Ice Melts at 32 F, or 0 C for those of you north of the border. And seeing as it got to 92 today, I should be thinking baseball. But with the Reds 40-55 and 13.5 games back, I'm just waiting for the next 78 days to pass, so that I can throw on that sweater and relax. Instead, I'm gonna take a stab at some Central Previews. I'll do another one in September, as teams start to take shape.
2006-07 Record: 31-42-9 - 71p - 5th Central
Chicago's coming off a dissapointing season, the first time that they were in last place since the 2003-04 season. They're also 5 years seperated from a playoff berth.
Yanic Perreault (TOR), Robert Lang (DET)
Michal Handzus (LA)
Chicago lost a 26 year-old center in Handzus, who was out for the majority of the 06-07 season with a torn ACL, who put up decent numbers the previous 8 seasons. They compensated with an aging Perreault and Lang. Perreault posted 21-17-38 and a -1 in 66 games with the Leafs last season. As Lang posted 20-42-62 and a +17 in 72 with the Wings.
Projected Finish: Fourth
Columbus Blue Jackets:
2006-07 Record: 33-42-7 - 73p - 4th Central
Disappointing, once again. Although they set a franchise record with 73 points, they still were pretty bad. Had Nash stayed healthy all season, this team might have been a contender. One small ray of hope came when the Jackets acquired Freddie Norrena, who was surprisingly good in his first NHL season.
Jiri Novotny (WAS), Jan Hejda (EDM)
Anders Eriksson (CGY)
This team, although adding two defensemen, is still lacking a goaltender. Freddie Norrena may yet be a one hit wonder. Only time will tell. Overall, if Nash, Vyborny and Federov stay healthy, and they retain Zherdev, as long as those guys are scoring, and the goalies are at least decent, the Jackets should go far. Problem is, at least one of those four will go down.
Projected Finish: Third
Detroit Red Wings
2006-07 Record: 50-19-13 - 113p - 1st Central
Once again, Detroit continues to dominate the Central. They made it to the Western Final, where they lost in six to the eventual Cup Champs.
Brian Rafalski (NJ), Dallas Drake (STL),
Robert Lang (CHI), Matthieu Schneider (ANA),
Following a trend here, the Wings lose two big ones, and then add two big ones in their spots. This division is really theirs to lose, which I don't think will happen.
Projected Finish: First
2006-07 Record: 51-23-8 - 110p - 2nd
The Predators were extremely hot last season, coming only three points shy of Detroit. But certainly don't expect them to repeat this season, because God only knows what's going on down there.
Jed Ortmeyer (NYR)
Paul Kariya (STL), Vitaly Vishnevski (NJ), Thomas Vokoun (FLA)
With the fire sale, and God knows what else, going on in Nashville it's clear to me that the Preds won't have a repeat of success this year, and after this year, it's even unclear as to whether or not they'll be playing in Nashville. I feel this is an injustice to the city of Nashville. Visit http://www.savethepredators.com
if you'd like to do something about it.
Verdict: Big Losers
Projected Finish: Fifth
St. Louis Blues
2006-07 Record: 34-35-13 - 81p - 3rd
Now failing to reach the playoffs twice in two years, a feat that hadn't occurred since the dawn of time for the Blues.
Paul Kariya (NSH),
Dallas Drake (DET), Radek Dvorak (FLA)
Now that St. Louis has another big time scorer on the roster, maybe this will be the year that they get back to the playoffs.
Projected Finish: Second
2. St. Louis
Another set of predictions coming in September, the Zherdev situation is tomorrow.