Today, I picked up the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and saw a story about the competition in Rams training camp for the 3rd string quarterback position. So, I decided it was time to start writing about hockey, because I’m already sick of football and baseball. Since the Post-Dispatch isn’t going to satisfy my hockey craving, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Today, boys and girls, we’re going to analyze the Central Division, because that’s where my beloved St. Louis Blues are.
The Central Division may have the most young talent in the league, but, for the time being, it’s not considered a particularly strong division. Most years, the debate is who will finish second to Detroit, and if finishing second will be good enough for a playoff spot.
The Detroit Red Wings
Hands down, the favorite to win the division. Although hated by everyone in the Central, almost all will begrudgingly admit that the Wings are favorites to win the Division and make some noise in the playoffs. The only question mark for this team is if Kronwall and Stuart are good enough to step up if an aging backline suffers injuries.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds almost always exceed expectations, due largely in part to the coaching of Barry Trotz, who seems to get the most out of his players. Despite his regular season success, Trotz has yet to make a meaningful post-season run with his team. The Preds don’t have many superstars, but they do have very good players in guys like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber on their backline. The Preds have a good shot at taking second in the division this year.
The Chicago Blackhawks
New ownership coupled with the emergence of Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews have reenergized the hockey fan base in the Windy City. The Blackhawks made a huge splash this offseason with the signing of Brian Campbell, showing the whole league that they are ready to make serious runs at a playoff spot. Cristobal Huet shores up the goaltending, and the young talent has another year of experience under their belt. Look for the Hawks to compete for a playoff spot along with Preds this year.
The St. Louis Blues
Although playoff hopes are uncertain at this point, Blues fans are excited about the season for three reasons: T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, and Alex Petrangelo. Oshie and Berglund are expected to make the team, and rumor has it that Petrangelo will be given a nine game NHL season tryout similar to David Perron’s deal last year. John Davidson dumped Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, Martin Ruchinsky and Christian Backman to make room for the young guns, and added Chris Mason, who will likely split goaltending responsibilities with all-star Manny Legace. Legace showed fatigue last year after the Blues backup goaltending imploded, forcing Manny to play in virtually every game without rest. If the Blues rookies do well, they could be a dark horse for the playoffs, but at this point, this season is about passing the torch off to a new generation of Blues talent.
The Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are a bit of an enigma. Though Rick Nash has superstar skill, it doesn’t seem like he brings it every night. Pascal Leclaire is a phenomenal goaltender, but he’s very injury prone. When those two are at their best, the Jackets are a formidable force. The additions of Raffi Torres and R.J. Umberger bring some depth to forward. The Jackets also have potential to be a dark horse if Coach Hitchcock can get his top players to bring their best game every night.
Well, there you have it. My look at the Central Divison. Feel free to praise it, blast it, critique it, or revise it. Love it or hate it, it’s preferable to reading about the Mats Sundin saga.