Central Division

A Look Into the Central Division

Continuing our look at the rest of the league now takes us to the Central Division. Three teams from this division made it to the playoffs last year. A couple of them have made some major moves for a bit of a new look division.

Chicago Blackhawks: 

The Chicago Blackhawks followed up a Stanley Cup run with a first round exit this past season. However, they took the Vancouver Blackhawks to seven games after being down 3-0 in the series. Only an overtime goal by Alex Burrows kept the Blackhawks from reaching history like the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers against Boston.

Losses:

The Hawks traded both Brian Campbell and Troy Brouwer at the draft over the offseason. Along with those two, Tomas Kopecky left for Florida and Jake Dowell signed with Dallas. The Blackhawks also chose not to resign restricted free agent defenseman Chris Campoli.

Gained:

GM Stan Bowman wanted his team to be much tougher and thats what he did with his offseason signings. He added defenseman Steve Montador from Buffalo for a four year deal and a couple of former flyers in forward Daniel Carcillo and defenseman Sean O’Donnell. They also acquired some offensively skilled forwards in Andrew Brunette and Rostislav Olesz, who was part of the Campbell deal. Brunette did have a down year last year but Bowman is hoping he will be reenergized by the better forwards of the Blackhawks. He also added some role players in forward Jamal Mayers, defenseman Sami Lepisto and goaltender Ray Emery who will probably be Corey Crawford’s back up.

Overview:

If players like Kane and Keith who had down years last year can get back to form this is one of the most dangerous teams in the league. They can match any team offensively in the entire league. Their defense is above average as well and Corey Crawford played like a dependable number one goalie. Watch out for the Blackhawks to be contenders in the Western Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

The Columbus Blue Jackets had another bad season last year while finishing 13th in the Western Conference. However, entering this season, the Blue Jackets are a whole other animal. Some big names have joined the team and now they look to be the aggressors in the Central Division.

Losses:

The Blue Jackets parted ways with some good players over the offseason. Forwards Jakub Voracek and Scottie Upshall, defenseman Jan Hejda and goalie Mathieu Garon are all gone now. Also gone is Nikita Filatov, who, like Voracek, was a top ten pick who never worked out in Columbus.

Gained:

Finally, Rick Nash has a compliment on his line in center Jeff Carter who was acquired via a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Carter is an excellent scorer who has a blistering wrist shot comparable to anyone in the league. A big name on the blue line is also now here in James Wisniewski. The former Duck had a very good season last year in Montreal and was rewarded with a big new contract in Columbus. They also signed forward Vinny Prospal and defenseman Radek Martinek for some depth.

Overview:

The additions of Carter and Wisniewski have not only given new hope to the fans but to their star Rick Nash as well. Now he has some compliments to work with on that starting lineup. However, they will have to wait 4-6 months for Kristian Huselius to recover from surgery on a torn pectoral muscle. Goalie Steve Mason will look to return to the form he was when he won the Calder Trophy back in 2009. With some young prospects close to making the roster out of training camp, the opening night roster will look much different than last year. Anything less than a playoff appearance will be seen as a failure in Columbus this season.

Detroit Red Wings:

The Detroit Red Wings lost in the Conference Semifinals in Game seven to the San Jose Sharks last season but are back again, once again as a Stanley Cup contender, again. With loads of talent still, it wouldn’t shock anybody to see them once again in the Finals and/or winning the Cup.

Losses:

However, the Red Wings did take some big hits when it comes to retirements. Defenseman Brian Rafalski, goalie Chris Osgood and forward Kris Draper all retired over the offseason. Those three alone had a total 10 Stanley Cup rings. When any team loses players of those caliber, you would expect them to drop off a bit, but the Detroit Red Wings are not just any team. Mike Modano also left the Wings but only by hinting of retirement, he was probably not going to resign with them anyway after a very bad year last year. They also lost Ruslan Salei to the KHL, but like we learned earlier, the entire hockey community lost Rusty when he died in that terrible plane crash in Russia this offseason.

