had 63 points in his first full rookie season. That’s incredible. The Preds will offer a very balanced scoring attack and a solid defense, and if I know anything about Lavvy they will finish first in the division this season.

Prediction: Second round exit from the playoffs

Chicago Blackhawks

The Stanley Cup Champs are feeling the effects of the salary cap and having a less than stellar offseason. Recent news about Pat Kane is particularly worrisome.

Key Additions
F Artem Anisimov from CBJ

Key Departures
F Brandon Sadd to CBJ
F Patrick Sharp to DAL
G Antti Raanta to NYR

The Hawks are a dynasty. Good now that we have that out of the way, don’t be shocked if you see them in the Cup Final again next year. The team knows how to win and how to build. Plus they still have Corey Crawford, Jonathan Toews and Pat Kane (they hope). That’s basically like having Lebron. They will get you into the playoffs, and can carry a team deep. That being said, I do think the Hawks will feel the effects of the salary cap and fall in the early rounds of the playoffs, albeit a hard fought 7 game series, probably at the hands of the Ducks.

Prediction: First round exit from the playoffs

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild put another strong season together to get into the playoffs and yet again it was the Blackhawks shutting the door on Minnesota’s dreams of Stanley. G Devan Dubnyk is the man and can probs get a free meal in Minny forever.

Key Additions
None to report

Key Departures
F Matt Cooke BUYOUT

The Wild are a deep team and now have a solid goaltender to being the year with in Dubnyk. This is a good thing for the Wild. Barring injury they should put together a decent season. Looking at the stats from last year, the Wild were top five in goals against last year, partly because of the defense but mostly because of the stellar play by Dubnyk. This stat works out particularly well for a team that doesn’t exactly score in bunches. They remind me of the 90s Devils who also had stellar defense and of course Marty between the pipes.

Prediction: The Wild contend for a wildcard spot but lose out to a pacific division foe.

Winnipeg Jets

They weren’t the first to do a white out but it sure was awesome. Formerly the Atlanta Thrashers the hockey hungry Winnipeg faithful got their first taste of playoff action since 2007.

Key Additions

Key Departures

Most Jets fans would probably like to see Dustin Byfuglien moved and that’s understandable. He could haul a decent return and you could start building for the future. Such is not the case. Aside from resigning some guys the Jets haven’t had an offseason to talk about. This could hurt them especially considering other teams have done a lot more to deserve a shot at the postseason.

Prediction: A more competitive pacific division keeps the central division Jets from earning a wild card spot.

Dallas Stars

What happened here? After bursting on the scene in the 2014 playoffs the new look Stars failed to reach the big dance last season

Key Additions
F Patrick Sharp from CHI
D Johnny Oduya UFA
G Antti Niemi

Key Departures
None to report

The Stars are bright for this squad (pun intended) The Stars seem to be heading in the right direction, adding Sharp and Oduya, hoping that the playoff magic will rub off onto the rest of the team. Dallas will have to play better if they hope to make it to the postseason. The Central division is already super competitive. The biggest problem for the Stars last season was keeping pucks out of thier own net. You aren’t going to make the playoffs being in the bottom 5 for goals against. Seemingly Antti Niemi and Oduya will help in this regard but I don’t think it’s enough for the Stars to get back into the playoffs, unless Tyler Seguin scores 150 points, then it’s a whole different ballgame.

Prediction: Tough division to earn a playoff spot, Dallas misses the postseason yet again, but trends upwards.

Colorado Avalanche

Okay what REALLY happened here? I get it, the Central is super competitive but the Av’s  went from finishing first in 2014 to finishing dead last in 2015. That’s tough to explain.

Key Additions
F Mikhail Grigorenko from BUF
F Carl Soderberg from BOS
D Francois Beauchemin UFA
F Blake Comeau UFA

Key Departures
F Ryan O’Reily to BUF

The Av’s have had a pretty stellar off-season thus far capped by the fact that a week after trading O’Reily he get charged in a drunk driving accident. Colorado sure knows when to get out. The Avs should improve this season. Colorado fans would love that. Gabe Landeskog needs to score more than 59 points in a season, you’d like to see more from Nate MacKinnon but the largest issue with the Avs last year, goaltending. Semyon Varlamov played a less than stellar season that saw the team finish in the bottom ten in goals against. Newly added Beauchemin should help calm the defense down and they can work their way back to league average on that front. All in all the Avs will not finish in the basement of the division again. If they can get solid production from Soderberg and Comeau combined with a better performance from the rest of the offense they should be fine.

Prediction: No playoffs

photo credit: Corey Crawford via photopin (license)

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