Blackhawks News

Central Division Preview & Predictions

By Joe Kremel
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Sep 22, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center David Legwand (11) and New York Islanders center Peter Regin (16) face off to start the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

5 The Nashville Predators missed the playoffs after having a fair share of successful season.  The loss of Suter impacted the team a lot more than most expected.  The loss of Martin Erat didn’t help the situation either.  Well, now that the Preds have picked up a few really interesting players, it will be fun to watch Trotz get his system up and running again.  The most notable addition would be speedy Forward Viktor Stalberg.  Stalberg is one of those players that should be better than his stats indicate.  He has size and a ton of speed, but he seems to lack that scoring finish.  Matt Cullen was another offseason acquisition.  Cullen is one of those hard working, underappreciated players that just does everything so well.  His two-way play will fit nicely into Trotz’s system.  Rinne will be looking to bounce back from the worst season of his career as a full time goalie.  I have to mention that a .910 save percentage isn’t terrible, and if that’s his career low… you know he’s a great goalie.  Overall the team will function exactly as they have in past years, grinding defense first hockey.  Prediction:  They will be back on track this season, but they will be a bubble team, unfortunately on the wrong side of the bubble.

4) The Winnipeg Jets made a push at the end of the regular season, but didn’t have enough in the tank to succeed.  The Jets have a solid lineup, with the exception in net.  Why they stuck with Ondrej Pavelec is beyond me.  He is average at best, and I was hoping that they would move on to someone like Anton Khubodin, a Carolina Hurricanes acquisition from Boston over the summer.  Pavelec’s best season was barely better than Rinne’s worst season.  The addition of Frolik will be huge for the team.  He’s not going to lead the team in scoring, but instead will bring hard work and dedication to the team.  He is a jack of all trades, and if he is used correctly, he will be a valuable asset.  Devin Setoguchi will be another impact player.  The Jets are shaping up to be a solid team.  Kane, Ladd, and Buff are all core players, and you can be sure that they will continue to be leaders for this team.  The team has grit, speed, and talent; it’s hard to look past the Jets.  Prediction:  The Jets are primed to snag the wild card spot.  The team is fairly well balanced outside the crease, now they just have to find some consistency.

3) The Minnesota Wild successfully made it to the playoffs, but their play at the end of the season seemed to be a preview for their playoff performance.  This season they will be getting to play against a number of teams in transition, while they themselves will be coming back with their lineup mostly intact.  A full season will help build team chemistry, bolstering the team defense.  Suter and Brodin will be looking to continue pushing for Norris trophy consideration.  On the other side of things, Parise and Pominville will look to lift the offense to new heights.  Parise is one of those players that will help build the team up with his dedication to the sport.  The loss of Matt Cullen will be noticeable, and don’t expect Jake Dowell to fill that position.  Dowell will bring some speed and tenacity, but Cullen has an all-around game that is hard to replace.  In net, we see the return of Backstrom and Harding.  Backstrom’s health is becoming a concern, but he still is a very dependable goaltender when he is healthy.  Prediction:  I can see the Wild finding their chemistry this year and snagging the third place spot in the Central.