Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Central division

For most of the past decade the central division was the easiest in the NHL, and the Red Wings took advantage of this year after year to repeatedly win the president's trophy. Starting with last season the division has gotten tougher and should be much more competitive this year. However there is no reason to expect the Red Wings not to come in first.

#1 Detroit Red Wings
Winners of both the President's trophy and the Stanley Cup last season, there is little reason to expect this team to fall. The team lost almost no one except for replacing aging goalie Dominik Hasek with Ty Conklin who had a breakout year last season as the back up in Pittsburgh. Detroit also managed to sign this offseason's most coveted free agent, Marian Hossa for a completely reasonable amount.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks
Although finishing just outside of the playoffs last season Chicago is clearly a team on the rise and will be much improved this year. The team's young core of Kane, Toews, Sharp and Byfuglien have all returned. Furthermore they have bolstered their defense by signing former Sabre Brian Campbell. Also they have signed goalie Cristobal Huet leaving Khabibulin as the backup and committing $12.375 million of cap space to their goaltending. However the team has not resigned Kevyn Adams and unexpectedly traded away Robert Lang for only a draft pick. Chicago was the only team in the league that didn't look scared of the Red Wings throughout the season.

#3 Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators slipped into the playoffs in the eighth spot last season and are likely to finish close to that spot again. The team played well in the playoffs only losing to division rival and eventual cup winners Detroit in six games. The predators have one of the league's top goalies in Dan Ellis. The team is also lead by former Sabre JP Dumont. On the downside they lost rising star Alex Radulov to Russia, and have a mess of an ownership situation.

#4 St. Louis Blues
The good news is that this is at least a team on the rise. While they will almost assuredly finish in the bottom two in their division and out of the playoffs the team will get better by next year. They have a decent goalie in Legacé and some veteran leadership in Paul Kariya and former Sabre Jay McKee. They also have some good young players such as Stanley cup winner Andy McDonald, rookie T.J. Oshie, and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak.

#5 Columbus Blue Jackets
While better than they were last season, the Blue Jackets have little to no chance of making the playoffs. The team brought in some veterans such as R.J. Umberger, Mike Commodore, and Kristian Huselius, but still lack the depth do go far. Their goalie is ok, but this team is not set for success.

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