Friday, September 30, 2011

My Central Division Predictions


ALHAMBRA, IL--  I expect all of the teams in the central division to have a shot at making the playoffs, but it will be an extremely tight race till the very end to see which ones actually play into late April. Remember this is just me putting my gut feeling down on "paper" so don't freak out if you think I'm wrong.

Detroit Red Wings iPhone Wallpaper by Hawk Eyes

Detroit Red Wings

Last season record: 47-25-10 (104 pts)
This season projection:  45-28-9 (99 pts)
Projected conference standing: 5th
Projected division standing: 2nd

Detroit is arguably the most feared team in the entire Western conference, and rightly so.  They have players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who prove year in, and year out that they can lead this team to the playoffs. 

 The Red Wings always seem to have what it takes to make the playoffs and many people think it will be no different this year. 

So, what do I think?  I believe Detroit will still be in the playoffs, but I don't think they look as good as they have in previous years.  Brian Rafalski announced retirement this summer, and I expect this to greatly effect the Red Wings.  Rafalski was a key part of the Wing's powerplay, and their offense in general, and his retirement leaves a huge gap to fill. 

Obviously the Wings have dealt with trials in the past, and always seem to overcome them, but in the near future the Wings are going to have to rely on players other than their aging veterans.

With this being said I see the Wings finishing 2nd in the division, and could easily take 1st as well.

Nashville Preadators iPhone Wallpaper by Hawk Eyes
Nashville Predators

Last season record: 44-27-11 (99 pts)
This season projection: 42-29-11 (95 pts)
Projected conference standing: 7th
Projected division standing: 4th

I am probably one of the few people that are not all that impressed with Nashville this year. 

Every central division prediction I've read has had Nashville playing extraordinary hockey this season, but I just don't see it. 

Nashville has strong points such as a remarkable goaltender in Pekka Rinne, and a great defense man in Shea Weber, but every other team has added scoring to their team, and it seems like Nashville has lost some of theirs. 

 Don't get me wrong, Nashville has great talent, but losing players like Joel Ward, and Steve Sullivan really hurts their already weak offense. 

Nashville could surprise, but right now I am not impressed.
St. Louis Blues

Last season record: 38-33-11 (87 pts)
This season projection: 43-29-10 (96 pts)
Projected conference standing: 6th
projected division standing: 3rd

Yes, I know its hard to take my analysis seriously when I'm critiquing my favorite team, but just hang in there. 

The Blues had a disappointing season last year, that was plagued by injuries.  Almost every player was out for a decent amount of time, and the Blues didn't have the depth to handle it.  This year the Blues have acquired players like Jonathan Cheecho, Evgeny Grachev, and returning players McRae, Porter, Cracknell, who if needed can step in to fill the gaps of injured players. 

The Blues have also gone out and acquired veteran players to lead their young team (Arnott, Langenbrunner, Nichol) which was much needed down the stretch last year. 

One thing I'm sure teams took away from games against the Blues last year is their size.  Players like David Backes, Chris Stewart, and Patrik Berglund make it very hard to contain this Blues offense.

F David Perron should return at some point this year, to provide the team with his offensive talent (if he is the same as before concussion), and in my opinion the Blues now have a better goaltender situation with Bishop and Elliot both as potential backups. 

 I know I'm rambling on about the Blues, but all of those changes should have a positive effect on the team, but perhaps the most important thing for the Blues is how G Jaroslav Halak performs this year after having a mediocre season last year.  If he performs well, the Blues make the playoffs, and if he doesn't it will be very difficult for them to be playing into late April.

Chicago Blackhawks iPhone Wallpaper by Hawk Eyes
Chicago Blackhawks

Last season record: 44-29-9 (97 pts)
This season projection: 48-26-8 (100 pts)
Projected conference standing: 4th
Projected division standing: 1st

Perhaps the most improved team in the Central, the Blackhawks are coming off of a season in which they barely made the playoffs.  Last year the Blackhawks finished in 8th place in the Western conference making the playoffs only because the Stars lost in their last regular season game.  I expect this year to be different. 

The Blackhawks have added a little bit of everything this off-season, Scoring (Andrew Brunett), grit and toughness (Jamal Mayers, and Dan Carcillo), and when you combine these players with the Hawk's already potent offense you get W's. 

Another strong point for the Hawks this year is G Corey Crawford who had a .917 sv% last season and is now the #1 goaltender for the Hawks.

Last but not least, is the defense led by Duncan Keith (45 pts) and newly acquired D-man Steve Montador who will add much needed toughness for the Hawks.

The Blackhawks will be the team to beat in the Central division this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets

Last season record: 34-35-14 (81 pts)
This season projection: 39-34-9 (87 pts)
Projected conference standing: 9th
Projected division standing: 5th

The Blue Jackets made a huge splash this off-season acquiring Jeff Carter in a trade with the Flyers.  Finally they have an elite player to compliment Rick Nash, so why do I have them not making the playoffs?  I have a few reason actually so let me elaborate.

Columbus's goaltending is very inconsistent and anyone who follows hockey knows that without a consistent goaltender, life becomes very difficult.  Steve Mason posted a .901 sv% and his inconsistency was a liability for the Blue Jackets last season.

Columbus also needs to improve on the PK if they hope to be successful, but even then, it will be hard for them to make the playoffs if their goaltending doesn't improve.

Overall Columbus made their team better this off-season, but I don't think they are there yet. If their goaltending and PK improve dramatically, and Nash isn't carrying the team the whole season, then Columbus has a shot, but I am not optimistic.

Thanks for taking the time to read this..If you have anything that you agree or disagree with feel free to comment or email me: