Season Preview: The Central

Did Columbus do enough to catch up to the Wings?

So here we are again. It seems my plan to post a preview once a week or there abouts kinda feel flat. I apologize. But here we are, a couple of days until the season starts, so I can still make good… or try to anyway. So here I am to cap off the Western conference preview by looking at the Central division.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets (34-35-13 81 pts)

Key Additions:

C Jeff Carter

LW Vaclav Prospal

D James Wisniewski

C Cody Bass

G Curtis Sanford

Key Subtractions:

D Jan Hejda

RW Scottie Upshall

RW Jakub Voracek

G Mathieu Garon

The Blue Jackets are going for broke this year. They finally brought in some help for Rick Nash in Jeff Carter but he is more of a shooter. Still the combo is one of the more potent goal scoring threats in the league. It also gives the Jackets 2 good scoring lines. Much like the Wild, look for a more up temp style form Columbus this year and they have the horses to run. The problem will be on their back end. Sure they landed James Wisniewski (at way too much money) but he will not help the overall team defence. If the Jackets hope to break through and make the playoffs, then Steve Mason will have to be lights out because they do not have solid enough team defence. The Jackets will compete, be more entertaining and are heading in the right direction but Columbus will not be able to crack the top 8 of the extremely competitive Western conference.

New 'cannon' Mascot for the Blue Jackets.....

Saint Louis Blues (38-33-11 87 pts)

T.J. Oshie and the Blues are on the rise.

Key Additions:

C Jason Aarontt

C Scott Nichol

RW Jonathan Cheechoo

RW Jamie Langenbruner

D Ken Huskins

D Danny Syvret

Key Subtraction:

D Nathan Oystrick

RW Cam Janssen

G Ty Conklin

The Blues are probably favourites to be the most improved team this coming season if everything falls into place for them. They added some much needed veteran depth and leadership to the team with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbruner. They will add to a very young and talented team led by T.J Oshie, David Backas, Patrick Berglund, Chris Stewart and (when he is cleared to play) David Perron. On defence Barret Jackman, Kent Huskins and Carlo Colaiacovo will be leaned on to help this young and talented defensive core that includes Alex Peitrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.  Jaroslav Halak will be the number one goalie and will be solid as usual. The Blues will make a charge this year. They will be in the mix for a lower end playoff spot. While the team is good, their core is not ready for prime time just yet. The Blues will compete and be in the mix of things all year long.

Thats SOOOOOOO 2009

Chicago Blackhawks (44-29-9 97 pts)

Jonathan Toews scores vs Canucks in Game 7

Key Additions:

C Jamal Mayers

C/RW Rostislav Olesz

RW Andrew Brunette

RW Dan Carcillo

D Sami Lepisto

D Steve Montador

D Sean O’Donnell

 Key Subtractions:

D Brian Campbell

The Blackhawks realized what they lost last year when they had to move Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien last off season. The Hawks can score with anyone in the league but they lost a lot of their sand paper. Well this off season was dedicated to getting some of it back. Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayer and Sean O’Donnell will add some size and viciousness (mostly Carcillo) to the Hawks line up, couple that with Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Bickell, Seabrook and Keith the Hawks are a downright scary team right now. The hawks could make these important depth moves because they finally got the ridiculous Brian Campbell contract off the books. If they could have made that trade last year we might be talking about the Hawks as repeat champs. Still, having the season they did and the playoff they did can only re-forus them as well as put that chip back on their shoulders. The only thing that can slow the Hawks down is if Corey Crawford cannot continue his great play from last season. If he holds up, the Hawks will be battling for a top spot in the west.

Corey Crawford will need to build on his strong first year. Duncan Keith is still awesome

Nashville Predators (44-27-11 99 pts)

If only Pekka Rinne could score

Key Additions:

RW Niclas Bergfors

RW Zach Stortini

C Brodie Dupont

C Kyle Wilson

D Jake Hillen

D Tyler Sloan

D Brett Lebda

Key Subtractions:

C Marcel Goc

C Matthew Lombardi

D Shane O’Brien

LW Steve Sullivan

RW Joel Ward

D Cody Franson

Nashville is a tough team to gauge. It seems every year people are ready to write them off and Barry Trotz somehow some way wills this team into the playoffs. They did lose some important but replicable players in the off season, but the players they brought in to replace the departed were about the same type of player. It seems as if the Predators stayed the same. All logic points to them making the playoffs again, but they did not improve their roster, they simply maintained it. I think this might be the year the Preds slip back to the pack a little bit. While the Defence is solid, led by Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne the Predators will be hard to score on, but with no real punch up front, they will (again) score by committee and grind wins out as best they can. Add to the fact that if things don’t go well the team will likely trade pending free agent Shea Weber during the season, the Preds need a lot of things to go right to get them back into the playoffs. They won’t be awful but they will step back. Barry Trotz can only squeeze so much out of the same team.

Shea Weber's long goodbye to Nashville.

 

 

Detroit Red Wings (47-25-10 104 pts)

Zetterberg and Datsyuk will lead the Wings again

Key Additions:

RW Chris Connor

D Mike Commodore

D Garnet Exelby

D Ian White

G Ty Conklin

Key Subtractions:

C Mike Modano (Ret.)

RW Kris Draper (Ret.)

D Brian Rafalski (Ret.)

The Red Wings have been the class of the NHL for almost 20 years. They seem to be able to rebuild and reload without ever having to sacrifice wins and the playoffs. Still, it seems as if now father time might be catching up with them. Sure Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will continue to be phenomenal players and the Wings will win more than they lost, but it seems as though all of those years at the top are now catching up with them. The Wings were able to stay ultra competitive because they found Datsyuk and Zetterberg in late rounds of the draft but more often than not you can’t expect to find top 5 talents in the bottom 3 rounds. The Wings did lose Rafalski and Draper, two important parts of their team.  I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here. Let me be straight, the Wings will still be very competitive in the West this year, all I am suggesting is that we might be seeing the start of the decline of the Wings. The defence will be again led by otherworldy Nick Lidstrom who can conceivably play until the end of time and still look like the best player out there. The defence is experience and will insulate Jimmy Howard very well. The Wings do need to sure up their dreadful penalty kill from last season. The Wings were 23rd in goals against last year, which is very un-Red Wings like. Look for the Wings to make a move or two during the season to shore up the team and make a last push for a cup.

Can he play forever??

How they’ll finish:

Chicago 102

Detroit 99

Saint Louis 96

Nashville 90

Columbus 85

 

Thats it for now, I’ll be back with the Eastern Conference and a look at the Southeast.

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One Response to “Season Preview: The Central”

  1. Judy Lapalme says:

    Thanks for the thorough analysis.
    I can hardly wait for the look at the eastern conference

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