Welcome to the third part of this four part series! Today I will be giving my predictions for the central division. As always let me know what you think, either here or on twitter (@NHLsensandstuff). I will be using the 3 tier system, Out of playoffs, Wild card and Division lead to show where about I think teams will be competing for.
Out of Playoffs
7. Colorado Avalanche
The only team in this division, and is it really a surprise? They didn’t do much this off season to get better and they were one of the worst teams ever to play in the cap era last year. Now granted, I think they will be slightly better this year just because last year was a mix of lack of skill, but also lots of bad luck, and 0 goal tending. If Varlamov decides to stop even a few more pucks they will get a few more points, still no where enough to get out of the basement of the league though.
Wild Card Hunt
6. Chicago Blackhawks
5. St.Louis Blues
4. Dallas Stars
So many hot takes here. This is the year, in my opinion the once dynasty Blackhawks finally break. Getting rid of Hjalmarsson was absolutely mind boggling, a very under rated defenceman. Along with losing TVR on top of that who yes, is not a great defenceman but is still a good number 6 and also Brian Campbell. That blueline was already rough, it is going to be so bad (other than Duncan Keith) next year. The loss of Hossa is also a massive killer, while old he was still very valuable. I don’t see Kane, Saad, Toews, Keith and Crawford being able to pull all the rest of the dead weight that is this team back to the playoffs (however it is Chicago and I could be so totally wrong and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit). As for the Blues, I just think this division is better. The Blues are a fine team that added Brayden Schenn this offseason. Their defense is pretty solid and the offense isn’t the worst either. It all depends on Jake Allen. Does he play brutal like he did in the first half of the year? Or does he play much better and solid like he did in the second half? Or does he go round 1 playoffs all year and win the vezina?? Probably not the third one. But i think the blues will be a little better than the Hawks and compete for a wild card spot. Who knows, they may even be a favourite to claim one. As for the Stars, I think they have had a real solid offseason. Bringing in Radulov to help an already STACKED offense is amazing and a massive pickup. They improved their goaltending by adding Ben Bishop and buying out Niemi. I don’t think Bishop is going to be a massive head turner, but he is an improvement. Their defense was helped by bringing in Mark Methot, it is still a weak blueline though. However, they should have the offense to just over power teams and should for sure be back to competing for playoffs this year, I have them as a strong contender for one of the wild card spots.
3. Minnesota Wild
2. Winnipeg Jets
1. Nashville Predators
Minnesota is the weakest out of these three teams, and I can see them even slipping out of the top 3. But I still think they are really solid and I really like Devan Dubnyk. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep playing his vezina style, as he has been a top 3 goalie in the league for the past 2-3 years now. If so, I see no reason why Minnesota shouldn’t make it. They were robbed of a playoff series win last year by Jake Allen. Their offense is and their defense is good as well. Look for them to compete for the division but probably not get it. The Winnipeg Jets. A team so full of star power it is mind blowing that they have been so bad the past two years. I feel like a broken record saying this, because I have said it almost every year for like 4 years. But, this is the year the Jets finally make it over the hump and into the playoffs/actually win a playoff game, and quite possibly at least one series. They are stacked up front with Blake Wheeler, maybe the most underrated forward in the NHL today, Scheifele. Little, Ehlers, Petan and Laine. They also have a great blueline with Byfuglien, Morrissey, Enstrom, Myers and now Kulikov. Their biggest problem for the past few years? Goaltending. It has been brutal at times and cost them many points. This year they went out and got Steve Mason, a very underrated goalie. He is not going to be winning the vezina, but he is a solid league average starter which is all a team like this really needs. If Mason puts up average starting numbers and is the 15-17th best starter in the league I see no reason why Winnipeg should not be having home ice advantage in the first round of these playoffs. Lastly, Nashville. The best team in the Central and probably the West. A cup contender once again this year and a legit threat to every team. The best blueline in the league stayed together, and Juuse Saros should be ready to take over for Rinne this year (he is already better than him anyways). Losing Neal hurt the offense, but adding Bonino was solid, while maybe overpaid still solid for this season. And the Scott Hartnell signing was a brilliant signing. He is still a very good player, not a star but he will help the team for sure. Look for Nashville to be back on top this year as a legit cup contender.
Those are my predictions! Let me know what you think and stay tuned for the final part, the Pacific. Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading!
My name is Alex, this is my page, all thoughts are mine and feel free to comment on what you think! Enjoy!