Chicago Blackhawks: Division Jump Could Prove Beneficial
By Jimmy Lynch
The Chicago Blackhawks will have a new division next season, assuming everything workouts for the NHL and the season begins. The new divisions could prove beneficial for Chicago.
The Central Division has long been known as the better division within the Western Conference. Most seasons have shown the two wild card teams exclusively come from the central, showing just how strong the Chicago Blackhawks division is.
Chicago is going to be without St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, and Winnipeg next season. Those four teams alone would have controlled the Blackhawks division most likely, as all four of those teams are rather strong.
St. Louis, Colorado, and Dallas are the Central Division’s strongest three teams. For one, Dallas went to the Stanley Cup Final this past season, and history has shown that whoever goes that far usually comes back better than ever. Secondly, St. Louis is a year removed from winning it all, and they are going to be out for revenge after getting tossed by Vancouver last season. While finally, Colorado honestly has the NHL’s best roster and should take a large step forward next season.
Winnipeg is another strong team in the Central Division and one that would be competing for the playoffs this coming season if it was a normal year. Chicago is lucking out, in my opinion, with this new division lineup Pierre LeBrun tweeted out.
While things might be looking different next season, I do not think the Blackhawks are a lock for the playoffs by any means. Here is how I would think the teams in Chicago’s new division look.
The lock for the Playoffs: Lightning
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This one is obvious. Tampa Bay has been the best team in the NHL for a long time now, and next season should not be any different for the Lightning. Even though they are coming off winning a Stanley Cup, they are one of the strongest teams around, and they do not have anyone that is nearly on the same level within this division for a full season.
In the hunt: Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Nashville
Carolina, I believe, could be one of the best teams in the NHL, but they still have a long way to go before they are as good as the Lightning. They have had the Blackhawks number in the past with their speedy play, so things will not be easy against that team.
Columbus and Florida are two teams with great coaching. While they may not have the best rosters, they both should be challenging for the Blackhawks, and I could see them both competing for the playoffs next season. On the other hand, Nashville might be one of the weaker teams in this mix, but hey, anything could happen in 50 games.
Outside looking in: Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota
Detroit and Minnesota probably will not be in the playoff picture next season. Detroit should be improved from their total of only 17 wings in 71 games last season, but not to the point of turning around and making the playoffs. I also think Minnesota took a step back this offseason, and with teams like this around, they should struggle next season.
I am excited about the possibility of Chicago playing Detroit more this coming year. Missing out on that rivalry has made hockey weird the past few seasons. But hey, it is nice to remember this is the last game these two teams played as divisional opponents.
So, where does that leave the Blackhawks? Yes, I think they will be on the outside looking in next season with their uncertain goaltending and commitment to rebuilding the team. So, Chicago most likely will be done with their season come May this coming year. However, stranger things have happened.
All the Blackhawks need is one of those four teams listed in the hunt to fall, and they could potentially slide into the playoffs. Honestly, things are wide open, and we have seen times in the past that could lead to success in Chicago.
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Colorado had one of the worst records in the NHL a few seasons ago, and they turned around and made the playoffs. Even if that doesn’t happen, we should see some fun hockey next year! Plus, it will be at earlier times, considering most of the Blackhawks’ opponents are located out East.