A tale of two divisions: the loaded, hungry and physical Central, featuring the Cinderella Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues will be a force to reckon with and will compete with the likes of the Atlantic to show who’s best. On the other, a grayer, murkier and not as predictable Pacific which will feature at least two pretty good teams and plenty of questions after. Can the Calgary Flames get it together and drive to the top again? Will Dave Tippett tip the scales for the Oilers? Is this the year Arizona breaks out and makes the playoffs? Will the Kings be the comeback team in 2019-2020? It’s time to analyze which eight teams in this conference have the best shot.
Central Division: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators
A possible new era has arrived to begin a new decade; the St. Louis Blues will probably not be at the bottom of the division or the NHL by the time January 3rd hits, but could possibly be slugging through to number one, since no one really had an answer for the duo of Craig Berube’s coaching and Jordan Binnington in net. They even re-tooled and tweaked the roster and might be better than when they won the Cup.
Behind the current champions, the sleeping giants of Colorado could finally break out and do some serious damage in the conference, as was written on this site a few months back. Dallas seems to have made smart adjustments to their roster and added in players who could get them a fifth or sixth seed. As for Nashville, they still have enough gas in the tank to get them into one of the lower seeds, but they’ll have to gut it out against Chicago and Winnipeg.
Pacific Division: Las Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers
The Vegas Golden Knights were close to making the second round, and then had a terrible call go against them. They came out and pummeled the Sharks their first two games, and could go on a tear against any team they face. Although St. Louis won the championship, this is the team to beat in order to have a level playing field in the West. Even with the injury to Nate Schmidt, this team is still stacked.
San Jose, minus their epic playoff series win last season against Vegas will probably play second fiddle to them for most of the season, but they shouldn’t focus on that yet until April. For now, they need to get their roster going and make getting to the playoffs the goal. They have to play better defense and gel more as a unit, but they seem solid enough to get in.
Arizona has to break out at some point, right? They’re more of a defensive minded unit and led by both exceptional goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. The addition of Phil Kessel will help the offense put more pucks in the net, they just need to get to a strong start the first three months of the season.
Then there’s the dark-horse and wild-card pick of the Edmonton Oilers, who picked the right coach in Dave Tippett to make the team play better on-ice and be better off-ice. Edmonton may not be a top three team in the division, but they’ll be the team that will require opponents to put 100% in to beat them.