So far, we have taken a look at the North and East Division, so now it’s time to preview the Central Division!
#8 – Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were by far the worst team in the NHL last season. They might not be this season, but they won’t be far from it.
They are deep into a rebuild and do have some vital pieces for that process. They just announced Dylan Larkin would be the new captain, to no one’s surprise.
Past their first line of Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi, the Red Wings lack serious goal scorers.
Yzerman knows the task at hand will be a long one. The Red Wings have some awful contracts; they likely have to wait until they expire to gain the flexibility most rebuilding teams adore. With Ryan, Namestnikov, and Stretcher’s additions, the Red Wings might not be in the last place throughout the NHL when the season concludes.
Still, this looks to be yet another long year for Red Wings fans as the organization attempts to slowly promote their young stars into the NHL in the coming years.
#7 – Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have announced they are committed to rebuilding the roster with new young talent. However, with Kane and Toews still in the mix, this team has the chance to be still very competitive.
Although this training camp has not been kind to the organization at all. Kirby Dach was hurt at the World Juniors and will miss significant time this season because of his wrist injury.
Their captain Jonathan Toews announced that he has been feeling unwell for some time now and will remain away from the team until he can start feeling himself again. Hopefully, soon, it’s a scary situation, and the entire NHL hopes to see him back soon.
They lost the reliable Corey Crawford to free agency and will be going with two unproven number one goalies in Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban. Patrick Kane can only do so much by himself, and with all the injuries, this team will struggle on a lot of nights to keep up with the competition.
#6 – Florida Panthers
The Panthers have some elite talent in players like Barkov, Huberdeau, and Ekblad. They did lose a lot of talent via free agency this summer, in players like Dadonov and Hoffman signing elsewhere.
Wennberg and Hornqvist will help offset some of that lost offence, but this season’s big question mark isn’t hard to find. It’s going to be all about how well Sergei Bobrovsky plays.
In the first year of his monster contract he signed with the Panthers in 2019, Bobrovsky was terrible. No other way around it. A .900 save percentage, and 3.23 goals-against average is not acceptable for a goalie who just signed a seven-year, $70 million contract.
If he can have a big bounce-back season, the Panthers have a chance to move up higher in the standings than sixth. If not, the Panthers will struggle in a very competitive division.
#5 – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets don’t look all the different from what they were last year. They did make one significant move in trading Josh Anderson to the Canadiens for Max Domi.
They will be the same team under John Tortorella, a very tough team to play against and they pride themselves on frustrating their opponents.
One big cloud is now hanging over them, though, which is Pierre-Luc Dubois’ trade request.
It has to be getting frustrating for not only Blue Jackets fans but the organization itself. Star players not wanting to stay in Columbus.
Same with the players who are currently here, such as Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson. The team is bringing in star players, and them not wanting to stay. That indeed has to affect their long-serving players.
It will be an uncomfortable topic in the dressing room and will be a factor in the Blue Jackets just missing out on the playoffs.
#4 – Nashville Predators
The Predators are built from their blueline out, led by one of the best in the game with Roman Josi.
Last season, the starting goaltending duties began to start going to Jussi Saros as Rinne had a poor season with a .895 save percentage.
It looks like both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have more to give offensively, which could go a long way in helping the Predators. Suppose Eeli Tolvanen can take a big step forward and be the impactful top-six forward many believe he can. In that case, the Predators will have an excellent opportunity to get into the Central Division’s playoffs.
#3 – Carolina Hurricanes
Jesper Fast is the only noticeable addition to the team. The players they lost, including Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson, lead the way for their young defencemen, such as Hayden Fleury and Jake Bean, to take on more minutes.
The Hurricanes are an outstanding hockey team. They control the puck and outshoot their opponents on most nights. Aho, Svechnikov and Teravainen is a lethal first line that is young and will only get better.
The goaltending situation is likely what is holding this team back from being amongst the league’s best. Both Reimer and Mrazek can be serviceable starters, but neither will likely carry a team to a Stanley Cup.
They have the offence and defence to be an elite team, but they will only be finishing third in the division because of their goaltending.
#2 – Dallas Stars
The runners up in last season Stanley Cup Finals are off to a very rocky start to this new season. The team had to postpone their first three games because of positive Covid-19 tests within the roster.
When this team does hit the ice though, they are elite, even with Seguin out with an injury to start the season. They have maybe one of the best defence’s in the NHL with Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell.
They proved last year throughout the playoffs that they have players on all four forward lines that can contribute offensively. Corey Perry had a terrific showing in the Stanley Cup Finals and left for Montreal, but that shouldn’t leave too big of a hole in their lineup.
If Khudobin can prove last year in the playoffs wasn’t a miracle run and that he can still be a great starter with Ben Bishop injured, the Stars will be a threat to win the Stanley Cup once again this season.
#1 – Tampa Bay Lightning
The defending Stanley Cup champions navigated their way through Salary Cap trouble and found a way to bring back their key RFA’s such as Cirelli, Cernak, and Sergachev.
They lost some depth this offseason in Shattenkirk, Verhaeghe, Paquette, and Bogosian. All players that played important roles in the Lightning’s run to the cup in the summer.
Still, this team is a favourite to win the Stanley Cup, even with Kucherov missing the regular season due to a hip injury. They have an incredibly skilled group of forwards, possibly the best defenceman in the NHL in Victor Hedman and maybe the best goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning will be the favourite to come out of the Central Division, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Lightning were to end up repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.