The NHL season begins in Czechia on October 7th with games on back-to-back nights between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators. Before the first official puck drop, it is always helpful to know what each team’s outlook is. This is article three of four that will be released over the next week breaking down and predicting the 2022-23 NHL season. I’ve already done the Metropolitan and Atlantic divsions. Now it’s time to shift to the West.
While the Western Conference is not as strong as the East, there are still multiple quality teams. The Central Division hold three legitimate Western Conference contenders and three or four abysmal teams. There is one team in the middle that is a true wild card.
Arizona Coyotes – The Coyotes are going to be bad again. To make matter worse, Arizona will be playing in the Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University. The arena sits just over 5,000 fans. The Yotes have a few young stars such as Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun but are still far from relevance. If there is a silver lining for Arizona as they the Coyotes have arguably the best uniforms in the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks – Speaking of bad teams, the Blackhawks are going to stink. Yes, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are still there. Unfortunately, both are past their primes and have not kept themselves up like Sideny Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
Chicago lost Erik Gustafsson, Andrew Shaw, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome this offseason. The Hawks answered these losses by signing Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi and Jack Johnson. While those aren’t bad signings, that’s not going to get the job done. The Hawks need to embrace the rebuild.
Colorado Avalanche – The defending Stanley Cup Champions lost multiple key role players this offseason including Darcy Kuemper, Nazim Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. The Avalanche added Andrew Cogliano and Evan Rodrigues to its bottom six forwards along with a supposed new number one goaltender in Alexandar Georgiev. He will battle Pavel Francouz for ice time.
The Avalanche also were able to re-sign Josh Manson and Artturi Lehkonen to longer-term deals and extend both Valeri Nichuskin and Nathan MacKinnon to eight-year contracts. Colorado is still capable of making a Cup run in 2022-23, but I will not be as easy as last season.
Dallas Stars – What failed the Stars last season was its lack of top-end scoring. Even with these struggles, the Stars still made the playoffs and eventually to double overtime in game seven of the first round. I am extremely low on the Stars this season.
I think the is the perfect storm in terms of an awful season. I simply cannot see the Stars getting enough production from any of its forward groupings. Combine this with a very overrated d-core and things will not be pretty for Texas Hockey. Newly extended stud goaltender Jake Oettinger is going to work miracles for the entire 82 game season.
Minnesota Wild – The Wild didn’t need to do much this offseason. With the Avs winning the Cup last season, the Wild are now the team that needs to get over the postseason hump. The Wild have not been to a Stanley Cup Final since its founding in 2000 and have only been to one Western Conference Final in club history (2003). It the last 10 season, Minnesota has made the Stanely Cup Playoffs nine times. The Wild have been nocked out in the first round five times and second round four times.
Minnesota has a superstar in Kirill Kaprizov and a slew of extremely important, underrated top-nine forwards. The Wild also pride itself on its physicality and defense. Minnesota is seven or eight quality players deep on the defensive end and made moves to make Marc-Andre Fleury its clear number one goaltender. The Wild are going to be bullies this season and I’m all for it.
Nashville Predators – We’ve reached the “true wild card” team. The predators could go in a multitude of different directions this season. I could see Nashville making a push for a top-seed in the West, fighting for its playoff lives down the stretch, being mediocre all season, or selling at the deadline. They are all over the map. I am going to put the Preds in the playoff conversation. There is simply too much talent on this roster.
Nashville kept its core and extended defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to a four-year deal and forward Filip Forsberg to an eight-year deal before free agency opened. The Predators also brought in Zach Sanford and Nino Niederreiter to help its bottom six. Forsberg, Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene can compete with any top line in the league, while Roman Josi, Dante Fabbro, Ryan McDonagh and Mattias Ekholm are a solid top-four defenseman. Jusse Saros anchors the Preds in net. This team has an extremely high ceiling, but low floor.
St. Louis Blues – The Blues are going to be good yet again. St. Louis locked down its core by extending both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou to eight-year deals. While the subtraction of David Perron will hurt, but St. Louis’s depth should be able to make up his production.
Either way, the Blues are returning the majority of last season’s team that was very close to eliminating the eventual Stanely Cup champions. If Jordan Binnington can play well over a full season, the Blues have a chance to be the West’s top seed.
Winnipeg Jets – The Jets were one of last season’s biggest underperformers. Winnipeg isn’t fooling anyone this season since they will simply will not be good. The Jets really don’t have anything past its top players. The top-six forwards, top defensive pair and goaltender are fantastic. The depth simply does not exist. Can the Jets possibly challenge for a wildcard spot? Yes, but Winnipeg will go nowhere if it squeaks into the postseason.
Central Division Predictions
Minnesota Wild – 117 points (.713 point %)
Colorado Avalanche – 110 points (.671 point %)
St. Louis Blues – 107 points (.652 point %)
Nashville Predators – 99 points (.604 point %)
Winnipeg Jets – 82 points (.500 point %)
Dallas Stars – 74 points (.451 point %)
Chicago Blackhawks – 73 points (.445 point %)
Arizona Coyotes – 62 points (.378 point %)