Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Third Place: Nashville Predators
The Preds have me at an internal struggle. This is a very good team. Even though they did nothing to improve over the offseason (no, Jackman is not an improvement), there wasn’t necessarily any need to. However, that is not accounting the fact that their fanbase needs to be desperately improved. Despite the Preds having such a good team, they faltered at the end of last season after leading the Central for a majority of the season. And then they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the ‘Hawks. You may think that I’m crazy just because of the sheer existence of Pekka Rinne, who had a fantastic year last year. Filip Forsberg had his breakout year. Roman Josi threw his name into the ring of elite defensemen.
More from Blackhawks News
- Blackhawks vs Flames: Date, Time, Lineup, Betting Odds, More
- Three Takeaways from the Blackhawks’ Win vs Vancouver
- Blackhawks: Why Derek King is the Right Coach moving forward
- Marc-Andre Fleury Carries the Blackhawks to a 4-2 Win vs Seattle
- Instant Reaction: Blackhawks top Kraken for first time in history
We could go on and on about who had a great year, or who improved a lot, or who even stayed consistent throughout last year for the Preds. But the odds of all of that happening in the same season again are incredibly poor. This team has the talent, but it missed its chance last season. The Preds can’t count on such a team-wide performance again until they’ve proven to the world that they’re an elite team.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Second Place: Chicago Blackhawks
Maybe I have too much faith. Maybe. The ‘Hawks still have some question marks. We don’t know how any of the forwards they’ve acquired over the offseason will work out. We can only hope that Artem Anisimov will work out. Stan Bowman has made it clear that Anisimov is the guy, and although this offseason has tested the everyone in the organization, we still have no reason not to trust Bowman. Marko Dano has shown some skill, and it appears as though Columbus Blue Jacket fans were just as upset about Dano leaving as we were about Brandon Saad leaving. However, Blackhawks fans have even more reason to worry about those coming from the KHL. But you can’t ignore it when two-time Norris Trophy and 2015 Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith says that Artemi Panarin can win the Calder Trophy over Connor McDavid. If Teuvo Teravainen can have that breakout season we have all been waiting for, I do not see why the Blackhawks can’t be an even better offensive team than they were last year.
The ‘Hawks defense still has some question marks. How will Daley work out? If he is paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson as expected, how will the ‘Hawks do without that shutdown defensive pair? Well, I think they will do just fine. Don’t forget, Oduya did not exactly have his greatest 2014-15 regular season, and he also struggled with injuries. The last two defensemen positions up for grabs are the head scratchers. Trevor van Riemsdyk showed great promise before being injured in his short NHL stint. Although he didn’t play much in the Stanley Cup Final, he still showed that same promise. Putting TVR next to Keith should make for a fine defensive pairing. Throw in one of the vets (Michal Roszival, Jan Hejda or Lubomir Visnovsky) and you’ve got a player partner for Brent Seabrook. Have David Rundblad play seventh man and rotate in every so often. And if they surprisingly deem Ville Pokka worthy of the big-league roster this season, he could even knock Daley from the fourth spot. With all these options, the ‘Hawks should be fine on the back end.
And, of course, Corey Crawford is just fine in the crease, despite what some may think.
Next: You Know Who's Left. I'm Sorry.