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Predicting the Central Division standings in 2021

January 13, 2021, 10:30 AM ET [1 Comments]
HockeyBuzz Hotstove
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Todd Cordell

1. Tampa Bay Lightning - No Nikita Kucherov, no problem. This team showed what they can do without one of their stats when they won a Stanley Cup sans Steven Stamkos. I think they still have enough starpower and depth to win a soft division. Having Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes helps, too.

2. Carolina Hurricanes - I think the Hurricanes are going to take the next step this season. Many of their best players are entering their primes and few teams can match what they ice on the backend. If their goaltending holds up, they’re going to win a lot of games.

3. Nashville Predators - It feels like every key offensive player on the team underachieved last season and they still finished tied for 15th in points percentage. I think Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and co. will have more to offer this season.

4. Dallas Stars - They are the most COVID-filled team in the league. Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop are going to miss some time with injuries, too. That said, I think Dallas’ excellent blueline, and defensive structure in general, will be enough to stay afloat while the team gets healthy.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets - This team doesn’t get me excited. I like some of their pieces up front but they don’t have much in the way of consistent goal scorers. Their defense is also quite shallow after the big three which, at this point, might be a little overrated. They’ll hang around; I just don’t see enough here.

6. Florida Panthers - The Panthers added a lot of quality depth this off-season, which will be important in a condensed season being played in the midst of a pandemic. I just don’t see enough in the way of high-end talent and their goaltending is a massive question mark.

7. Chicago Blackhawks - This team was going to be bad *with* Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach. I can’t imagine how bad they’ll be without them. Chicago is going to allow a ton of goals.

8. Detroit Red Wings - Steve Yzerman knows they need another year in the tank. They have some good, young, players and have surrounded them with well-liked veterans to help show them the ropes. There just isn’t enough talent yet.

Sean Maloughney

1.) Carolina Hurricanes - One of the most underrated teams in the league will finally get some recognition. Guys like Aho and Svechnikov are dominant 5 on 5 forwards with the likes of Dougie Hamilton on the backend (my dark horse pick for Norris).

2.) Tampa Bay Lightning - Despite the news that Kucherov would miss the regular season, the Lightning are still an elite team with an elite goalie between the pipes. Don't see them missing much of a step from last season.

3.) Florida Panthers - Bobrovsky was a clear disappointment for the Panthers last season but Bob is still a high class goalie and a rebound is certainly plausible. Because I am throwing around awards let's say that Barkov also wins the Selke.

4.) Columbus Blue Jackets - The little engine that could. The Blue Jackets brilliant tandem of Korpisalo and Merzlikins is likely enough to keep them in a playoff position. The big X factor here is what will happen with the Dubois situation and how the team responds on the ice.

5.) Dallas Stars - COVID has taken a toll on the Stars before the season even begins but compounded with injuries to the likes of Seguin and Bishop and I see the Stars taking a step back this year.

6.) Nashville Predators - Aside from Roman Josi I just cannot get excited about the Predators team. I think Saros will need to be amazing for this to be a playoff team.

7.) Chicago Blackhawks - Let the rebuild begin. The Hawks went on a fire sale last off-season much to the displeasure of the Hawks core including captain Toews who will miss an undisclosed amount of time this season. Mixed with a goaltending tandem of Subban and Delia and I think there is an above 0% chance that the Hawks are the bottom team in the division.

8. The Detroit Red Wings - This is a bad team and will continue to be bad for quite some time.

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