WIIM Central Division Preview

jamiejohndavies - flickr.com

With the season's start so close, we take a look at the rest of the division to see where we stand.

Two days before hockey starts back up. Two days. We're excited; aren't you?

With only 48 games on the schedule, the Wings have some work to do to get their playoff spot. 18 of those 48 games will be against division rivals, so the fight for the Central is going to be slightly more head-to-head than ordinary. With that in mind, let's remind ourselves what's going on with our foes. To help me out, I've enlisted the help of some poor souls who willingly root against the Wings. Let's take a look at what they had to say to five simple questions.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Last Season: 29-46-7 (5th in Division, 15th in Conference)
The Blogger(s): Mike MacLean & Matt Wagner - The Cannon

1. The Red Wings scare me because:
Mike: They still have Zetterberg and Datsyuk up front, and the factory is still churning out guys like Brunner and Nyquist.
Matt: Pavel Datsyuk spent most of his Russian Vacation popping water bottles and making matroyshka dolls. And he's all out of dolls.

2. The Red Wings don't scare me because:
Mike: Jimmy Howard doesn't make me lose any sleep, and the blueline without Nick Lidstrom seems far more ordinary.
Matt: All things considered, the unbreakable machine seems to be getting older, losing key parts, and slowly letting off steam. I think there's still a lot of talent there, but they're just a bit more human now.

3. Columbus will win the Central Division because:
Mike: Chicago, Detroit, Nashville and St.Louis folded.
Matt: The pieces received from New York in the Nash deal will make a bigger difference in Columbus than Nash alone will the Rangers. By becoming a tighter and more aggressive group with better two way play, they'll be able to challenge their division mates, and the short schedule means one big hot streak could put them in a top position.

4. Columbus won't win the Central Division because:
Mike: Chicago, Detroit, Nashville and St.Louis didn't fold.
Matt:
Turning over more than 1/3 of your roster is a pretty freaking traumatic event, and the short season doesn't allow for space to breathe, adjust, and figure out what works and what doesn't with a team that looks almost nothing like the club that finished last season. One five or six game skid could put the team behind an eight ball they can't get out of.

5. I made a horrible life choice in rooting for a Central Division team other than Detroit because:
Mike: I'm a friggin' glutton for punishment. I don't even like winning.
Matt: I lack suitable appreciation of Apple Pie, rusting steel, and Henry Ford.

Chicago Blackhawks

Last Season: 45-26-11 (4th in Division, 6th in Conference)
The Blogger: Greg Boysen - Second City Hockey

1. The Red Wings scare me because:
Two words: Pavel Datsyuk

2. The Red Wings don't scare me because:
Your defense has more holes in it right now than Charlie Brown's Halloween costume. Losing one of the greatest blue liners to come down the line in the last 30 years is a killer. You know things are bad when the organization is kicking the tires on Wade Redden! Also, we are thankful to not have Thomas Holmstrom's large Swedish ass in our goalies' faces during Wings power plays. Will be interesting to see if anyone can fill out those breezers this year.

3. Chicago will win the Central Division because:
The Hawks will win the Central if everyone can play as advertised this season. Jonathan Toews can not have his usual slow start. Patrick Kane needs to finally take that next step towards being an elite player. Marian Hossa just needs to stay on the ice and he will be fine. Viktor Stalberg is an interesting player for the Hawks. If he improves on last season's career highs he can be a dangerous weapon. Duncan Keith also needs to return to the Norris Trophy winning form of 2010. Q has skated him and Brent Seabrook into the ground the last 3 years, so the long layoff should work wonders. Another big key to the Hawks division chances will be if Brian Elliot wakes up and remembers that he is Brian Elliot.

4. Chicago won't win the Central Division because:
The goaltending. Corey Crawford needs to erase the memories of two horrendous OT goals in last year's playoff series versus PHX. He took a big step back last year after a solid rookie season in 10-11. If the duo of Crawford and Ray Emery do not perform the Hawks are done.

5. I made a horrible life choice in rooting for a Central Division team other than Detroit because:
Great, I've made another horrible life decision? Add this one to the pile. I guess its the burden of having my favorite team play in the city I live in. It must be hard for Wings fans, considering I have yet to meet one who actually lives in Detroit! Now this is the point where I am suppose to sign off with the usual Chicago meatball chant of "Detroit Sucks!" While this is true, I will leave you with something that is more near and dear to my hockey heart. Fuck Todd Bertuzzi with a large, jagged, broken stick!!

