The NHL Nosebleed writers break down their predictions for the Central Division.
By NHL Nosebleed Team
Chris Yackel's Predictions
1. Nashville Predators
Fresh off winning the Presidents Trophy and a playoff disappointment in the second round last year not many are talking about the Nashville Predators going into this season. I think this team will be a cup threat again this year and people will definitely start talking about them again.
2. Winnipeg Jets
This team was 3 wins shy of going to the Stanley Cup Final. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be back in a position like that in the spring. The Jets boast an extremely deep lineup from top to bottom and should be a cup threat just as Nashville is. Those two teams might meet in the playoffs again if all goes the way it should.
3. St. Louis Blues
The Blues did a lot to sure up their lineup this offseason as they were extremely active. They signed both center Tyler Bozak and winger David Perron. St. Louis also traded for center Ryan O’Reilly. This team is now very deep at the center position and boast great forward depth in general. They are strong defensively as well. Goaltending may be an issue, but if Jake Allen can find consistency than there is no reason the Blues can’t contend in the West.
4. Dallas Stars
Dallas looks to make the playoffs again after a two year absence. The Stars had a lock on a playoff position last season, but a dismal March left them on the outside looking in. Look for the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to not let that happen again. The Stars have a lot of offensive firepower along with Benn and Seguin as Alex Radulov and defenseman John Klingberg an offensive punch. If the defense can hold up and if Ben Bishop can stay healthy, I think this team will be back in the playoffs.
5. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche shocked the hockey world last season with a massive improvement in the standings which resulted in a playoff berth. There are still questions however if they can do it again. Nathan MacKinnon had a breakout season can he replicate it? Does this team have enough depth? Who will start in net? Lots of questions, we’ll see how they are answered as the season plays out.
6. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are a team that did nothing, but get another year older and saw the rest of their division get stronger. This is a veteran team that does not have the star power to get to a second round or third round in the playoffs when all goes right. A lot went right last year, however, this year don’t count on Eric Staal to score over 40 goals. Don’t count on everyone outside Zach Parise to stay healthy. The only thing they can count on is Devan Dubnyk. I see a major regression for this team as the rest of their division just got so much better. This team will compete, but they won’t make it to the dance.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks missing the playoffs last season was not a one off. I think this team will not contend again anytime soon. Jonathan Toews has lost a major step in his game, this team is not deep enough both offensively and defensively and Corey Crawford can’t stay healthy. Even Patrick Kane who still is a stud and hasn’t lost anything can’t pick this team up as he approaches 30 years old. This team is looking at another bleak season as changes may be on the way in Chicago if that happens.
Kevin Ebert's Predictions
The Predators came out this past year strong during the season, winning the Presidents Trophy. After though, they didn’t look so good. They had a rougher time getting through Colorado then some expected and lost to Winnipeg in 7. I expect them to show that they have all the players to regroup and show that their Presidents Trophy win wasn’t just a one year thing. They have the best defense corps in the league and arguably the deepest team in the league. Expect another Central Crown and deep playoff run.
The Jets showed last year why they are considered one of the best up and coming teams in the league. With players like Schiefele, Wheeler, Laine, Byfuglien, they have a great young group that is only going to get better. Not only this, but to see Hellebuyck come out and provide a Vezina type season, proved it even more. I anticipate the Jets will again challenge the Predators for the top spot and brighten the flame of a new rivalry.
3.St Louis Blues
The Blues are probably the team that most the sound with roster moves out west. They transformed their team, bringing in Tyler Bozak, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Patrick Maroon. While some of these moves don’t sound as amazing as Tavares, it provides the Blues with exactly what they needed. The Blues will make the playoffs and be a Cup contender come playoff time.
MacKinnon brought this team right out of the gutter this past year. Like Hall in New Jersey, he was one of the main reasons the Avalanche were able to make the playoffs. Although they are building a lot of pieces out in Colorado, I don’t think this team makes the playoffs but they will be dangerous.
The Stars fell short in all sweepstakes this summer. They weren’t able to put enough together to snag Tavares, Karlsson or O’Reilly. They re-signed Seguin to an 8-year deal, but did nothing to bring this tearm to another notch which I believe is necessary. I think it’ll take another year or so before this team becomes a legitimate Cup contender.
Boy, how the mighty have fallen. Only a few years removed from winning the Cup 3 times in 6 years, the Blackhawks looked very bad this past year. They may not know it, but this team needs to go into full rebuild mode. The length big contracts really ate them up but they have a nice young group to start a new dynasty.
Minnesota looked really bad in the playoffs this past year. They got beaten up badly by the Jets and I don’t think this next year is really going to change that. I think this team is going to collapse this next year and start selling off their pieces.
Colin Noonan's Predictions
I think it’s up for debate whether Winnipeg or San Jose is the team to beat in the west. In the central though? It’s the Jets division to lose. With Scheifele, Wheeler, Laine, Connor, Trouba, Myers, Byfuglien as well as trendy Vezina pick Connor Hellebuyck this team literally has no weakness. They still have to prove they can do the business in the spring, but I expect the Jets to win the central and be in contention for the President’s Trophy.
The way their President’s Trophy winning season ended surely left a bad taste in Smashville’s mouth, but there’s still a lot to be excited about with this team. With Josi, Subban, Ellis, and Ekholm anchoring the defense, the Preds boast arguably the best group of defenders in the league. With players like Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, and Filip Forsberg leading the attack and Pekke Rinne in net, expect another strong season for the Preds and even though I think they’ll run the Jets close for the division, they’ll fall just short.
I believe in this team. MacKinnon truly arrived as a superstar last year. Gabriel Landeskog continues to provide strong leadership. They have a strong crop of young forwards in Mikko Rantanen, Alex Kerfoot, and Tyson Jost to supplement the forwards.The defense is a tad suspect outside of Johnson and Barrie but young blueliner Nikita Zadorov could step up. It also remains to be seen how former Capitals backup Phillipp Grubauer handles a #1 workload. They’ll be super fun to watch but I don’t think they’re quite on Nashville or Winnipeg’s level. Yet.
They kinda remind me of a poor man’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Crazy forward talent, defense is suspect. Between the newly re-signed Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and the seemingly invigorated Alexander Radulov, the Stars will be fun to watch on offense. On the blueline things get kinda hairy. Klingberg is one of the game’s premier defensemen but after that the cupboard is pretty bare. Miro Heiskanen is a very promising prospect but it’s not really reasonable to expect a rookie to come in and play like Lidstrom from day one. They’ll be in the hunt for the playoffs but if they miss out, blame the defense.
5. St. Louis Blues
They made some big moves, signing Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon but I don’t know this just kinda feels like a team that missed the boat to me. Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester will anchor an always solid defense and O’Reilly and Tarasenko will probably be dangerous but I just cannot shake the feeling that the Blues’ best days are behind them with this core.
6. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are a snowglobe team. Topheavy. No one is doubting the talent of players like Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crawford. It’s after that where the concern arises. The Brent Seabrook contract has turned into one of the league’s worst and beyond their stars there just isn’t a whole lot there. With how much cap they have tied into so few players it’s tough to see how they can solve that problem without blowing things up.
7. Minnesota Wild
Bringing up the rear we have the Minnesota Wild. The state of hockey is in a state of decay. Zach Parise’s career he’s been derailed by injuries and other than the Eric Staal comeback tour (he score 40 goals last year. FORTY) there isn’t a whole lot else on offense. Suter, Brodin, and Dumba form a pretty solid defensive core and Dubnyk will be solid in net, but this team just screams “meh” at best.
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