Analysis

NHL Western Conference: 2016-17 Regular Season Preview, Predictions

By Colin Likas
Oct 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville sits with his players during the third period of a preseason game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville sits with his players during the third period of a preseason game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit
2 of 3
western conference
Oct 4, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76) attempts a one-timer in the third period during a preseason hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

How does the Central Division shape up?

Some really interesting things happened in the Central this offseason. Naturally, the division projects to be a gauntlet to get through, though things may be a little different in 2016-17 than they have been in the three or four seasons prior.

Offseason moves

Chicago Blackhawks — Added: D Brian Campbell, D Michal Kempny, F Jordin Tootoo; Lost: F Andrew Shaw, F Teuvo Teravainen, F Bryan Bickell, F Andrew Ladd, F Dale Weise, F Tomas Fleischmann

More from Analysis

Colorado Avalanche — Added: F Gabriel Bourque, F Rene Bourque, D Fedor Tyutin, D Patrick Wiercioch, F Joe Colborne; Lost: F Mikkel Boedker, D Nick Holden, G Reto Berra, coach Patrick Roy

Dallas Stars — Added: F Jiri Hudler, D Dan Hamhuis, F Lauri Korpikoski, F Adam Craknell; Lost: D Jason Demers, D Alex Goligoski, D Kris Russell, F Travis Moen

Minnesota Wild — Added: F Chris Stewart, F Eric Staal, G Alex Stalock, F Teemu Pulkkinen, coach Bruce Boudreau; Lost: F Thomas Vanek, F Jarret Stoll, F Devin Setoguchi

Nashville Predators — Added: D P.K. Subban, D Yannick Weber, D Matt Irwin; Lost: D Shea Weber, G Carter Hutton, F Paul Gaustad, D Barret Jackman

St. Louis Blues — Added: F David Perron, F Nail Yakupov, G Carter Hutton; Lost: F David Backes, F Troy Brouwer, G Brian Elliott, F Steve Ott

Winnipeg Jets — Added: F Patrik Laine; Lost: No major losses

The biggest move of the offseason was the Preds acquiring do-it-all defenseman Subban from the underappreciative Montreal Canadiens. They lost their captain, Weber, in the process, but massively upgraded their team as well.

The Blackhawks went through a bit of their usual turnover, while the Blues lost their captain this offseason as well in Backes. The Stars, Avalanche and Wild were busy on a variety of levels, though I’m not sure anyone but Dallas improved out of that trio. Winnipeg had a quiet offseason but selected potential franchise cornerstone Laine in the 2016 draft.

Projected standings

x-Nashville Predators, 108 points

x-Dallas Stars, 101 points

x-Chicago Blackhawks, 100 points

x-St. Louis Blues, 97 points

x-Minnesota Wild, 89 points

Winnipeg Jets, 80 points

Colorado Avalanche, 78 points

x-qualifies for playoffs

I’m not sure pundits are giving the Preds enough credit in the preseason. That defense, with goaltender Pekka Rinne behind it, is going to be extremely difficult to score against. And then most of the unit can push play and make things happen in the offensive end. That, combined with a stable forward corps, is scary.

The second through fourth spots are kind of toss-ups at this point, but I think they’ll go between Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis. The latter two teams have some adjusting to do early in the season, while the Stars will probably just keep scoring and having bad goaltending.

The Wild will be the Wild — a fine team, just good enough to make the postseason, but not good enough to go far. Winnipeg will make some strides, while I see Colorado taking a step back. That team is under a coach with no NHL head coaching experience and hasn’t adjusted to the quicker, leaner style of NHL play that’s very much seen in the Central Division. Both of these factors will burn the Avs.

facebooktwitterreddit