Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:
Key Addition: Nikolai Khabibulin
Key Losses: Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Daniel Carcillo
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s exactly what you’re getting from the defending Stanley Cup champions this season. The team that put hockey back on the map after the lockout have the most difficult task of defending the Cup…and they’re gonna do it with most of the team intact from the previous season. It may seem like their offseason went by that fast, because it did go by that fast. And with the experience that this team has, they will be a dominant force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
Key Additions: Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich
Key Losses: David Jones, Shane O’Brien, Greg Zanon
It really is a new era for the Avalanche. Patrick Roy is now head coach and 2013 No. 1 pick Nathan MacKinnon will be a contender to win the Calder Trophy this season. But when you take a look at the short-term picture, this team has a long way to go before they look like the team that won eight straight division titles in the mid-90s-early-2000s.
Key Additions: Tyler Seguin, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, Sergei Gonchar, Dan Ellis
Key Losses: Loui Eriksson, Eric Nystrom, Philip Larsen
Sometimes, a quality trade will help the team be better. When the Stars traded Loui Eriksson to Boston for Tyler Seguin, this was a quality trade that will work both ways for both teams. Also, it’s nice to bring in more veteran experience in. That’s what Shawn Horcoff brings to the table in the Big D.
Key Additions: Nino Niederreiter, Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke, Jonathon Blum
Key Losses: Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Tom Gilbert
The Minnesota Wild are looking to build on a season where they made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With the addition of players like Nino Niederreiter, Keith Ballard, and Matt Cooke, this team could potentially be in contention to steal the division.
Key Additions: Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks
Key Losses: Sergei Kostitsyn, Brandon Yip, Matt Halischuk, Hal Gill, Bobby Butler, Jonathan Blum
The Predators are retooled for this new season. 2013 first-round pick Seth Jones will have the chance to play with Shea Weber, and Viktor Stalberg could potentially be a top-six forward. All in all, the Preds have all the tools they need to make a return trip to the playoffs.
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Max Lapierre, Keith Aucoin, Alex Bolduc, Magnus Paajarvi
Key Losses: David Perron, Kris Russell
Much like last season, I honestly believe the St. Louis Blues are the only team that has a chance to legitimately unseat the Blackhawks atop the Central Division. For one thing, Alex Pietrangelo is gonna wear the Blue Note for a long time. Second, the addition of Derek Roy is a big improvement from David Perron, And third, this may be the time that the Blues have a deep playoff run: one that hasn’t been seen since Joel Quenneville took the Blues to the Western Conference Finals in 2001.
Key Additions: Devin Setoguchi, Michael Frolik, Matt Halischuk, Adam Pardy
Key Losses: Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen
It’s the third season of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets, and it’s about time they want the Whiteout to return. The Whiteout could return with the additions of forwards Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik. Unfortunately, keeping pucks out of their own net might be the primary reason that is preventing the Jets from making a return trip to the playoffs.