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article imageOp-Ed: Numerous Stanley Cup contenders among Central division teams

By Fedor Fedin     Oct 6, 2014 in Sports
The Central division is considered the best in the NHL by many. This season, it appears that the Central division teams will be yet again front and center in the battle for Stanley Cup. Here's a look at what Central division clubs did this summer.
Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks did very little to improve their team over the summer, but the 2013 Stanley Cup champions didn’t need much improvement, anyway. However, Chicago’s management has secured their two best forwards, signing both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to matching, record-setting eight-year, $84-million deals, which means the dynamic duo will be making $10.5 million per year each — tied for most in the NHL. On the free agent front, the Hawks inked veteran centerman Brad Richards to a one-year deal worth just $2 million. A salary cap situation forced the Blackhawks to trade Nick Leddy to New York Islanders late in the off-season, but with ` deep blue line and plenty of young defensemen ready for NHL assignments, replacing him shouldn’t be an issue. Expect the Hawks to be ready to go all the way again this year.
Colorado Avalanche
The advanced statistics indicate that the Avs, who surprisingly won the regular season race in this stacked division last year, are due to regress because of the abnormally high shooting and save percentage numbers in 2013-14 season, but they can’t be taken lightly. Despite losing Paul Stastny as a free agent this year, they still possess an incredibly talented group of centers — one of the crucial position for team’s success — including Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon. This off-season, the Avs concentrated on bringing in veteran players who would complement their gifted youth. GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy did a fantastic job at that, signing legendary Jarome Iginla as well as proven playoff performer Danny Briere (both of whom are still vying for their first respective championship rings) and trading for steady defenseman Brad Stuart. The best years of all three are behind them, but they definitely can help in a secondary role, especially in the postseason.
Dallas Stars
Jason Spezza was a key acquisition for the Stars this summer as an ex-Senator is expected to improve them at center, forming a solid one-two punch with young star Tyler Seguin. The Stars, led by Seguin and his linemate captain Jamie Benn, are one of the fastest-progressing teams in the NHL and addition of Spezza and another veteran forward in Ales Hemsky is supposed to provide them with more scoring options which can prove vital in the postseason.
Minnesota Wild
The Wild have made the playoffs for two years in a row now after they landed star free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. It’s time for Minnesota to make the next step, but playing against powerhouses like St. Louis and Chicago in divisional playoffs doesn’t help their cause. The continued carousel in net is a worrying sign as the Wild, who decided not to re-sign Ilya Bryzgalov after giving him an opportunity as a free agent training camp invitee, enter the season with injury-prone Niklas Backstrom, who has had problems staying healthy in recent years, unproven Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding, who played out of his mind at times last year, but suffered a broken leg as a result of an off-ice incident and is expected to miss a significant amount of time. The Wild also made a big move on offense, signing Austrian goalscorer Thomas Vanek after losing Matt Moulson and Dany Heatley.
Nashville Predators
The Preds made huge changes this offseason, parting with head coach Barry Trotz who led the franchise since its inception in 1998. Replacing Trotz will be Peter Laviolette as the Predators are likely to try to play more offensive-minded style than under previous regime. The results of this experiment are unpredictable, so the Predators, who also brought in star winger James Neal in a blockbuster trade sending Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh and signed Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to boost their front line, are one of the most intriguing teams to watch this year.
St. Louis Blues
Paul Stastny and the Blues looked like the perfect fit from the beginning — top centerman in his prime stuck in a logjam in Colorado and the team that appeared to be a top line center away from making a serious bid for the Stanley Cup. With all due respect to David Backes, an elite power forward, he didn’t have the offensive talent to ignite top line of a Stanley Cup contender, while TJ Oshie played significantly better on the right wing than at center. Stastny’s signing makes Blues a lot more complete. Goaltending could be a new headache for general manager Doug Armstrong: the Blues lost Ryan Miller, whom they acquired in the spring, as a free agent and they now have to rely on inconsistent Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, who was dominant in the AHL last season, but has just 15 NHL games under his belt.
Winnipeg Jets
The pressure is rising on Winnipeg as Jets management yet again has failed to bring a star player to drastically improve their team. This summer, the only significant move Jets made was signing Mathieu Perreault who is supposed to replace older Olli Jokinen. The Jets have a good young core of Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Zach Bogosian, but they badly need a move that would shake up their team. None have been made so far as the team’s outlook is eerily similar to the one they had when they first relocated from Atlanta in 2011. Goaltending is still the weakest link as this season shapes up to be another long one for Czech netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
Most Recent Central Division Stanley Cup Winners | FindTheBest
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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