Two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions have come from the Central Division. These teams have a lot of depth and have the oppertunity to punish any team on every night. Many people are expecting big things this season. I believe three teams will make the playoffs from the Central.
Chicago Blackhawks: (112 points last season, 2nd in West)
State of the Union: The Blackhawks led by Niemi, Toews, and Kane won the Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers last season. Salary cap woes killed the Blackhawks and they had didn’t resign or have to trade ten players from last year. The core offense, led by Toews, Kane, and Sharp, and defense, led by Keith and Campbell (injured now). They now have Marty Turco in net.
Off-season moves: The Blackhawks lost Kris Versteeg, Anti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, and John Madden, among others. To fill all those holes, the Hawks brought in Marty Turco, Viktor Stalberg, and Fernando Pisani.
Biggest question: Will the Blackhawks be able to rebound after losing ten players from last year’s team?
Prediction: 3rd in Central Division.
Columbus Bluejackets: (79 points last season, 14th in West)
State of the Union: The Bluejackets had an awful season last year but captain Rick Nash thinks the future will be brighter. Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger along with Nash lead the offense. Mike Commodore and Kris Russell are leading the defense. Chris Mason and Mathieu Garon will provide solid goaltending even though the offense and defense may lack a little.
Off-season moves: The Bluejackets had a quiet off-season but the signing of Chris Clark brings skill and leadership to the roster.
Biggest question: Will the Bluejackets be able to get enough secondary scoring behind Rick Nash?
Prediction: 5th in Central Division.
Detroit Red Wings: (102 points last season, 5th in West)
State of the Union: The Red Wings had a key injury last year to Johan Franzen and coaching indecision to keep playing Osgood over Howard hurt their chances. They finished with only 102 points, a low for their expectations. But now the Red Wings are healthy and are looking to bring the Cup back. Their powerful offense is led by Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Johan Franzen. The defense is led by Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Jim Howard is a star in net.
Off-season moves: The Red Wings brought Mike Modano back home, signing him to a one year deal. They also signed Jiri Hudler and Ruslan Salei to help bring the team together.
Biggest question: Will the Wings be able to stay healthy and pick up where they left off at the end of last season?
Prediction: 1st in Central Division.
Nashville Predators: (100 points last season, 7th in West)
State of the Union: The Predators were a real surprise last year. No one expected them to make the playoffs. They didn’t make it out of the first round, losing to eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Preds are led by Patric Hornqvist, Steve Sullivan, and Martin Erat on offense. They possess one of the best defenses led by Shea Weber and Pecca Rinne in net.
Off-season moves: The Predators traded away star Jason Arnott to the Devils to get younger and free up cap space. With that extra money, they were able to sign Matthew Lombardi, Ryan Parent, and Dan Hamhuis to help the club.
Biggest question: Will Shea Weber be able to provide enough offensive and defensive help for the Predators?
Prediction: 2nd in Central Division.
St. Louis Blues: (90 points last season, 9th in West)
State of the Union: The Blues had a pretty good season last year, just missing the playoffs. They underwent a huge change this off-season. David Backes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie lead the fowards while Erik Johnson and Carlo Colaiacovo lead the defense. Halak will provide great goaltending while Ty Conklin will be a solid backup.
Off-season moves: The Blues signed Halak to cover the loss of Chris Mason in net. Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk are no longer with the team, an injury and retirement respectively. They are replaced internally so there is no huge loss.
Biggest question: Will the Blues be able to overcome early season injuries?
Prediction: 4th in Central Division.
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