The Blackhawks have added some high-priced veterans this off-season and the Red Wings have seemed to stand pat. The Blue Jackets didn’t make any huge moves, but they signed up their young talent long-term. The Predators and Blues didn’t make any splashes and could fall to the bottom of the division this year. Since the Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa, does this automatically lock in the Blackhwaks to lose in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Here is the 2009-10 Central Division preview, enjoy.
Detroit Red Wings*
Columbus Blue Jackets*
New York Islanders
* denotes playoff birth)
1. Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings are staying with basically the same line-up as last year, minus Marian Hossa. Hossa signed with the Blackhawks, which will make them better. The veterans on the team tend to get bored toward the end of the year, but always turn it on when the playoffs start. They will play good enough to win this division, but the Blackhwaks stay on their hells all season. They are a Stanley Cup contender every year, their payroll is huge and they have veterans who know how to win
2. Chicago Blackhawks – They made the biggest splash this off-season, on and off of the ice. Patrick Kane landed in some hot water with a cabbie, the front office had their problems, and they signed Hossa to a big deal. Johnathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and due to huge years and I like the John Madden signing to add depth at center. I’m not completely sold on Cistobal Huet in the net, seems like that they could have upgraded this position in the off-season as well.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets – If the Red Wings or Blackhawks deal with injuries this season, the Blue Jackets could leapfrog one of those teams. The big question marks are the young talent on this team. They have looked great in spurts, but Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger, and Nikita Filatov all have to take the next step in their development. Steve Mason will have to be solid in the net, since their defense is one of the weakest in the league, and so is their power play. Expect Rick Nash to have even a bigger season than last year.
4. Nashville Predators – Nashville was a few games out of earning a playoff spot last year and it appears that they could be in the same spot in 2009-10. Pekka Rinne won the starting job at goalie and he’s behind Shea Weber and a solid defensive squad. This could help them, but I worry about guys like Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and Francis Bouillon, they are getting up their in age and may not be able to keep up with younger, faster players. The Predators will do well this year, but will be a few points shy of the playoffs again this year.
5. St. Louis Blues – The Blues came out of nowhere to make the playoffs last season, but I see them taking a step back in 2009-10. It was a perfect storm of things to happen for the Blues to jolt past a few teams near the end of the season to get the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Paul Kariya has been known to be fragile and Brad Boyle is clearly just a one-way player. Andy McDonald started out the year very well last season, but injuries limited his time near the end of the season. If a few key guys step up, maybe they jump a few of these teams, but a step back is in their future.