You could go read a magazine or go to major websites for season previews… but then it’s the same thing that tens of thousands of people read. So here is the start of my unique division by division season previews, which get you set for upcoming NHL season.
FIRST PLACE – DALLAS STARS
Added: A. Radulov – B. Bishop – M. Hanzal – M. Methot – B. Flynn – T. Pitlick
Lost: P. Sharp (fa) – C. Eakin (e) – J. Hudler (fa) – A. Niemi (bo) – A. Hemsky (fa)
I get the sense that Jim Nill isn’t a very patient man. After the team saw their point total slip by 40 last season, their GM went out and solved their goaltending problem, solidified their d-core and just for fun, added a few more solid offensive pieces. They added a laundry list of impressive names to a team that already featured Benn, Seguin, Klingberg, and Spezza.
This team has a plethora of high-end skill, especially down the middle, where I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can match them. Seguin-Hanzal-Spezza-Shore is a terrific group and should be able to carry this team to a fantastic regular season.
Are there worries? Yeah. I don’t love their depth on the wings or on the back end, even though they are improved. Maybe that’s something they can look to add at the deadline, although they don’t have cap space as of now.
Regardless, I’m feeling bounce-back performance from the team in Texas and their off-season moves back up that feeling.
SECOND PLACE – NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Add: S. Hartnell – N. Bonino – A. Emelin
Lost: J. Neal (e) – C. Wilson (t)
I did not like their offseason. The Scott Hartnell reunion is a nice story, but he is not the player he used to be. They also paid a lot for Nick Bonino, a player who I question can be a competent second line center. He’s never cracked 50 points and his GF% drops 11% when he goes from mid-level competition to elite competition (via puckiq.com). I don’t think he’s a good second line center.
So then why do I have them so high? Well, they still have Pekka Rinne and one of the best group of defensemen in the league. We also just witnessed some breakthrough performances during the playoffs and I believe guys like Freddy Gauthier, Colton Scissions, and Pontus Aberg are ready for full-time NHL duty.
The injury to Ryan Ellis stings, but again, their depth is incredible and I have full confidence they can survive the few months without Ellis.
If there’s an x-factor, I’d say it’s Ryan Johansen. Fresh off a big extension that pays him like an elite #1 center, he’ll need to produce more than the 14 goals & 47 points he got in 82 games last year.
Despite seeing declines in their point totals the last 3 years, I expect the Preds to have a strong season in a tough central division.
THIRD PLACE – WINNIPEG JETS
Add: D. Kulikov – S. Mason – M. Sgarbossa
Lost: P. Postma (fa) – C. Thorburn (fa) – O. Pavelec (fa)
They couldn’t keep pucks out of their net. That was the only reason this team didn’t find any success during the regular season. They finished 7th in goals for and the difference between their goals for per game and goals against per game was just (0.11).
To put that into perspective, only one other non-playoff team in the west had a better differential, that was the LA Kings at (0.02). Simply put: the Jets had a really solid regular season last year, their goaltending was just horrendous.
They went out and improved their goaltending situation by grabbing Steve Mason, who should be a little more stable than Pavelec/Hutchison were as backups. The addition of Mason, combined with a more experienced Connor Hellebuyck should help drop that goals against per game number.
They also went and added Dmitry Kulikov, who does have holes in his game but is an upgrade on Paul Postma.
Combine that with a group of forwards that’s deep, highly skilled and only getting better, I think the Jets have a winning team and have no problem slotting them into a playoff spot.
FOURTH PLACE – MINNESOTA WILD
Add: M. Foligno – R. Murphy – T. Ennis
Lost: M Hanzal (fa) – J. Pominville (t) – M. Scandella (t) – E. Haula (e) – D. Kuemper (fa)
The Wild went all in last year, paying a king’s ransom for Martin Hanzal at the deadline. It didn’t work out, but they still have a pretty solid core intact. Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid d-core and Devan Dubnyk should leave them looking good in their own end. If there is one concern I have it’s a lack of that superstar presence, someone who can be a game-changing presence on offense. Is Mikael Granlund that guy? His point total increased by 25 last year, so will we see another big step forward?
