Posted: Mon September 30, 2013 11:13PM; Updated: Tue October 1, 2013 12:30PM
Sarah Kwak

NHL 2013-14 Central Division team-by-team preview

Central Division (cont.)

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Cazeneuve's NHL preview: Central Division
Source: SI
SI's Brian Cazeneuve breaks down the outlook for the Central Division teams in the 2013-2014 season.
Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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Chicago Blackhawks

Coach: Joel Quenneville
2013 record: 36-7-5
Vital signs: 3.10 goals-for per game (2nd), 2.02 goals-against per game (1st), 16.7 power play pct. (19th), 87.2 penalty kill pct. (3rd), shootout record: 6-5 (3rd)
Notable adds: G Nikolai Khabibulin (OIlers)
Notable losses: C Dave Bolland (Maple Leafs), LW Viktor Stalberg (Predators), G Ray Emery (Flyers)


Bryan Bickell -- Jonathan Toews -- Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp -- Michal Handzus -- Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad -- Andrew Shaw -- Jimmy Hayes
Brandon Bollig-- Marcus Kruger -- Ben Smith
Joakim Nordstrom

Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya -- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy -- Michal Rozsival
Sheldon Brookbank/Michael Kostka

Corey Crawford
Nikolai Khabibulin

Outlook: People are starting to use the D-word in reference to the Blackhawks. With two Stanley Cups during the last four years, Chicago has created the closest thing to a modern-day dynasty the NHL has these days. And their dominating run to the Cup in 2013 really just might be the beginning. Captain Jonathan Toews and winger Patrick Kane are both entering their primes, and even their "older" players, like 34-year-old Marian Hossa and 31-year-old Patrick Sharp, are still a ways away from their expiration dates. With their excellent defense corps returning, there are no serious deficiencies on this roster. The only question might be in goal, where the Blackhawks return Corey Crawford and his glove hand, which was exposed in the Stanley Cup Final against Boston. Chicago lost Ray Emery, a fine backup for Crawford last season, but brought in Nikolai Khabibulin, who even at 40, should still be good for 10 or 15 wins.

St. Louis Blues

Valdimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko
Jimmy Simmons/Icon SMI

Coach: Ken Hitchcock
2013 record: 29-17-2
Vital signs: 2.58 goals-for per game (17th), 2.38 goals-against per game (8th), 19.5 power play pct. (12th), 84.7 penalty kill pct. (7th), shootout record: 5-1 (6th)
Notable adds: LW Brenden Morrow (Penguins), LW Magnus Paajarvi (Oilers), C Derek Roy (Stars), C Maxim Lapierre (Canucks)
Notable losses: LW David Perron (Oilers), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (UFA), C Andy McDonald (retired)


Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart
Brenden Morrow - Max Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Adam Cracknell - Vladimir Sobotka

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman -- Kevin Shattenkirk
Jordan Leopold -- Roman Polak
Ian Cole

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Outlook: The 2013 trade deadline additions of defensemen Jay Bouwmester and Jordan Leopold, now signed for full seasons, give the Blues one of the most solid defense corps in the league. And under coach Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis has turned itself into a perennial playoff team. But one area that remains a shortcoming is the Blues' ability to score more consistently. So GM Doug Armstrong went out and tweaked his lineup to help boost his team's 2.58 goals per game average. The emergence of right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, the rookie phenom who scored five goals in his first seven games last January, allowed Armstrong to move 20-goal scorer David Perron and then pick up another young talent in winger Magnus Paajarvi, a former first rounder who could flourish with more ice time than he received in Edmonton. If the additions of solid role players like Max Lapierre and Derek Roy translate into tangible offense, then the Blues will have a chance to challenge the Blackhawks for the Central throne.

