Obviously things are very much still in flux throughout the Central.
The Red Wings have lost 3 of their top 4 defenseman in the last two years and has decided (for now) not to replace them with any real experienced vets. That, and our top 6 hasn't really improved.
The Predators lost one of the most important members of it's team, still only has 4 Dmen under contract, and lost a few other forwards of note.
Still, I'm bored, and there's just not that much to read about Hockey during the offseason, so why not write something.People are clamoring that with our difficult offseason (thus far) Detroit might struggle to make the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. I can definitely see that as a possibility, but I struggle to think of 8 teams in the West that will be better. I'd venture to say Vancouver, St. Louis and Los Angeles are virtually locks, but the rest of the West is completely baffling. It's almost as though there are two legit playoff teams in there and 10 bubble teams.
I have a strange feeling that the Central this year may actually be similar to the Pacific last year: No real standout team, with every team (except Columbus) still in the mix in early March. I know St. Louis was a powerhouse this year, but I don't see them being able to sustain that without some new offensive weapons. Their goaltending was stellar but has to regress some, and Hitch's system usually works great for a bit, but eventually starts breaking down.
I see Nashville taking a huge step back, and Columbus staying pretty much where it is now. That leaves Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis in the mix for the Central Division title and I think the race will come down to the finish. With a late season push, especially with additions at the deadline of some of those juicy upcoming UFAs (Iginla, Backstrom, Perry, Getzlaf etc...) I think Detroit has a strong chance of ending up 1st in the Central and getting into the playoffs that way if not by points alone.
My predicted final standings for the Central:
Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus.
I know...I'm a homer.
Link to 2013 Unrestricted Free Agents: http://capgeek.com/free_agents.php?year_id=2013&team_id=-1&position_id=-1&fa_type_id=2