Central Division

  1. St. Louis Blues*
  2. Nashville Predators*
  3. Chicago Blackhawks*
  4. Dallas Stars*
  5. Minnesota Wild
  6. Winnipeg Jets
  7. Colorado Avalanche

*playoff team

Here’s my wackball surprise: St. Louis wins the Central and the West. Vladimir Tarasenko is going to rip up the league this season and lead them to it.

Nashville will remain strong, but be surpassed late in the season as Pekka Rinne begins to wear down.

Chicago is likely going to be dealing with Patrick Kane fallout – or simply won’t have Kane in their offense and I think the gloss finally starts to wear thin. Maybe by March, Duncan Keith will finally have to sit for more than thirty five seconds of a hockey game. Maybe.

If the Stars can get Kari Lehtonen to give them passable numbers in any sustained way, I think they make the playoffs this season. Patrick Sharp is going to help that effort, bringing leadership and experience.

If not, the Minnesots Wild will take that slot. Devan Dubnyk put on quite a show in the latter half of last season after being dealt from Arizona. Mike Yeo’s epic dressing down of the team in a practice this past January, along with Dubnyk’s arrival and resurgence between the pipes got them into the playoffs, but how much can one expect an emotionally inspired run on the back of a goalie happy not to be playing hockey in… Saudi Arabia to carry over from one season to the next? Not much, I say.

Look for Winnipeg to deal Dustin Byfuglien at or before the trade deadline. It is a contact year for him and someone will want a guy with his versatility on offense and defense. If they aren’t going to make the playoffs (and they aren’t) they will look to move him.

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