Next, I looked at the Central Division
Columbus Blue Jackets
Could this be the year the Columbus Blue Jackets make the playoffs... NO. However they will be better. Mainly because the Columbus Blue Jackets fired Doug MacLean and heired Scott Howson. Also the team got immediately better last year when they heired Ken Hitchcock. The Blue Jackets are stacked with young talent up front but I'm not sure how they are going to stop the puck from ending up in their own net. They went 3 - 5 against Detroit last year and they were and the went a perfect 0 - 8 against Nashville last year. I sure they will be able to beat Nashville a few more times this year, mainly because Nashville got a lot worse. Look for Columbus to bet at the bottom again.
Chicago looks like they are on the right path to making the playoffs, unfortunately it will not be this year. Mainly because their best player, Martin Havlat, cannot stay healthy. He has never played a full 82 games and only twice has he played more then 70 games. Chicago is a good team with Havlat in the lineup and should be able to take many points off of Columbus, Nashville and St. Louis. The problem is if Havlat is out of the line up for an extended period of time, they will be at the bottom of the Central Division along side the Columbus Blue Jackets.
There are a lot of question marks around the Nashville Predators. But it looks like the Predators are going to have a tough time making the playoffs this year. They have lost many players to free agency and now have lost Sullivan for three months. They still have Dumont, Legwand and Arnott, but I'm not sure if thats enough to carry them into the playoffs. The best thing they have going for them is that they play in the Central Division.
St. Louis Blues
Paul Karia will not carry this team into the playoffs. I really don't understand how a team that signs one good free agent and then signs one they traded away at last years trade deadline, suddenly becomes a cup contender. They are still a year away.. maybe two. Talk about over hyped. Whatever it takes to get fans in the building I guess. I hate to tell you this John Davidson, but once your team takes to the ice, your fans will see the truth about the blues and they will find something else to occupy their time. If your lucky they might try again next year.
If St. Louis does get close to the playoffs this year, it will be because of the other teams in the Central Division crapping the bed.
Detroit Red Wings
As always the Detroit Red Wings will be atop the Central Division. With an impressive defense, led by Lidstrom and an alway potent offense led by Zetterberg and Datsyuk , the Wings will be destroying the Central Division. I would expect Detroit to have an exemplary record against the divisional opponents. Something like 24W - 8L in inter-divisional play is not unrealistic. So what about the goal tending this year? its the same as always....and that is, its their only possible weakness. Last year Hasek stayed healthy, but I doubt it will happen again this year. Even if Hasek breaks down this year, the wing will not have to worry untill the playoffs start. I'm sure Osgood or Berkhoel can keep it together until the games start to matter.
Central Division Projected Results
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Nashville Predators
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
All these teams have similar questions about their goal tending, but with Detroit's offense, defense and most importantly, experience... the Wings will do what they always do and make the regular season marathon look like a walk in the park. I think its is possible that this year, only one team in the Central Division will make the playoffs. Detroit is in thats a given, as for the rest.. its a crap shoot for them to get one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference.