The Blackhawks clinched the division with 52 wins and 112 points last season. Detroit, remarkably, finished second in the division after having its worst post-lockout season - earning only 44 wins and 102 points. Not bad considering this team was out of playoff position in February. Just three years earlier, 102 points would have been more than enough to sit at the top of the Central. Hello competition, we've been waiting for you.
2010-2011 Central Division outlook
After earning the franchise's first title since 1961, the Blackhawks disbanded quickly. Numerous key players left for free-agency, more money or even a second chance to play in the minors - Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta Thrashers. One can't put a price on obscurity.
The high chance for back-to-back titles dwindled suddenly and harshly. To make things more interesting, the Hawks dropped their Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi for an older, wiser, no-Cups-to-his-name Marty Turco. It was a questionable move.
This all sounds really bad but the truth is this team still has some of the best young talent in the league. The Hawks might struggle to be as dominant this season, but they will be around a strong team for a long time. I would never count them out of the NHL's top contenders.
I once read the Predators referred to as the NHL's Minnesota Twins: Consistent, hard-nosed, competitive and tragically mediocre. The Twins are probably better at all four of those. However, Nashville is making a case. Four out of the last five years have included the Preds in the playoffs, but not past the first round. Starting to sound more like the Twinkies every minute.
Head Coach Barry Trotz has limited talent on his roster. However, the longer this franchise exists the more boring this "no talent" excuse gets. Trotz developed his stubborn conservative system from the get-go. It helped this expansion franchise avoid years of doormat status. However, things have to change sometime. No team determined to execute this system will ever be a serious Cup contender in this league. What kind of talent wants to be a part of a mediocre agenda? Rhetorical.
More to come.