This summer has been an uneventful one for the Chicago Blackhawks, but it is always good to know where the team stands mid-way through the offseason. There have been no trades made and only a depth signing in Sheldon Brookbank. Luckily, the Blackhawks aren’t the only Central team who has struggled to make leaps and bounds over the competition. In fact, they may have improved their situation by other teams’ downfalls. With July about over, and training camp just around the corner, let’s take a look at what has been going on in the Central Division.
St. Louis Blues – 109 points last year
Key Additions – None
Key Losses – Jason Arnott (currently unsigned)
The St. Louis Blues were one of the biggest surprises in the West last year. They started out slow but got a kick in the butt when coach Ken Hitchcock was brought on board. The Blues are in a good position to take the Central division again this year. They have strong goaltending and a very well rounded team. So far, the Blues have had one of the best offseasons in the Central division…by doing absolutely nothing.
Nashville Predators – 104 points last year
Key Additions – Chris Mason
Key Losses – Ryan Suter, Jording Tootoo, Alexander Radulov (KHL), and Andrei Kostitsyn (unsigned)
The Nashville Predators continued their strong play under coach Barry Trotz, someone who always gets the most out of his teams. However, this summer has been a rough one for the Predators. The only key addition at this point is a back up goaltender who is going to see very little time in between the pipes and will have a minimal impact. Losing Ryan Suter is going to hurt the most. The Predators have always played a defensive minded game and Suter has quickly become one of the better defenders in the game. Add in the three forwards that provided grit and scoring to this team and it looks like it will be tough for the Predators to reach 104 points again this year.
Detroit Red Wings – 102 points last year
Key Additions – Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson, and Jonas Gustavsson
Key Losses – Niklas Lidstrom (retirement), Brad Stuart (trade), Jiri Hudler, and Tomas Holmstrom (most likely retirement)
The Detroit Red Wings have easily had the worst summer in the Central. Their captain and perennial Norris Trophy candidate, Niklas Lidstrom, has retired. On top of that, Brad Stuart was traded out West. With a weakened defense the Red Wings will be scrambling at the point unless they fix the blueline depth in the upcoming month. The Red Wings are supposedly in the running for both Shane Doan and Alexander Semin, but if they strikeout on those two (as they did with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter) they could be in big trouble and may not reach 100 points this year.
Chicago Blackhawks – 101 points last year
Key Additions – Sheldon Brookbank
Key Losses – None
The Blackhawks are currently sitting with a very similar team from last year. Many people may consider losing Andrew Brunette, Sean O’Donnell, and Sami Lepisto addition by subtraction. This may hold out to be true but only time will tell. There are still holes that need to be filled but it isn’t out of the question that the Blackhawks reach 101 points again this year, especially with a weaker division and a very similar team to the one that reach that plateau last year.
Columbus Blue Jackets – 65 points last year
Key Additions – Adrian Aucoin, Sergei Bobrovsky (trade), Brandon Dubinsky (trade), Artem Anisimov (trade)
Key Losses – Rick Nash (trade)
The Columbus Blue Jackets need to make up almost 40 points from last year’s standings. It will be tough to do without their Captain and best player, Rick Nash. They have added some depth up the middle with Dubinsky and Anisimov and also hope to have improved their goaltending with Bobrovsky. With all that being said, the Jackets will likely be more competitive this year but they still have a long way to go.
A lucky offseason for the Blackhawks but there is still over a month to go. Will the Blackhawks improve their team in that time or will a team like the Predators or Red Wings, who have had poor offseasons, finally improve their rosters? There are still plenty of holes in four out of five teams in the Central division, but if all things stay the same it may be prospects who influence where their team finishes.