The Western Conference is loaded with talent again this year which makes every point crucial for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Chicago Blackhawks have had an active offseason. Stan Bowman and his staff have added talent at every area of need. This team looks primed to return to the playoffs and make a run at Lord Stanley, just like they did at the start of the last decade.
Last season, the Blackhawks’ defense got in the way of them making the playoffs. This season, however, the competition will determine whether or not they can return to the postseason.
The Central Division saw every team finish with a winning record last season. That’s the only division in the entire league that can say that.
The Pacific Divison boasted four clubs with winning records. The talent within the Western Conference got even more of an upgrade this offseason.
Out in the Pacific Divison, the Calgary Flames finished last year with 107 points which was good enough for the top spot out West. They boast three very talented forwards upfront in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk.
The Flames also boast Norris Trophy Winner, Mark Giordano, and TJ Brodie on the backend. This team is going to make noise, even if they take a step back.
The Arizona Coyotes just missed out on the playoffs last year and return many young talented forwards, and added veterans Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg. Clayton Keller leads a young and talented team that will be in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Edmonton had a disappointing season last year. However, a team with Connor McDavid can never be counted out. Outside of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who both finished with 110 and 105 points respectively, the next closest was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 69 points.
Vancouver had a quiet, but strong offseason. They added J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland upfront, plus Jordie Benn and Tyler Myers on the back-end. This team is still young, but very talented and should be pushing for a Wild Card spot this upcoming season.
The Sharks have arguably one of the best defensive corps in the league headlined by Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. However, they lost captain, Joe Pavelski, and sniper, Gustav Nyquist, who combined for 60 goals last season.
Vegas is extremely deep with Mark Stone upfront and Marc-Andre Fleury commanding the pipes. Anaheim and Los Angeles are in rebuild mode, and barring some miracle, shouldn’t be counted on to contend out West this season.
Chicago Blackhawks and the Central Division
Moving on to the Central Division. The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion, St. Louis Blues, didn’t add or lose much talent, outside of the pending departure of Patrick Maroon. This team has a ton of chemistry, so they will be a force in the Central.
Nashville added a big fish in Matt Duchene this offseason, but lost defenseman, P.K. Subban. The Preds are deep down the middle with Duchene, Ryan Johansen, and Kyle Turris. This usually is a recipe for success.
More from Blackhawk Up
- Blackhawks: Three Noticeable Improvements in Comeback Win vs Blues
- Blackhawks: Key Takeaways from 3-2 win over the Blues
- Blackhawks: Grading Connor Murphy and a position comparison
- Blackhawks: Shuffling the lines to try and spark offense at 5 on 5
- These Lineup Changes could Solve the Blackhawks’ Scoring Problem
Colorado looks to be the frontrunner to come out of the Western Conference this year, with a young core that features Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and 20-year-old Cale Makar. This team has the most talent on paper and will be viewed by many as the favorite to win the West.
Ben Bishop seemed to regain his form and the defense is arguably the best in the league, with a league-best 200 goals allowed last season.
The Jets had an offseason to forget, after losing Jacob Trouba to the Rangers for nothing in return and also lost Tyler Myers. Still having to sign Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor is turning into a process in Winnipeg. This team lost two pieces on the back-end and gained nothing, so look for the Jets to slip.
Lastly, Minnesota looks to be a team that will compete, but letting GM Paul Fenton go after one season could be a sign of things to come. They added Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman, but they still failed to secure another major upgrade. At best, the Wild might compete for a Wild Card spot.
When you look at the Western Conference as a whole, after this offseason, almost every team improved in some aspect.
This is after a year in which all but two teams finished below 80 points. This season is going to be fun to watch given all the moves this offseason.
As for the Chicago Blackhawks, they should be concerned with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, as teams with better talent on paper. You also can’t count out the defending Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues, or even the Nashville Predators.
A third-place finish in the Central Division shouldn’t be out of the question, even in a tough Western Conference.