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2013 NHL Central Division Preview 

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The day is upon us. The 2013-14 NHL Season begins tonight. While it feels really early, I am giddy. Let’s get crackin with a look at the Western Conference.

How They Will Finish:

7. Colorado Avalanche +2000

The Avs should be fun to watch this year. While they have way too many problems to be a legit threat this year the future is pretty bright. They just have too much to overcome to be respectable this year. Last year they were 24th on the power play, 24th on the penalty kill, 26th in offensive scoring and 27th in defensive scoring. That is too much to turn around in just a single offseason. They should be able to improve upon scoring an average of just 2.38 goals per game, with the addition of 2013 #1 draft pick that scored 32 goals in 44 juniors games last year. However there is too much inexperience in the defensive corps. Last year’s leader in ice time was just 22 years old. They should be more entertaining this year, and the future looks bright, but they are headed for another top draft pick in 2014.

6. Nashville Predators +1800

The Preds needed scoring and that’s what they addressed in the offseason. But exactly how much will Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Viktor Stalberg, and Matt Hendricks help? Probably not enough to see any real rise in the offensive rankings. The defense hasn’t been an issue and goalie Pekka Rinne makes that unit look even better. But they need to find some offense and find it soon or they might be blowing things up.

5. Dallas Stars +1250

I like what Dallas is doing. They are rebuilding on the fly by bringing in Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Shawn Horcoff and Valerie Nichushkin to help out an offense that only won 47.2% of faceoffs last year and was ranked 29th in shots on goal. The new faces on the offense should help free up guys like Jamie Benn who have been asked to do too much in recent years. He could really have a big year. They also brought in Sergei Gonchar to help out an offensively challenged defensive unit. This Stars team is starting to trend in the right direction but I think they will struggle early on as they get used to playing with one another. They should come on strong at the end of the season but it will be too little too late.

4. Winnipeg Jets +2500

Why are the Jets so undervalued? People are writing this team off already despite the fact that they will be returning the core of a team that spent the majority of the season atop their division. Not to mention that they were playing teams in the southeast meaning the majority of their games required an incredible amount of travel. Adding Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi should improve the NHL’s worst power play from a year ago, and provide some much needed offensive help. They should be a bit more consistent this year and could be a real darkhorse playoff contender if their youngsters can take a step forward this year. Winnipeg isn’t a bottom dwelling team, they will compete this year.

3. Chicago Blackhawks -155

While this offseason wasn’t quite the firesale that 2010 was for the Blackhawks, they still lost quite a few key contributors. They replaced Ray Emery with Nikolai Khabibulin but they did not replace the likes of Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland or Daniel Carcillo. That means they will have to rely even more heavily on their stars, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. While I am a huge fan of Hossa, he is getting older and can’t seem to stay healthy. Word is he is already banged up, so things aren’t looking too good on that front. The Blackhawks will be around when it counts, but this season is going to be much more of a grind than last year was.

2. Minnesota Wild +650

Two years ago Minnesota shelled out a ton of money in free agency only to have the work stoppage ruin their plans of a big 2013 season. This team never looked like they had an opportunity to gel together. I am expecting big things from this team this year even though they lost some nice depth pieces. They shook things up a bit in the offseason and now with a year under their belt we should see how well these guys can play together. The sky is the limit for this team.

1. St. Louis Blues +275

The Blues had the third most points in the Western Conference last year and if you ask any of their fans, they would say that was a step backwards. While they did boast a solid defensive unit, their offense struggled with consistency at times. So they brought in Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi to help that out. They also have one of the best problems in hockey, three good goalies. Young, touted Jake Allen filled in very well last season and appears to be their goalie of the future. That could mean if either Brian Elliott or Jaroslav Halak could be on their way out of town if they don’t start off strong. Those guys could be nice trade bait for someone looking for a goalie. If they can use that to gain even more offensive depth they could run away with this division and possibly the conference.

Best Future Bets:

Minnesota to win the West 9-1

Minnesota to win the Stanley Cup 18-1


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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