2014 NHL Predictions: Chicago Blackhawks Return to Central Division Glory

2014 NHL Predictions: Central Division Preview – Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues

One of the dumbest things about the realignment the NHL did last year is that two of the divisions only have seven teams in them.  Though their road to the playoffs is comparatively easier with one less team to leap frog, their travel considerations and the talent of these divisions seem to balance things out.  The Minnesota Wild spent a lot of money getting back into the playoffs, the Dallas Stars snuck in as the other wild card, and the Colorado Avalanche rose to the top of the division.  Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks continued their winning ways and the St. Louis Blues’ defensive system continued to win, getting better after the addition of Ryan Miller (now with the Canucks).  With the Preds adding James Neal and getting Pekka Rinne healthy, they should be much improved too.  Simply put, the Central Division is loaded.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (108 points):  I think the Chicago Blackhawks have it all.  They’ve returned a highly competitive roster from last year, and their tradition of winning makes it difficult to predict anything else out of this bunch in 2014-15.  The Hawks have goaltending, defensive depth (despite dealing Nick Leddy), and an incredible offensive core.  Look for Patrick Kane to put on a show this year and the Blackhawks to find their way to the top of this division.

2. Colorado Avalanche (103 points):  Young, fast, incredibly talented, and anchored in goaltending, the Avs took a huge step forward last year by winning the division.  I think they’ll be right there again, with another year of experience under their belts.  They won’t surprise anyone this year, though, and need to find a way to replicate last year’s success.

3.  St. Louis Blues (99 points):  After letting Ryan Miller walk and deciding to go with Brian Elliott, the Blues are without an elite tandem in net for the first time since their return to postseason relevance.  They still have the system that got them there, but the inconsistent Elliott leaves the Blues with a lot of questions.  They’ll be a streaky team in 2015.

4. Minnesota Wild (98 points):  The Minnesota Wild proved what the New York Yankees have proven for the last ten years or so; You can buy your way into the playoffs, but you won’t win a championship that way.  The Wild have the talent to win games, but they lack the elite goaltending and depth to contend for a Cup.  I think last year’s results are pretty much the ceiling for this group.

5. Nashville Predators (90 points): The Preds have their franchise goalie back, so I think they’ll be relevant again but we never really got to see if the loss of Ryan Suter to the Wild was devastating.  Will they be able to handle his loss?  Were there struggles last year due to other things?  Will James Neal go into Nashville Predator offensive oblivion, or is he going to be able to finally provide this defense-only team with some scoring?  Too many questions, but I think the Preds will be in the hunt.

6. Dallas Stars (90 points):  The Stars have some impressive pieces, but I think they lack the depth to make a run at the playoffs.  They’ll be in the wild card hunt, and I’m excited to see how some of their young scorers evolve this year, but I lean the Preds and Wild ever so slightly for the final spot.

7.  Winnipeg Jets (82 points):  It’s not that the Jets are bad, they’re just the worst team in this division.  I think they’ll have their moments, but a lack of consistent goaltending and defense can only take you so far.  They’re fun to watch, but they’re not a playoff caliber team.


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