2015-16 Central Division Preview

Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:

Chicago Blackhawks

Key Additions: Artem Anisimov, Trevor Daley, Ryan Garbutt

Key Losses: Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards

Three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons say a lot if you’re the Chicago Blackhawks, but with a lot of turnover during the offseason, several big names were lost (Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad). But what the Hawks got in return were a second-line center (Artem Anisimov), a second offensive defenseman (Trevor Daley), a bottom-six forward (Ryan Garbutt), and a prospective forward that could end up being better than the player he replaced (Marko Dano). For this team, this is just business as usual. If they do repeat as Stanley Cup Champions this season, this dynasty becomes official, and this team becomes a team for the ages. This is a rare opportunity a select few get to have in their lifetime. Can the Hawks seize this meeting with history with an unprecedented fourth Championship in seven seasons?

Prediction: Central Division Champions

Colorado Avalanche

Key Additions: Blake Comeau, Francois Beauchemin, Carl Soderberg

Key Losses: Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn

The Colorado Avalanche took a step back last season after surprising everyone two seasons ago. And it wasn’t because of lack of talent. The Avs were banged up, and losing Nathan MacKinnon and Semyon Varlamov absolutely hurt their chances last season. Despite losing Ryan O’Reilly in a trade with Buffalo, the Avs got a big name to fill his spot: Carl Soderberg. The Avs should have a bounce-back season, but there are absolutely no guarantees.

Prediction: Seventh

Dallas Stars

Key Additions: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi

Key Losses: Trevor Daley, Ryan Garbutt, Shawn Horcoff

In order for the Dallas Stars to take “the next step forward”, General Manager Jim Nill made a BIG move, acquiring three-time Stanley Cup Champion Patrick Sharp in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Another BIG move was made by acquiring Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks and joining these former Hawks in Big D was defenseman Johnny Oduya. With a combined six Stanley Cup rings between these three players, the Stars are looking to make the quote “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” a mantra Stars fans should believe in this season.

Prediction: Third

Minnesota Wild

Key Additions: None

Key Loss: Kyle Brodziak

At one point, it looked like the Minnesota Wild were all but done. It looked like Mike Yeo was going to get fired. Instead, one move absolutely saved the Wild’s season. After spending most of his career as a backup goalie, Devan Dubnyk had a career year as the Wild’s starting netminder. Literally putting the entire team on his back, the Wild made the Playoffs, and upset the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round. The following round was a complete 180. They faced off against the Blackhawks for the third straight season, and what looked to be a long playoff series turned out to be a four-game sweep the Wild were on the wrong end of. But Dubnyk earned himself a six-year contract, and with that, the expectation of “Can he do it again or is he a one-season wonder?” will arise.

Prediction: Fifth

Nashville Predators

Key Additions: Barret Jackman, Cody Franson

Key Losses: Taylor Beck, Viktor Stalberg

In Peter Laviolette’s first year as Nashville Predators head coach, a once defense-first team became an offense-first team and surprisingly finished second in the Central Division. It was literally and figuratively the most successful season in Predators history. Filip Forsberg had an amazing season in which he should’ve been a finalist for the Calder Trophy. But after losing to the Blackhawks in six games in the first round of the playoffs, not much needs to be changed in the offseason. Getting veteran defenseman Barret Jackman from St. Louis would definitely help the back-end. But like the Avalanche headed into last season, can the Preds prove last season was no joke?

Prediction: Fourth

St. Louis Blues

Key Additions: Troy Brouwer, Kyle Brodziak

Key Losses: T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman, Zbynek Michalek

This season is going to be an absolute gut-check in St. Louis. With all the successes the Blues had over the last three seasons, including another Central Division title last season, they couldn’t find success where it mattered the most. For the third straight year, the Blues were ousted in the first round of the Playoffs in six games. This could be the last chance for head coach Ken Hitchcock to give the Blues a potential deep run at the Stanley Cup. Everything is set for the team that wears the Blue Note. Is Troy Brouwer the final piece to the puzzle, and was it worth trading T.J. Oshie to Washington?

Prediction: Second

Winnipeg Jets

Key Addition: Matt Fraser

Key Loss: Michael Frolik

Not much needed to be changed in Winnipeg, because for the first time in 18 years, the Whiteout returned. The Jets returned to the playoffs as one of the two wild-card teams that qualified for the playoffs last season. Despite being swept by the Anaheim Ducks in four staight games, just making the playoffs exceeded expectations in Winnipeg. Heading into this season, all the Jets need to do is build off of that momentum, and bring in confidence that they can do it again this season. This is definitely not the last you will hear about the Jets this upcoming season.

Prediction: Sixth

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