Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:
Key Additions: Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank
Key Losses: Andrew Brunette, Sean O’Donnell, Sami Lepisto
Last season, the Blackhawks were just caught trying to play catch-up in a tough division. Not much as changed, but most of the key pieces that were injured (Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Dan Carcillo) are all back and are back to full strength. Most importantly, this is a make-or-break season for forward Patrick Kane and goaltender Corey Crawford. If Kane or Crawford do not live up to expectations, they could be trade bait once the season is over.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Additions: Adrian Aucoin, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno
Key Loss: Rick Nash
The Jackets are now in rebuilding mode after trading away their best player, Rick Nash, to the New York Rangers. The Jackets have nothing to prove this year, so it’s best to leave it at that.
Detroit Red Wings
Key Additions: Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Carlo Coliacovo, Jonas Gustavsson
Key Losses: Nick Lidstrom, Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom
What was once the mighty and unstoppable Red Wings now looks like the Michigan Central Depot: grandeur with a big ol’ question mark located in the front. No one can replace a Lidstrom or a Holmstrom, but even if you have a Datsyuk or a Zetterberg or a Kronwall or a Howard powering an Original Six team, I just don’t know if the Red Wings will be the team like they once were this year.
Key Additions: Scott Hannan, Chris Mason
Key Losses: Ryan Suter, Alex Radulov, Jordin Tootoo
The Predators had a big scare this offseason. They nearly lost their top-two defensemen. But they did lose a potential top scorer, Alex Radulov, to the KHL. Luckily, Preds captain Shea Weber and franchise goalie Pekka Rinne signed themselves to long-term deals to stay in Nashville. Unfortunately, without Ryan Suter by Weber’s side, the Preds are not gonna be that defensively strong as they were last season.
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: Wade Redden, Jeff Woywitka, Andrew Murray
Key Losses: B.J. Crombeen, Carlo Coliacovo
Like I said last year, the Blues were the Western Conference’s dark horse. They proved to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference, finishing second behind Vancouver. This season, they now have to live up to expectations, and prove to the world again that they’re still the team to beat in the Central Division. Not much has changed, but quite frankly, this division is a match race between the two teams separated by Interstate 55.