Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:
Key Additions: Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny
Key Losses: Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell
There was a lot of turnover for the Chicago Blackhawks, but they did fix the problem of having a fourth defenseman in the offseasson with a returning familiar face. Brian Campbell returns to Chicago after spending the last five seasons in Florida. The major concern for the Hawks this season is forward depth. Can newcomers step up to the plate and prove they belong in the NHL and play a caliber worthy of not just this team, but this league?
Key Additions: Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Colborne
Key Losses: Mikkel Boedker, Zach Redmond, Shawn Matthias, Nate Guenin
After the disaster that was the Patrick Roy coaching era, the Avalanche start fresh with new head coach Jared Bednar. Bednar led the Cleveland Monsters to a Calder Cup championship last season, and he’s a players’coach. Can a new breath of fresh air bring back life into the Avs? It all depends if Nathan MacKinnon can bounce back after back-to-back sub-par seasons.
Key Additions: Dan Hamhuis, Jiri Hudler
Key Losses: Alex Goligoski, Colton Sceviour, Jason Demers, Vernon Fiddler
Last seasons, the Stars were the highest-scoring team in the NHL, and it propelled them to their first Central Division title since 1998. But what hindered them in the postseason was a questionable defense and even questionable goaltending. There was no clear-cut no. 1 goalie, and neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen took full command and carried the team for the majority of the season. Despite resigning team captain Jamie Benn to a max contract (8 years, $76 million), there are still defensive holes that still need to be fixed.
Key Additions: Eric Staal, Chris Stewart
Key Loss: Thomas Vanek
After a somewhat tumultuous season, the Minnesota Wild start fresh with a new coach. Bruce Boudreau goes to his third NHL team, and usually wherever he goes, success comes with him – regular-season success, that is. During his time in Anaheim, he led the Ducks to four straight Pacific Division titles. He earned that success because that team was built in the same way the team he coached prior, the Washington Capitals, was buikt. The Wild aren’t built in that same manner, but in a highly-competitive division like the Central, play like that could be encouraged to survive. Also, the Wild got some help on offense with the addition of Eric Staal. The big question is: is this the same Eric Staal that made a name himself in Carolina, or is this the Eric Staal that struggled as a rental player with the New York Rangers?
Key Additions: P.K. Subban, Matt Carle
Key Losses: Carter Hutton
Sometimes, it takes one move to put you over the top. When the Predators traded Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, they got a playmaking defenseman that’s fit for the Western Conference. And after a playoff run in which they beat the Anaheim Ducks in Seven Games, and pushed the San Jose Sharks to the brink, it’s safe to say the Preds have taken a HUGE step in becoming a Central Division top-three team.
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: David Perron, Landon Ferraro
Key Losses: David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott
Last season’s playoff run was the first time the Blues appeared in the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. However, this season – their 50th – is a season unlike any other. They are hosting a Winter Classic. It’s head coach Ken Hitchcock’s final season. and they are hoping that last season was absolutely no fluke. Despite the losses of David Backes, Troy Brouwer, and Brian Elliott, the Blues should STILL contend for top spot in the Central. The reasons are simple:
- Jake Allen should be ready as the Blues no. 1 goalie.
- Second-year players Colton Parayko and Robby Fabbri are gonna build off of their amazing rookie campaigns.
- Alex Pietrangelo is the perfect choice to be the Blues’ new captain.
- Good luck trying to stop Vladimir Tarasenko.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
Key Addition: Shawn Matthias
Key Losses: None
The Jets are in the middle of a transitional phase. Since Andrew Ladd left, the Jets are slowly building themselves back up again, and one of those key cogs is 2016 first-round pick (second overall), Patrik Laine. Laine is a top-six sniper; a surefire top-line player. He could have the same impact that Teemu Selanne had 23 years ago with the original Jets. Also, with three goaltenders (Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck), the jets need to find a clear and concise no. 1 goaltender, and that is most likely going to be Hellebuyck.