1. Chicago Blackhawks
After dominating the 2013 season, and winning the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks are set and primed to do it all over again.
I’m not trying to sound like a total “homer”, but in all honesty, the Hawks were an absolute juggernaut last season, and the same forward core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp remains intact, and should be an elite, offensive force to be reckoned with once again.
The blueline has 2010 Norris Trophy winner, Duncan Keith, with his partner in crime, Brent Seabrook as the top defensive pairing on the team, as well as one of the best in the league. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, and Michal Rozsival round out the rest of the very solid defensive group.
Corey Crawford goes into this season with much less pressure than last season. Crawford dominated in net, in 2013, after a lackluster sophomore season for the Hawks, in 2011-2012, silencing many doubters along the way. It will be interesting to see how he handles the lesser naysayers, this season.
While all of this sounds all fine and dandy for the Hawks, there is fear of a Stanley Cup hangover. After winning the cup in 2010, the Blackhawks barely made the post-season in the following season. That season was marred with many salary cap casualties, as the Hawks had to sell-off many players, just to get a hair under the cap. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how or if the Hawks are able to follow their incredible 2013 campaign. In all probability, they should.
The Central Division looks to be a healthily contested division, with what looks to be 4 real playoff contenders(the 4th team being the Wild). It will be very interesting to see how this season, with the new format, plays out.
Which teams from the Central Division do you have in the playoffs?