Our early look at NHL division odds continue as we focus in on the Central division over in the Western Conference. The defending Cup champions are obviously the favorite, but the St. Louis Blues could throw a wrinkle into what might be an intriguing division.
Odds courtesy of Bet365.
Chicago Blackhawks (-150)
Chicago Blackhawks are coming off their second Stanley Cup victory in
the past three seasons. They didn't have to do a whole lot of
maneuvering in the offseason but did lock up G Corey Crawford (he of the
epic Stanley Cup parade speech), head coach Joel Quenneville, and D
Niklas Hjalmarsson on multi-year deals. The Hawks are the overwhelming
favorite to win this division and for good reason.
In: Nikolai Khabibulin, Theo Peckham, Mike Kostka
Out: Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Ray Emery, Viktor Stalberg
St. Louis Blues (+290)
Blues are a good hockey team. We know this. They are about as good as
anyone at keeping the puck out of the net and are a physical bunch. Are
they good enough to dethrone the Hawks in the division? That's the
million-dollar question. The problem last year was scoring goals. They
were an average at best offensive squad (17th in goals per game) and
addressed needs on offense by adding Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi - who
is a talent, but just couldn't find a niche in Edmonton.
In: Magnus Paajarvi, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre, Keith Aucoin
Out: David Perron
Minnesota Wild (+650)
Wild made their free-agent splash a year ago when they signed a pair of
faces for the franchise: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They found
themselves in the playoffs and, certainly, moving in the right
direction. Next season is big for the Wild. Star-in-waiting Jonas Brodin
will look to improve on a fantastic rookie campaign. They'll get a full
season out of trade deadline acquisition Jason Pominville. They've
brought in agitator Matt Cooke and took a gamble by acquiring Nino
Niederreiter from the New York Islanders. The defense and goaltending is
sound, but they need herculean efforts from a young crop of forwards to
put pucks in the net. If youngsters like Niederreiter and Mikael
Granlund can reach their potential and help out guys like Parise,
Pominville and Dany Heatley, the Wild could make some noise in the
In: Keith Ballard, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Cooke
Out: Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Dallas Stars (+1250)
Stars made one of the biggest moves of the offseason by unloading
proven NHL scorer Loui Eriksson (and others) to the Bruins for Tyler
Seguin (and others). It could be an incredible trade for both parties if
Seguin blossoms into a consistent player; something he showed flashes
off while in Bean Town. Also, adding the ageless Sergei Gonchar to
provide veteran leadership on the blueline will help.
In: Rich Peverley, Sergei Gonchar, Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin, Dan Ellis
Out: Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Joe Morrow
Nashville Predators (+1800)
Preds' brass must have been wide-eyed when stud-defenseman Seth Jones
landed in their laps on draft day. The Preds (I would imagine) made no
hesitation taking the 6-foot-4 blueliner at No. 4 overall and
immediately give Shea Weber the task of tutoring the star-in-waiting.
That's all well and good. But this team scores goal with such
infrequency and it's something that hasn't been addressed. Unless they
feel strongly that Viktor Stalberg is due for an 80-point season.
In: Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, Viktor Stalberg, Seth Jones
Out: Matt Halischuk, Bobby Butler
Colorado Avalanche (+2200)
Avs are young and, frankly, are some time away from seriously competing
for a playoff spot, let alone winning the Central. But they are putting
together something interesting in Denver. They've added prized asset
Nathan MacKinnon as the top pick in the 2013 draft to go along with
super-talented Matt Duchesne and young captain Gabriel Landeskog. I'll
take time for the Avs, but in a couple of years they'll be a contender.
In: Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich
Out: David Jones, Aaron Palushaj
Winnipeg Jets (+2500)
Jets play in arguably the league's loudest barn, but we probably won't
be able to witness the atmosphere in the postseason any time soon. They
did, however, lock up a few key players on long term deals (Zach
Bogosian, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little) and will be piloted once again by
star left-winger Evander Kane, which really isn't such a bad thing.
In: Michael Frolik, Devin Setoguchi
Out: Alexander Burmistrov