2009-10 NHL Preview: Central Division
Total Pro Sports – With the start of the 2009-10 NHL Season upon us it’s time to take a look and see how each team stacks up. As per the norm, each preview will be broken down by division in order of how we think the team will finish.
Lets take a look at the Central Division for the 2009-10 NHL Preview.
1. Detroit Red Wings
Despite suffering a heart-breaking loss in the Cup Finals to Pittsburgh after being up 2-0 in the series, the Wings look poised for another run at the Cup even with the subtraction of some key players from last season.
The loss of Marian Hossa to division rivals Chicago will hurt. Losing both Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson is a big hit to their secondary scoring as well. However, they still have the great combo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Johan Franzen is another big weapon on the wing and Daniel Cleary has shown an ability to score when paired with the right line mates in the past. Of course there’s Tomas Holmstrom who’ll make life miserable for goaltenders and Valtteri Filppula will look to improve on his 40 points from last season. Jason Williams is another guy to keep an eye on as he played great after going to Columbus last season, can skate like the wind and was part of the Wings 2002 Cup winning team.
Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski are probably the best 1-2 punch in the league from the point. Brad Stuart’s been solid since coming to the Wings in ’08 and Niklas Kronwall has established himself as a great top 4 d-man who can dish out hits and collect points. Youngster Jonathan Ericsson also showed in last year’s playoffs that he’s ready to take the next step and looks like a solid defender.
Goaltending rests on the shoulders of one Chris Osgood. If he falters through parts of the season like he did last year things could get dicey as they don’t have Ty Conklin to back them up anymore. Jimmy Howard looks decent enough, but he’s still unproven at this point.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
After finally giving their fans something to cheer about making the playoff and making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season, everything looks nice and promising for the young Blackhawks heading into the 2009-10 season.
Hurt to lose Martin Havlat but the addition of Marian Hossa should help the team, just too bad they didn’t do their due-diligence before signing him to a big long-term contract and wont be playing for Chicago until December. Despite that, the Blackhawks still have a solid forward group lead of course by Patrick Kane and young leader Jonathan Toews. Patrick Sharp should be good for 30+ if he can stay healthy and Dustin Byfuglien should continue to develop as the team’s top power forward. Kris Versteeg will look to build off of a successful rookie campaign along with Dave Bolland who had a solid sophomore season.
Despite the lack of a true hard-nosed/tough defender, the Blackhawks defence looks pretty good. Cam Barker enjoyed a nice breakout season showing why he was picked 3rd overall in 2004 and Brian Campbell is always a threat with his speed, offensive instincts and big hit capability. Duncan Keith also had a bit of a breakout season as well collecting 44 points in 77 games and Brent Seabrook really improved his defensive game putting up a plus/minus rating of plus-23 last season.
Just like Detroit, Chicago has a reliable experienced starter in Cristobal Huet but zero experience behind him in Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi. Huet has shown an ability to be a solid starter in Montreal and for his short time in Washington so I don’t think the Blackhawks have too much to worry about.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history Columbus will not only look to make it back for the second consecutive year, but to also be a thorn in Chicago’s side and keep St.Louis at bay.
Rick Nash will continue to prove he’s one of the best power forwards in the game and Kristian Huselius will be able to take advantage of team’s focusing on Nash and put up some nice numbers of his own like he did in Calgary playing with Iginla. Jakub Voracek will look to improve after a so-so rookie season and if the pre-season has shown us anything it’s that Nikita Filatov will be in the hunt to win Columbus it’s 2nd Calder Trophy in a row. Derick Brassard is a young guy to keep an eye on as he looked great last season before being sidelined for the year.
Defence is really the only major weakness on this team as they don’t have any defencemen that stand out as true 1st pairing guys. The young Kris Russell showed an ability to put up points and Fedor Tyutin had a great year putting up 34 points while playing in all 82 games. Marc Methot will continue to build his reputation as a tough defender who can put up a few points once and a while and Rostislav Klesla will try to stay healthy as he’s due for a breakout season.
Things look solid between the pipes with Steve Mason coming off his Calder Trophy winning season and Mathieu Garon as his experienced and reliable backup.
4. St.Louis Blues
Like the Blue Jackets, the Blues surprised a lot of people last season by making the playoffs. However, like Columbus, they were eliminated in the 1st round and will look to improve.
Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes lead a group of young talented forwards. Patrik Berglund had a great rookie season along with T.J. Oshie who managed 39 points in 57 games. David Perron had a much better sophomore season reaching the 50 point mark and David Backes emerged as a young up and coming power forward scoring 31 goals and collecting 165 penalty minutes last season.
If everything goes well and players can stay healthy the defence will be better than expected. Eric Brewer leads the defence with hard-nosed Barret Jackman. Carlo Colaiacovo played solid after coming over from Toronto and Darryl Sydor is a solid addition. The wild card this year will be Erik Johnson who had a solid rookie campaign but missed all of the 2008-09 season due to injury.
The names Chris Mason and Ty Conklin don’t jump out at you, but both have proven over the years that they’re solid goaltenders. Mason will be given the #1 role after playing amazing in the 2nd half of last season, but if he falters Conklin will be right there to step in.
5. Nashville Predators
If it weren’t for being in such a tough division the Predators would have a better shot at making the playoffs.
Two very underrated players in Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont lead the Preds forward group. Steve Sullivan looked great when he returned to the lineup last season collecting 32 points in 41 games. David Legwand will look to stay healthy as the team’s 2nd line centre and Martin Erat will be aiming for his first 60+ point season in his career.
Shea Weber had his coming out party in the 2009-10 season collecting 53 points and 80 penalty minutes in 81 games. Ryan Suter also showed that he’s worth his contract putting up 45 points while playing in all 82 games. Dan Hamhuis was his dependable self while Kevin Klein had a decent rookie season.
Despite the departures of Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason over the past few seasons, Nashville is pretty solid in net. Pekka Rinne looked great in his rookie campaign posting 29 wins, a .917 SAV%, 2.38 GAA and 7 shutouts. Dan Ellis is a solid backup and able to step in in case of injury or poor play.