Nashville Predators

Last Season: 48-26-8 (2nd in Division, 4th in Conference)
The Blogger: Chris Burton - @Predatweeter

1. The Red Wings scare me because:
The Red Wings scare me because of their elite two way game, and the coaching genius of Mike Babcock. They're always going to be competitive as long as Datsyuk and Zetterberg are on the roster, and Babcock, like Barry Trotz, has a way of getting the best out of his depth guys. The experience in Detroit could be crucial in the short season.

2. The Red Wings don't scare me because:
The Red Wings don't scare me because with the retirement of Nick Lidstrom, departure of Brad Stuart, and signing of Carlo Colaiacovo, their defense is laughably bad. Jimmy Howard will likely see far too many shots, and Niklas Kronwall can't be on the ice for 60 minutes. In addition, if Howard goes down to injury, Jonas Gustavsson is, at best, a horrible plan B, and likely a disastrous one.

3. Nashville will win the Central Division because:
The Preds are going to win the Central Division because Pekka Rinne is some sort of a god. That might be enough. In seriousness, though - only one skater on the roster was not on the team last year (Scott Hannan), so the cohesiveness will be very high, allowing for a fast start. Balanced scoring prevents against disaster if an offensive star gets hurt, and then this - Roman Josi is quite a bit better than most think.

4. Nashville won't win the Central Division because:
Nashville isn't going to win the Central Division because of the departure of Ryan Suter. It affects numerous things - the Preds were horrible at suppressing shots in 2011-12, and Suter was a main reason they weren't any worse than that. Without Suter, it appears that Sergei Kostitsyn will play the point on a power play unit, and Shea Weber's minutes will rise. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are going to be very good in time, but you don't simply replace a player like Suter, as Detroit fans are well aware.

5. I made a horrible life choice in rooting for a Central Division team other than Detroit because:
I made this life choice because somebody gave me free tickets to a preseason Thrashers game, and I immediately realized I needed a different team. Moved back to Nashville and the rest is history. So is Jordin Tootoo. Enjoy!

St. Louis Blues

Last Season: 49-22-11 (1st in Division, 2nd in Conference)
The Blogger: Brad Lee - St. Louis Game Time

1. The Red Wings scare me because:
Playing games in Detroit, Blues players are always in danger of getting caught in the crossfire. And they have been successful in the past. Not last year, mind you. They valiantly fought for fourth in the conference, falling two points short. With any luck, they can get fourth this season.

2. The Red Wings don't scare me because:
This isn’t some dynasty in the making. The departure of Nick Lidstrom is huge. Not having a lot of skill or experience on defense is huge. Having a goaltender who thrives on having a good team in front of him is huge. You can only ride your reputation on turning seventh-round picks into superstars for so long. At some point you have to get first and second round picks right. Of course you need first round picks (only three since 2006?). I looked at the list of Wings drafts. The latest guy who I even recognize his name is Darren Helm. He was drafted in 2005. In other words, in a salary-capped league you have to turn prospects into players and the Wings haven’t done that. Not for a long while. If you think adding Carlo Colaiacovo is the last piece of the puzzle, you’re not paying attention.

3. St. Louis will win the Central Division because:
The Wings got worse. The Hawks didn’t get better. The Predators got a little worse. Rumor has it a team still plays in Ohio. The Blues hold the belt. Someone has to come up and take it away. They didn’t lose anyone valuable in the offseason while adding a guy with four years of KHL experience (making an all-star game as a teenager) who can’t even legally buy vodka in Missouri yet. Everyone is healthy (knock on wood). Ken Hitchcock can coach his large ass off. The Blues are young, improving, have ownership stability and a bright future. The Wings have one of those things.

4. St. Louis won't win the Central Division because:
All that shitty pizza money has actually been put toward cloning Steve Yzerman and Lidstrom. That or a healthy Marian Hossa, sober Patrick Kane and decent goaltending in Chicago would be the reasons. But I think those are all myths, like actual Joe Louis sellouts.

5. I made a horrible life choice in rooting for a Central Division team other than Detroit because:
I could have jumped on the bandwagon when they were good and winning Cups and not had to actually live in Detroit. That’s a win-win proposition. But then I’d have to be a Yankees or Red Sox fan, a Patriots fan, a Miami Heat fan and I couldn’t keep it all straight. Plus, I’d also have started the search process for a new hockey team about the time Lidstrom retired.

There we have it. Thanks to our friends around the division for their input, bitter as some of it may be.

Finally, here's an SB Nation video. It's currently the only way you're going to be able to get Dirk Hoag's opinions around here and I did it in a way where you have the option of not watching. Enjoy!

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