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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A competitive Central Division adds to a wild card mess in the Western Conference

I’ve spent the past few weeks doing a team-by-team look at the teams the Oilers will be facing in the Pacific Division. Really, outside of Vancouver, everybody appears good enough to compete for a playoff spot. Things are no easier in the Central Division, which features two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and multiple other teams who will be duking it out for wild card spots.

Nashville Predators

53-18-11 (117 points)

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267 goals for (7th of 31)

211 goals against (2nd of 31) 

The Predators edged out the Winnipeg Jets for the best record in the Central Division but they got edged out by those same Jets in seven games in the second round of the playoffs. Nashville will yet again be Stanley Cup contenders in 2018-19 as they return with virtually the same roster from last season. The only major addition they made in the off-season was signing veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis, but the Preds will also get internal bonuses from rookie Eeli Tolvanen who was excellent in the KHL as an 18-year-old and a fully-healthy season from Ryan Ellis.

Winnipeg Jets

52-20-10 (114 points)

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277 goals for (2nd of 31)

218 goals against (5th of 31) 

The Jets finally dropped the monkey known as the Atlanta Thrashers from their back last season. They finished with a franchise-record 114 points, won their first-ever playoff game, and made it all the way to the Western Conference Final. That’s impressive given the city doesn’t have an airport. The Jets are a strong bet to continue to contend for a Stanley Cup as their core of good young players is only going to continue to get better. They didn’t make any major additions in the off-season but first-round picks from 2015 and 2017 Jack Roslovic and Kristian Vesalainen will be expected to step in and take on bigger roles on the team.

Minnesota Wild

45-26-11 (101 points)

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253 goals for (11th of 31)

232 goals against (11th of 31) 

The Wild eclipsed the 100-point plateau for the second season in a row, but, yet again lost in the first round of the playoffs. The team has dug itself into a salary cap bind with multiple expensive, long-term deals, so they weren’t able to be active in free agency. While Minnesota is a solid team, it’s hard to imagine them being good enough to jump over the Jets or Predators at the top of the division. Still, they’ll certainly be in the mix for a playoff spot yet again given their deep scoring, solid blueline, and good goaltending.

Colorado Avalanche

43-30-9 (95 points)

257 goals for (10th of 31)

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237 goals against (14th of 31) 

The Avalanche were one of the league’s biggest surprises last season. Had it not have been for the expansion Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup Final, they probably would have received a lot more attention, but Colorado made the playoffs in a complete 180 after winning just 22 games the previous season. They dealt Matt Duchene a couple months into the season and went on a tear after that. Nathan MacKinnon had an MVP-calibre season and Semyon Varlamov had a rebound year between the pipes. MacKinnon will need to be just as good this season if the Avs want to make the playoffs again.

Nov 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) and St. Louis Blues forward Chris Thorburn (22) fight during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues

44-32-6 (94 points)

226 goals for (24th of 31)

222 goals against (6th of 31) 

A late-season five-game losing streak ultimately cost the Blues a playoff spot last year, ending a streak that had lasted for six seasons. The Blues figured they weren’t good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup and dealt Paul Stastny to the Jets, a division rival, at the trade deadline and the team fell out of a playoff spot soon after. This summer, the Blues made major strides to bring themselves back up to contention status, trading for Ryan O’Reilly and adding Patrick Maroon, Tyler Bozak, and David Perron in free agency. The Blues are a much, much better team on paper than they were last year and should jump Minnesota and Colorado on the Central Division depth chart.

Dallas Stars

42-32-8 (92 points)

235 goals for (18th of 31)

225 goals against (7th of 31) 

The Stars were a very different team under Ken Hitchcock and they were one of the better teams at keeping the puck out of the net but they were only mediocre at scoring goals. The second Hitchcock era in Dallas ended after one season as the future Hall of Fame coach decided to retire after the team missed the playoffs. New head coach Jim Montgomery will move the team back to more of a high-flying offensive strategy which goes more in line with the Stars’ roster composition. They didn’t make any huge splashes this summer but the Stars have all the pieces necessary to be a good team if utilized properly.

Chicago Blackhawks

33-39-10 (76 points)

229 goals for (22nd of 31)

256 goals against (22nd of 31) 

The Blackhawks’ reign of dominance over the Central Division came to an end last season as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Massive contracts rewarded to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith for their play helping Chicago to three Stanley Cups has ultimately put the team in cap hell, making it incredibly difficult for them to retain talent and flesh out a deep roster. Chicago made some low-key adds in the summer, but, at this point, it’s hard to imagine them jumping over an extremely competitive division. Their window at this point appears to be closed.



  • Serious Gord

    Looking at the western conference I don’t think I have had a tougher time picking those who will make the playoffs than this season. A couple of ‘locks’ and a couple of ‘no chancers ‘ and a dogfight for the rest. And even the locks are a goaltending injury away from missing the playoffs (Winnipeg has brossoit as their backup).

  • Clubhouse

    Like come on about WPG maybe try google “That’s impressive given the city doesn’t have an airport.” They have an international airport its new and quite nice especially on the American side. Here’s the code YWG and website https://www.waa.ca/

      • VitaminMike

        Just because it was an attempt at humour doesn’t make it funny. It just makes me wonder why they’ve tried to make this same joke 2 or 3 times in the last week.

        It’s kind of like when someones is explaining something in writing, but then uses one word incorrectly. It takes you out of what you’re reading because it makes you go back and re-read it a bunch of times wondering why they did that.