Welcome to another edition of the Hockeybuzz hotstove.
For the next few days we’ll be giving our predictions by division, and eventually conference, as to how the league standings will look at season’s end.
Up first is the Central Division. Todd Cordell: Chicago Blackhawks
This was a tough call, but ultimately I couldn’t go against the Blackhawks.
Everyone knows about Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and co. but for me it’s the supporting cast that puts them over the top. I think Brandon Saad is in line for a huge year, and I really like what the team did this summer. Chicago dramatically upgraded the 2nd line center position going from Michal Handzus to Brad Richards who, for all the heat he takes, had over 50 points last season. If they can stay healthy, the Central is theirs.
Nashville Ryan Wilson: St. Louis Blues
The Central Division has two powerhouse teams and either choice would be a legitimate selection. I am going with the Blues over the Blackhawks for the regular season title. The Blackhawks made a nice pickup in landing Brad Richards to shore up their center depth but the Blues made a huge splash and landed the underrated Paul Stastny (while hurting divisional rival Colorado in the process). I believe Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are only going to get better and that should help even more on the offensive front. I am going to predict that both players eclipse the 60 point barrier for the first time in their careers. Peter Mueller was a sneaky pickup who will be able to give them NHL caliber minutes on the cheap. Their defense corp. is excellent. Brian Elliott leads the NHL in quality starts for the past three seasons so if Jake Allen falters, the Blues are still in good hands.
Chicago- Could very easily be the division winner and Stanley Cup Champion, a great team.
Dallas- On a great path but not quite at the level of St. Louis/Chicago. Defense corp. could use some work.
Minnesota- Landing Thomas Vanek without the long term commitment will give them a goal scoring boost. I like the sound of a Vanek-Koivu-Pominville line
Colorado- Primed for regression. Bad possession team who lost two best possession forwards (Stastny/Paranteau). If Varlamov doesn’t have great season, they are in trouble.
Nashville- At the very least Peter Laviolette will provide the patrons of Music City a more entertaining brand of hockey
Winnipeg- It’s almost as if their GM is trying to prove how few moves he can make. This team has an OK foundation with awful goaltending. A new GM could go a long way in turning them around. Matt Henderson: Dallas Stars
I went back and forth on this but I’m going with Dallas. Their depth at Center is the starting point for this team. Seguin had a break out year last season and the team added slick passer and zone entry star Ales Hemsky to his line. That will be followed up with the Spezza line. Dallas’ time is now. I think their main competition will be the Hawks and the Blues, but ultimately the Stars will come out on top. The biggest risk will be their Defense, which I don’t think is particularly great. If the Defense falters then the Central will go to the Blackhawks.
What say you? How do you think the Central Division will play out? Feel free to let us know, as well as suggest any ideas for future hotstoves. Recent posts Predicting the Jack Adams winner Predicting the Selke winner Predicting the Rocket Richard winner Predicting the Calder winner Predicting the Hart winner Predicting the Vezina winner Predicting the Norris winner
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