Gained:

After losing three big names to retirement, Detroit brought in three very solid players to fill the holes. Defensemen Ian White and Mike Commodore and goalie Ty Conklin are the main additions to Detroit this offseason. Even though he never left, Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision to return will feel like an addition and will be the anchor yet again for the Wings.

Overview:

The Detroit Red Wings are still loaded up front, on the blue line and in net heading into the 2010-2011 season. Jimmy Howard is now entering the prime of his career as the number one goalie and the addition of one of the best back up goalies in the league in Ty Conklin will only help Howard as Conklin will be able to play as many games as possible to help keep Howard fresh during the spring. If injuries do occur, the Red Wings have a few young, untested prospects that could fill some holes in Cory Emmerton, Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak. However, those players could be used at the trade deadline to help make an already star lineup even better for a Stanley Cup run.

Nashville Predators:

As well all know, the Predators made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history last season, beating out Anaheim Ducks in a good six game series. However, they could not make it any longer because they ran into a machine called Ryan Kesler and the Vancouver Canucks who eliminated them in six games.

Losses:

The Predators main weapon last season was their depth and that took a hit this offseason. Forwards Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan, Marcel Goc, J.P. Dumont and Matthew Lombardi all left Nashville for other teams. All of those forwards were key figures last year and were going to be key figures this year as well until they left. Defensemen Cody Franson and Shane O’Brien will also be playing with new teams this season as well.

Gained:

The Predators didn’t make many additions over the offseason. They did resign their leading goal scorer in Sergei Kostitsyn, along with forwards Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Cal O’Reilly and Chris Mueller. They did sign two young players with some NHL experience in forwards Niclas Bergfors and Kyle Wilson. Free agent signing Zack Stortini will add some toughness to the Predators as well.

Overview:

The Predators lost a lot of good players over the offseason, however, they still look like a solid team on paper and still have plenty of talent. Held together by their top-three stars in Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, the Predators are still contenders for the playoffs. Their offense still has plenty of talent in Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, Kostitsyn and their legend David Legwand. With complimentary young players like Colin Wilson and Kevin Klein they have a solid mix of veterans and young players. Don’t forget to keep an eye on their top two prospect who could break into the NHL this year in defensemen Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis. With underrated head coach Barry Trotz at the helm, still, the Predators are still a tough team to play and will make the playoffs once again.

St. Louis Blues:

 

The St. Louis Blues thought they were on the right track after making the playoffs in 2008-2009, but since then they have failed to make the playoffs in two disappointing seasons. General manager Doug Armstong feels that he has made the right tweaks to the line up to make it back to the playoffs this season.

Losses:

The Blues didn’t lose to many players over the offseason. Backup goalie Ty Conklin relocated to division rival Detroit. Physical right winger Cam Janssen and depth defenseman Nathan Oystrick both left town as well in free agency.

Gained:

The Blues added some major veteran leadership over the offseason in veterans Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. Those two will now be the mentor’s to the Blues young talent this season. They also added some depth players in forward Scott Nichol and defenseman Kent Huskins. They also signed goalie Brian Elliot to contend with Ben Bishop for the backup position to Jaroslav Halak.

Overview:

Last season, even though they failed to make the playoffs, gave Blues fans much to be excited about for the future. New captain David Backes had arguably the best season of his career last season when he was impressive in almost every facet of the game. Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie are going to be back and healthy to start the season. Young players Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk who were acquired for Erik Johnson both shined in their time with St. Louis. Along with their draft picks who are now cornerstones in the lineup in David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo gives St. Louis a very good young core to look forward too. This team could very well make the playoffs once again this season but this proud franchise will have to get through arguably the toughest division in the NHL.

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Tags: Central Division Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets Detroit Red Wings Nashville Predators St. Louis Blues Western Conference

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