While the new look Pacific was purely a combination of teams from the old Pacific and Northwest, the new Central is a mesh mash of teams from all over the place. Three old Central teams stayed put, two came from the Northwest, one from the Pacific, and even one from the Southeast, though technically they should have been in the Central to begin with. Anyway, this means plenty of new faces all around.
- Corey Crawford will regress slightly due in large part to the weight of his upcoming contract extension. He’ll still be pretty good, just don’t expect a repeat of last year.
- I’m not sold on Bryan Bickell in the top six. I just don’t believe he’s capable of handling those sort of minutes for an entire season.
- Jonathan Toews won’t achieve a point per game again, so it’s back to bumsquad status.
- Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp will miss a combined 40ish games because that’s just what they do.
- One of Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, or Jimmy Hayes will eventually lock down a spot in the top six.
- Nathan MacKinnon will easily be one of the league’s top three rookies this season.
- Paul Stastny will play very well in a contract year and still end up being traded at the deadline for a defenseman and/or draft picks.
- Gabriel Landeskog will score 30+ goals and around 70 points. Matt Duchene will be right around those same numbers also.
- Semyon Varlamov will have a much better season thanks to Patrick Roy and Francois Allaire.
- Colorado’s defense will be one of the league’s worst, leading to many awesome Patrick Roy post-game press conferences.
- The combination of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin will be glorious. It’ll take awhile for Lindy Ruff to find a suitable right winger to play with them though.
- Valeri Nichushkin will start the season on fire, but eventually work his way into Ruff’s doghouse like many a rookie before him.
- Kari Lehtonen will most definitely miss time due to injury.
- Cody Eakin will solidify himself as an NHL calibre second line center. Merely an average one though.
- The Stars will have one of the best power play units in the West.
- Minnesota’s defense behind Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin will be just as bad as last season.
- Thankfully though, Brodin will develop his offensive game more and his pairing with Suter will be a top three defense tandem league wide.
- Dany Heatley will be terrible and probably end up as the worst free agent signing next summer, assuming no one is dumb enough to offer Olli Jokinen another contract.
- The top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville will be amazing.
- Every line other than that top line will be mediocre or worse.
- Seth Jones won’t look too out of place on the top pair with Shea Weber, but he’ll eventually burn out due to the ice time and competition level that comes with being on said pair.
- The Predators will continue to be one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, but not quite as bad as they were last season.
- However, their overall team defense will be much improved, along with a much better performance from Pekka Rinne.
- Filip Forsberg will make slow progress as he adjusts to the expectations placed on him by Barry Trotz.
- Colin Wilson will finally have his breakout season, contributing 60+ points.
St. Louis Blues
- The Blues will continue to be somewhat average offensively due to Ken Hitchcock continually reining everything in.
- St. Louis will be rock solid defensively and the Olympic break will help in this regard. Even if Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester make the team, they won’t play much, likely being the 7th and/or 8th defensemen.
- Jaroslav Halak will actually stay healthy! Well, until the Olympics anyway. He’ll get hurt in Sochi and the Blues will turn to Brian Elliott again, but this time he’ll suck so they’ll head into the playoffs starting Jake Allen.
- David Backes will kick ass and take names every game leading up to the Olympics.
- Chris Stewart will come back down to earth, i.e. he’ll return to the third line.
- Winnipeg’s offense will be dreadful. They have no depth whatsoever and the only reason they weren’t near the bottom last year is due to being in the Southeast.
- Evander Kane will have another 30 goal season and the Winnipeg media will still find a way to bitch and moan about the guy.
- Mark Scheifele will start to look more and more like the huge bust that he is.
- Dustin Byfuglien will actually be in good shape this year.
- Ondrej Pavelec will suck.
Final Standings Prediction
- Chicago Blackhawks
- St. Louis Blues
- Nashville Predators
- Dallas Stars
- Minnesota Wild
- Colorado Avalanche
- Winnipeg Jets