From west to east, we’re previewing every team in every division for the 2017-18 season and why they’re all trash. Today’s episode: the division that will be the toughest battle this year, the Central.
Last time: They won a contentious division, but couldn’t get past the Jets. Also PK Subban was glorious throughout.
What changed: Auston Watson will miss a third of the season because he hit his girlfriend at a gas station, and the NHL’s zero-tolerance policy means they will definitely tolerate him playing another two-thirds of the season.
Big question: There aren’t a lot of flaws on this team, aside from character flaws. The regular season should be steady. The question will come in April 2019 and beyond.
Why they’re trash: voted Team Most Likely To Sign Slava Voynov in the yearbook.
Bottom line: Josi, Ekholm, Ellis, and Subban will give San Jose a run for best blue line in the league, and the Preds overall will compete for the Cup. But their biggest challenge comes from inside their division.
Last time: They won a ton of games and were an utter blast to watch in the playoffs until the Conference Finals, when they lost to the Knights, who lost to the Caps in case you didn’t hear.
What changed: Not a lot. They lost forward Paul Stastny and extended goalie Connor Hellebuyck, but that’s about it. They’re ready to roll. Thought, it does seem like Mathieu Perreault has become a survivalist?
Big question: Will Connor Hellebuyck’s performance match his new big-boy contract? Does the best chance for a non-Central team to win the Cup depend on the Jets and Preds to bloody up each other?
Why they’re trash: Poor internet quality.
Bottom line: My Cup pick.
Last time: Had a 100-point regular season but got first-rounded by the Jets. A very Boudreau-y year.
What changed: They said goodbye to GM Chuck Fletcher. Ryan Suter broke his ankle in the spring but seems to be better now. Signed Jason Zucker to a five-year deal and extended RFA defenseman Matt Dumba. Added two ex-Cap forwards, Eric Fehr and Matt Hendricks, on one-year deals.
Big question: Jason Zucker has been quietly putting up stellar numbers in a tough role; is 2018-19 the season he breaks through and becomes a star?
Why they’re trash: [insert Bruce-Boudreau-can’t-win-in-the-playoffs nonsense here]
Bottom line: Bruce Boudreau has never missed the playoffs. But up until June, the Caps had never won the playoffs. Things can change.
Last time: With just under 40 goals and just under 100 points, forward Nathan MacKinnon carried the team to their playoff appearance in four years. Right after they traded Matt Duchene away so he could “play playoff hockey” in Ottawa. Lulz.
What changed: They added goalie Philipp Grubauer from Washington and defenseman Ian Cole from Columbus.
Big question: Can ex-Cap goalie Philipp Grubauer defeat ex-Cap goalie Semyon Varlamov to claim the number-one spot?
Why they’re trash: They required a superhuman effort from MacKinnon last season to do just okay. That makes them at least less trashy than Edmonton, I guess.
Bottom line: Grubi is gonna do great, but it’s a tall order for this team in this division to make the playoffs.
Last time: Colorado edged them out of the playoffs by one standings point. The Blues had the second fewest overtime losses in the league (six, behind Tampa).
What changed: They traded a bunch of assets to Buffalo in exchange for forward Ryan O’Reilly, which is good if you think ROR is good, and some people do, but I have no idea. Signed forward Tyler Bozak in free agency. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo got suspended one game for a preseason hit on Michal Kempny.
Big question: Are goalie Jake Allen’s back problems behind him? Could he lose his spot to Carter Hutton, who may be better?
Why they’re trash: Folks, I’m gonna level with you. To me, the Blues are the most forgettable team in the league. You couldn’t pay me to care about this team, but if you wanted to try, my Venmo is @peterhassett.
Bottom line: I’d expect them to make the playoffs again, but perhaps only because I don’t think the Avs can repeat last season’s performance.
Last time: Narrowly missed the playoffs.
What changed: Head coach Ken Hitchcock is gone, thank goodness. He had taken a fun team and grinded it into ash.
Big question: Will Jim Montgomery administration bring offense back? Will goalie Ben Bishop stay healthy?
Why they’re trash: Because this (admittedly cute) contract announcement for Seguin portrays his new deal as a reward on past success (“Your quest is over”) rather than an investment in the future, and yes, I’m just jealous the Caps didn’t do this.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 13, 2018
Bottom line: Benn and Seguin forever. This team has too many weapons to linger near the bottom of the division.
Last time: Their worst season in more than a decade!
What changed: They ditched forward Marian Hossa’s contract, signed forward Chris Kunitz in free agency, and picked up goalie Cam Ward for god knows what reason.
Big question: Is goalie Corey Crawford (vertigo-like symptoms) like totally done? I hope not, because that’s super sad and I have vertigo and it sucks.
Why they’re trash: Too easy, too depressing.
Bottom line: Three Cups led this team to make some deals that haven’t worked out great – especially Jonathan Toews’. After a long time of being very very good, the Hawks are the worst team in their division, and it’s not gonna change this season.
Brennin Weiswerda and Julia Karron also contributed to this story.
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