Here we are barreling toward the start of the NHL Regular season. So it is time to start previewing what is to come in the upcoming 2019-20 season. I will break down every division, than the league as a whole. With a final look at the playoffs and crown my 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champion.
So let’s turn our attention to the murders row of the NHL, the Central Division.
Last year the Central produced the Stanley Cup Champion, The Scrappy Underdog, Two of the top point getter in the league and none of those teams were named the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Central for a long time has turned out legitimate playoff contenders. In fact over the last ten years five times a team from the Central has appeared in the final. This is not a coincidence. Iron sharpens iron and the central is the perfect example of that.
At the trade deadline the Preds tried to add a bunch of little pieces to add depth. It failed miserably. So this off season they added one giant piece Matt Duchene. This was rumored to be happening forever. Finally on July 1st it became official. The talented center will most likely fill a second line capacity. Leaving Johansen and Forsberg together on the top line. It will be interesting to see who flanks him. Nashville has a few candidates, but they will need to be a combination of speed and passing ability. The twenty nine year old likes to finish and have the puck on his stick. If Nashville can find that magic matchup like they did for Johansen and Forsberg they could be right at the top of the central again.
The Jets went all in last season. Trading for anyone and everyone. It blew up in their faces. The team had a serious lack of chemistry and no punch. Patrik Laine was invisible. The team defensively struggled, and no one put the puck in the net with regularity. The team is still in term oil as both Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are unsigned. I think this season will be wasted for the Jets. Contract disputes and lack of team chemistry will continue this season. Ending the reign of this once bright contender. I think they are good enough to make the playoffs, but they could easily find themselves an eight seed.
St. Louis Blues
From last to first. What more can you say about the Blues. They truly were America’s heart last season. Their redemption story stretched from the team as a whole to their goaltender to their Conn Smythe winner. They lost a few pieces in the off season. None of the big guns but guys like Patrick Maroon are what made that team special. I think Jordan Binnginton will come back to earth a bit this season. He will still be above average but only slightly. Vladimir Tarasenko lost most of last year to injury. If they can reignite him they can definitely make the playoffs. Are they likely to repeat as champions? No, but they should be a playoff team in the gladiator pit of the central.
It is well documented that I expect big things from the Dallas Stars this season. I love the way their team is assembled. They have a powerful mix of players. Guys like Benn, Seguin, and Radulov in their primes while veteran presences like Perry and Pavelski look for one more piece of glory. A steady man in net with Ben Bishop, and a litany of young talented blueliners. I guarantee a playoff appearance, and possibly a cup appearance.
At this point Mikko Rantanen is still unsigned. Which is concerning if you are an Avs fan. However at the end of the day they have a lot of cap space and they have the most underrated player in the league Nathan Mackinnon. Last season Mackinnon single handedly brought them one goal away from the Conference Finals. Sidney Crosby’s protege has taken his true form and it is magnificent. Plus with the amount of cap space they have they can entertain a number of trade offers to stack this team. Joe Sackic will be cautious on what he is willing to give up tho. I think the General Manager believes he has better talent coming through his system than is available in the NHL right now. If he is right the Avs will continue to get better with playoff experiences as they add new players. It may be cocky to say, but I feel the dynasty returning in a big way.
Look, the Hawks have been down the past two seasons. No one will say otherwise. But last time I checked, Patrcik Kane and Jonahtan Toews still play on this team. Stan Bowman has continued to restock the pool with guys like Alex Debrincat. They largely took care of their blue line problems this off season. If Corey Crawford is healthy there is no reason the Hawks can’t return to Cup form. I’m still holding out for a Hawks vs Penguins cup. And until I get it I refuse to declare either of these teams dead.
Stick a fork in them Jimbo they are done. Off ice problems have pledged their front office. Their owner thinks he is smarter than everyone. Bruce Boudreau can’t ever win a playoff game. I feel terrible for Billy Guiren inheriting this ancient team. The good news is that young teams trying to add vertan leadership like Colorado, Vancouver, and New York could use a few of the pieces they have to offer. But all and all this is a nucleus that needs blown up now.
The division this year is a toss up. I think anyone except Minnesota could win it. So here is a shot in the dark.
Hawks regain form and make one last press for a cup in the Kane and Toews era, while Dallas has a great season. Nashville continues to trend down as Pekka Rinne gets older. St. Louis comes back to earth but are good enough for the playoffs. The Avs get in amongst a changing roster and make a deep run, but lose to the Stars in the conference final.
You heard it here first folks the Dallas Stars are going back to the cup!