Central Division Preview

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Central Division Preview

Post by Admin on Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:32 pm

The Central is widely considered by far the toughest division in hockey. All 7 teams are within an arm's reach of the playoffs, and all 7 could make the playoffs in every other division. It doesn't just have playoff contenders in quantity, though, but also in quality. The Nashville Predators lost to Chicago in a hard-fought first round last year, while the Blues need to figure out playoff success. Both look to take big steps forward. And of course, the ever-present Chicago Blackhawks cannot be ruled out despite their recent roster upheaval.

The Teams

Chicago recently underwent another cap-induced roster destruction but will return a solid team. Crawford is a solid but not outstanding goaltender while the D-core remains the same. The projected top 6 for the Hawks includes only three returning players from the Cup run. (Toews, Hossa, Kane) However, they have a decent bottom 6 and should be back in the playoff picture at the very least.

Colorado is the main victim of an incredibly stacked Central division. After going from drafting MacKinnon 1st overall to winning the Central division in one year, they took a step backward, finishing last in the Central albeit with a respectable 90 points. Ryan O'Reilly will not return but the team as a whole should have a nice bounce-back season. Once again however, the quality of competition in the Central likely will keep them out of the playoff picture by year's end.

Dallas could be one of the biggest movers this season. A bounce-back season for Kari Lehtonen and the additions of Antti Niemi, Patrick Sharp, and Johnny Oduya, three Stanley Cup winning players, should have Dallas fans looking forward to making it back to the postseason and further. Their defense isn't outstanding but it should do.


Minnesota is a tough one to predict and a lot of the questions hang on the shoulders of Devan Dubnyk. Was last season the beginning of a turn-around for him? Or was it a flash in the pan? If he returns to the career backup role he occupied pre-Minnesota, the playoffs might be hard to reach with several other teams that appear to be out of the playoff picture. If he's a serviceable starter, though, Minnesota should make it in. The rest of the team is fairly solid, with the only glaring need being a true #1 center.


The signing of Mike Ribeiro paid off nicely last year for the Preds, who lost the Central Division crown last year on the power of a late-season slide. The team could use some more top-end scoring with Forsberg still a bit of a wildcard as far as how much he produces. Nashville has a great defensive core however and Rinne, while old, is still an excellent goalie. The playoffs should be fairly certain, and Nashville could also top the Central this year.


2nd round. 1st round. 1st round. 1st round. These are the playoff exits the last few seasons for the Blues. Their regular-season prowess has never been debated but playoff success has been elusive. They have a solid team without any true weaknesses outside of goaltending and perhaps the shakeup they had this offseason can spark further success. There's no reason to believe St. Louis can't have another 100-point season but the question is how far they can get beyond the success of the regular season.


Winnipeg is another victim of a stacked Central. They made it into the playoffs as the 2nd wild card only to get swept in the 1st round by Anaheim. They return a solid defensive core but could stand to upgrade their forwards a bit. Ondrej Pavelec is a question mark as well. He was solid last season but he hadn't posted a .910+ save percentage since 2010-11 before his breakthrough season last year. They'll be close to a playoff spot and could snag up one if a team ahead of them falters, but they'll likely be on the outside looking in this season.


[imgPLACEHOLDERprediction sheet]


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