Minnesota Wild

Dany Heatley of the Minnesota Wild
Dany Heatley
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Coach: Mike Yeo
2013 record: 26-19-3
Vital signs: 2.46 goals-for per game (22nd), 2.60 goals-against per game (16th), 17.9 power play pct. (16th), 80.7 penalty kill pct. (18th), shootout record: 4-2 (11th)
Notable adds: LW Matt Cooke (Penguins), RW Nino Niederreiter (Islanders), D Keith Ballard (Canucks)
Notable losses: C Matt Cullen (Predators), RW Devin Setoguchi (Jets), RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Islanders), D Tom Gilbert (Panthers), RW Cal Clutterbuck (Islanders), D Justin Falk (Rangers)


Zach Parise -- Mikko Koivu -- Jason Pominville
Justin Fontaine -- Charlie Coyle -- Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke -- Kyle Brodziak -- Torrey Mitchell
Mike Rupp - Zenon Konopka -- Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter

Ryan Suter -- Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella -- Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner -- Keith Ballard
Matt Dumba

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Outlook: The top-line talent in is there: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu. But the challenge has been solidifying this team beyond its top players. Last season proved that the Wild just seemed to lean too heavily on their best players, and to take the next step, they will have to look beyond the top line and first defense pair. Specifically, it means looking at the curious case of Dany Heatley. The 32-year-old winger, who came to Minnesota in 2011, has seen his numbers steadily decline over the last three seasons. Last season, he was derailed by injury, but the forward says he's healthy and ready to bounce back from a lackluster 26 games in which he scored just 11 goals and 21 points. In a contract year, he'll be motivated to prove he's still a valuable player, and if he can find some chemistry with youngsters like Charlie Coyle or Mikael Granlund, the Wild should be able to make it out of the Central Division.

Nashville Predators

Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher
Steven King/Icon SMI

Coach: Barry Trotz
2013 record: 16-23-9
Vital signs: 2.27 goals-for per game (29th), 2.77 goals-against per game (20th), 17.1 power play pct. (17th), 75.5 penalty kill pct. (29th), shootout record: 2-6 (21st)
Notable adds: C Matt Cullen (Wild), C Matt Hendricks (Capitals), LW Eric Nystrom (Stars), LW Viktor Stalberg (Blackhawks), D Seth Jones (draft)
Notable losses: LW Sergei Kostitsyn (KHL), RW Matt Halischuk (Jets), D Hal Gill (PTO), G Chris Mason (Italy-A)


Colin Wilson -- Mike Fisher -- Patric Hornqvist
Viktor Stalberg -- David Legwand -- Filip Forsberg
Eric Nystrom -- Paul Gaustad -- Matt Hendricks
Nick Spaling -- Matt Cullen -- Craig Smith
Simon Moser -- Rich Clune

Roman Josi -- Shea Weber
Kevin Klein -- Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm -- Ryan Ellis
Victor Bartley

Pekka Rinne
Carter Hutton

Outlook: Though the Predators are overwhelmingly excited to see how their first-round draft choice, Seth Jones, acclimates to the NHL, the obvious deficiency in Nashville last season was a dearth of goals, as the team ranked last in the league with Florida with just 109 goals in 48 games. After 2011-12, when the Preds ranked eighth and averaged 2.83 goals per game, last season was a step back. Their problems, however, didn't stop there. A feeble penalty kill also doomed a squad that crawled to a 2-10-3 finish of the shortened 2013 season. And so GM David Poile took steps to patch those two glaring holes, signing some creative forwards like Viktor Stalberg and then adding the defensively sound Matt Hendricks and Matt Cullen. So while all the hype this season may revolve around a teenage defenseman, the true test will be the Predators' ability to create more offense to challenge for a playoff spot in the Central and improve a really lackluster PK.

Winnipeg Jets

Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets
Evander Kane
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Coach: Claude Noel
2013 record: 24-21-3
Vital signs: 2.62 goals-for per game (16th), 2.94 goals-against per game (25th), 13.8 power play pct. (30th), 79.7 penalty kill pct. (24th), shootout record: 2-3 (22nd)
Notable adds: RW Michael Frolik (Blackhawks), RW Matt Halischuk (Predators), RW Devin Setoguchi (Wild)
Notable losses: C Nik Antropov (KHL), C Kyle Wellwood (Swiss league), D Ron Hainsey (Hurricanes)


Andrew Ladd -- Bryan Little -- Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane -- Mark Scheifele -- Devin Setoguchi
Matt Halischuk -- Olli Jokinen -- Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi -- Jim Slater -- James Wright
Patrice Cormier

Grant Clitsome -- Dustin Byfuglien
Tobias Enstrom -- Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart -- Jacob Trouba
Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec
Al Montoya