If they get some big performances, which I expect they will, I have no doubt about the Wild being a playoff team.
FIFTH PLACE – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Add: B. Saad – P. Sharp – C. Murphy – A. Forsberg – J. Berube – J. Rutta
Lost: A. Panarin (t) – N. Hjalmarson (t) – M. Hossa (i) – M. Kruger (t) – T. Van Riemsdyk (e) – J.Oduya (fa) – S. Darling (t) – B. Campbell ®
That’s a long list of departures from the Windy City, and the new names are honestly quite underwhelming.
Just looking at their offense, they essentially swapped out Hossa and Panarin for Saad and Sharp. I understand the cap relief element of things, and they got a great deal with Sharp, but the bottom line is they got two players who produce less than the players they now have. The combined GF/60 of Hossa and Panarin is 4.9, while that number for Sharp and Saad is 4.3.
On defense, they lost their second best dman in Nik Hjalmarsson and two good supporting players in Van Riemsdyk and O’Duya. To replace them is 27-year-old rookie Jan Rutta and Connor Murphy. Another sizeable step back.
They also lost Scott Darling, who was an outstanding backup. Berube should be fine in that role, but it’s another step back, even if it is small.
Now despite getting worse in all three areas of their roster, they still have a good chunk of their core so they should stick to the playoff picture. Their depth isn’t god either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side of that, they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division.
Their depth isn’t good either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side is that they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division
Just going off their roster right now, gotta slide them lower than others may have them.
SIXTH PLACE – ST. LOUIS BLUES
Add: B. Schenn – B. Bennett – C. Thorburn
Lost: D. Perron (e) – J. Lehtera (t) – R. Reaves (t) – N. Yakupov (fa)
In a division as close and deep as the Central, you need to always be improving. The Blues didn’t do that.
It may be a storyline for a few years, but they still don’t have an elite centerman to play with Tarasenko. Schenn is good, but he isn’t a top line center.
They’ve seen a decline in points over each of the last 4 seasons (111-109-107-99) and with a slew of their direct competition making serious strides forward, the Blues may be the odd team out. They didn’t get any help from the schedule makers either, playing 6 of their first 9 on the road. A bad start can really set a team back, and again, in a division as loaded as the Central, a bad start could ruin your season.
If there’s a bright side, they should still have strong special teams (PP = 8th & PK = 3rd). A solid 60-65 starts from Jake Allen would also help. They have some cap space heading into next offseason with Paul Stastny coming off the books, so maybe a high pick and a little reset heading into 19/19 wouldn’t be the worst thing for the franchise.
SEVENTH PLACE – COLORADO AVALANCHE
Adds: N. Yakupov – C. Wilson – J. Bernier
Lost: F. Beauchemin (fa) – M. Grigorenko (fa) – C. Pickard (e) – P. Wiercioch (fa) – R. Bourque (fa)
It’s hardly a hot take to predict the Avs to finish in the basement, but it’s difficult to expect an organization that’s as lost as them to bounce back from a historically bad 16/17 season.
I liked the 3 additions they made over the offseason, all are essentially no risk and could pay off, but they didn’t get any better. Losing Beauchemin and Pickard won’t exactly help them gain points in the standings.
Joe Sakic also, to this point, failed to deal Matt Duchene despite everyone in the hockey world knows it’s coming. I don’t think this is exactly a very inspired group of guys heading into the new season so expect the same old, same old from the Avs.
1 – Dallas – Loaded up this offseason, filled almost all their holes.
2 – Nashville – Not a good offseason, but are still built like a Cup contender.
3 – Winnipeg – So much potential, goaltending looks better.
4 – Minnesota – Lost some decent players, no one too crucial. Another playoff appearance.
5 – Chicago – Every aspect of their team got worse. In the playoffs, but barely.
6 – St. Louis – Don’t think they’re good enough to take out Chicago for final WC spot.
7 – Colorado – Dumpster fire. Going to pick high in next years draft. Dahlin?