Outlook: Yes, the travel will be better for the Jets who no longer have to commute thousands of miles for divisional meetings. But learning their way through a new conference will likely set the team back this season. That, their management seems to believe, might be the only thing that stands between the Jets and playoff position, because the organization poured nearly $100 million into re-signing three key players during this off-season. Winnipeg, during the last two years, has signed five players through 2017-18, showing just how much faith the front office has in this group. Now it's up to the core to meet expectations and their contracts by showing consistency. For six years and $33.6 million, Blake Wheeler will be looked upon to build on his 19 goals from last season. And Evander Kane, who signed a six-year deal worth $31.5 million in 2012, cannot take a step back in his development.

Dallas Stars

Sergei Gonchar of the Dallas Stars
Sergei Gonchar
Tony Gutierrez/AP

Coach: Lindy Ruff
2013 record: 22-22-4
Vital signs: 2.67 goals-for per game (11th), 2.94 goals-against per game (24th), 17.0 power play pct. (18th), 81.0 penalty kill pct. (17th), shootout record: 2-1 (18th)
Notable adds: C Shawn Horcoff (Oilers), C Rich Peverley (Bruins), C Tyler Seguin (Bruins), D Sergei Gonchar (Senators)
Notable losses: RW Loui Eriksson (Bruins), C Derek Roy (Blues), LW Eric Nystrom (Predators), D Philip Larsen (Oilers)


Jamie Benn -- Tyler Seguin -- Erik Cole
Ray Whitney -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Chiasson
Shawn Horcoff -- Vernon Fiddler -- Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel -- Chris Mueller -- Ryan Garbutt
Lane MacDermid

Alex Goligoski -- Sergei Gonchar
Brenden Dillon -- Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley -- Kevin Connauton
Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

Outlook: The quick rebuild started with the big off-season trade with the Bruins that sent Loui Eriksson to Boston for centers Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. But the more important signing was defenseman Sergei Gonchar to shore up a porous defense that allowed 31 shots on goal per game and averaged nearly three goals-against. Gonchar is an elite NHL defenseman, a five-time All-Star who has won a Stanley Cup, but he's 39 and entering (if not already in) the twilight of his career. His numbers aren't what they were in Pittsburgh, when he won the Cup in 2008, but in Ottawa he helped contribute to the development of a young elite defenseman in Erik Karlsson. And so the Stars are hopeful that a veteran pro like Gonchar can mold a largely young blueline group, but they run the risk of hanging on to a star who is well beyond his prime and watching their rebuild stagger in the process.

Colorado Avalanche

Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog
Jack Dempsey/AP

Coach: Patrick Roy
2013 record: 16-25-7
Vital signs: 2.38 goals-for per game (26th), 3.12 goals-against per game (27th), 15.0 power play pct. (24th), 80.3 penalty kill pct. (20th), shootout record: 2-2 (23rd)
Notable adds: C Nathan MacKinnon (draft), LW Alex Tanguay (Flames), D Cory Sarich (Flames)
Notable losses: RW Milan Hejduk (UFA), RW David Jones (Flames), RW Chuck Kobasew (PTO), D Shane O'Brien (Flames)


Ryan O'Reilly -- Matt Duchene -- P.A. Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog -- Paul Stastny -- Alex Tanguay
Jamie McGinn -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Steve Downie
Cody McLeod -- John Mitchell -- Patrick Bordeleau
Marc-Andre Cliche

Jan Hejda -- Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick -- Cory Sarich
Tyson Barrie -- Andre Benoit
Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Outlook: The offensive potential on this team, now with the inclusion of 2013 No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, shows a lot of promise in the Mile High City. But goals can only come when you have the puck, and that might not be so easy for the Avalanche. Having not upgraded on the blueline at all this off-season, that will be an area where Colorado really struggles. The Avs ranked in the bottom third in goals-against and shots-against, and had a lackluster 80.3 penalty kill percentage. Making matters worse last season, they were shorthanded more than any other team in the conference. How that area might improve or worsen under new coach Patrick Roy will be interesting to see. But regardless, they'll likely lean on goalies Semyon Varlamov, who hasn't been nearly as good a starter as he was as a backup in Washington, and J-S Giguere, who is serviceable at 36 years old.

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