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Central Intelligence- Central Division Preview (2021-22)

After a bizarre, shortened 56 game 2020-21 season featuring temporary divisional realignment (because of the pandemic), the NHL will to return to a sense of normalcy in 2021-22. The league will once again return to its traditional 82 game season with most teams returning to their pre-pandemic spots in their usual divisions. There are a few exceptions of course, as the league welcomes the 32nd and newest franchise the Seattle Kraken.

A look at the Blues Schedule for 2021-22

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The Kraken will debut in their new home, which is the Pacific Division. In order to keep things balanced, the Arizona Coyotes will shift permanently to the Central division giving it some symmetry with eight teams now residing there. Those teams are in alphabetical order: Arizona, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St Louis and Winnipeg. Here we will preview and give our predictions of the final standings in the Central Division.

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8th-Arizona Coyotes—


Key Additions: F Jay Beagle, F Dmitrij Jaskin, F Andrew Ladd, F Liam O’Brien, F Antoine Roussell, D Conor Timmins, G Carter Hutton.

Key losses: F Michael Bunting, F Derick Brassard, F Christian Dvorak, F Brayden Burke, F Tyler Pitlick (Expansion draft Seattle)

Other than budding star Defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Arizona appears to be headed towards a full on rebuild. Former Blues Goalie Carter Hutton is the starting netminder making a modest $750k this season.

The top line of Clayton Keller/Nick Schmaltz/Phil Kessel is formidable, but there’s not much to get excited about after that. Former St Louis Blue Dmitrij Jaskin returns to the league after tearing up the KHL the past couple seasons averaging better than a point per game.

He should slot in to the third line, and it will be interesting to see if his resurgence translates over to the much different conditions of the NHL. This team appears to be a dumpster fire in the works.

Arizona Coyotes-Team Statistical Rankings



7th-Winnipeg Jets

connor hellebuyck

Key Additions: F Andrew Copp, D Brenden Dillon D Nate Schmidt.

Key Loss: F Mathieu Perreault

The Jets seem to be one of the most compelling, if not uncertain teams heading into this season. They kept the core of the team together while trading 2 second round picks to Washington for Dillon. They are very solid in net with Connor Hellebuyck slated to start most nights, but a lot of questions remain after that.

Their top two pairings defensively Joshua Morrissey/Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon/Neal Pionk should be ample protection along the blue line. Will the top line of Blake Wheeler/Mark Scheifele/Kyle Connor be able to produce enough offense to propel the Jets to the playoffs? Wheeler and Paul Stastny are both entering the last years of their careers, so it should be interesting to see what’s left in the tank.

Winnipeg Jets-Team Statistical Rankings



6th-Nashville Predators


Key Addition: G David Rittich

Key Losses: F Erik Haula, G Pekka Rinne (retirement)

Following the retirement of future Hall of Famer Pekka Rinne, the net now officially belongs to Juuse Saros. The Preds appear to be going through a mild rebuild, while still figuring to be competitive at the same time. They were unable to shed the albatross of a contract of Matt Duchene ($8 million AAV) despite their best efforts.

They locked up Mikeal Granlund who inked a 4-year $20 million deal. They also extended RFA’s Dante Fabbro, Saros, and Eeli Tolvanen. After all the offseason moves, the Preds are sitting pretty with over $11 million in cap space.

Roman Josi remains a force on defense, but it’s hard to imagine the Predators scoring enough goals to finish near the top of the division. Nashville will host the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in an outdoor game on February 26, 2022.

The game will be played at Nissan Stadium (home of the NFL Titans) and is only the second time the Predators will have played in an outdoor game. They previously lost at the Cotton Bowl to Dallas New Year’s Day 2020.

Nashville Predators-Team Statistical Rankings



5th-Chicago Blackhawks

Key Additions: F Tyler Johnson, D Caleb Jones, D Seth Jones, G Marc-Andre Fleury

Key losses: F Mickael Hakkarainen, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F David Kampf, F John Quenneville (Expansion draft Kraken), F Tim Soderlund, F Pius Suter, D Adam Boqvist, D Duncan Keith, D Brent Seabrook, D Nikita Zadorov

Chicago made a big splash by adding not only Defenseman Seth Jones, but also Marc-Andre Fleury via trade. After being acquired in an offseason trade, Caleb Jones joins up with his older brother Seth Jones. Longtime Blackhawk Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a conditional third round pick. The pick could become a second if the Oilers and Keith reach certain postseason success.

Jones and De Haan should form a very good top pairing on defense. Alex DeBrincat/Kirby Dach/Patrick Kane and Dominik Kubalik/Jonathan Toews/Tyler Johnson should provide plenty of scoring punch. Although MAF is still an elite goalie, the question is how much will he help Chicago’s defense?

The duo of Malcolm Subban/Kevin Lankinen was very solid last year, so the defense must step up and make life easier on the goalie if they expect to contend this season.

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Chicago Blackhawks-Team Statistical Rankings



4th-Dallas Stars

Key Additions: F Luke Glendening, F Michael Raffl, D Jani Hakanpaa, D Alexander Petrovic, D Ryan Suter, G Braden Holtby.

Key Losses: F Andrew Cogliano, F Jason Dickinson, D Taylor Fedun, D Jamie Oleksiak (Expansion draft then signed with Kraken for $4.6 million AAV), D Mark Pysyk.

The Stars look to be improved defensively with Suter stepping in and most likely playing huge minutes, even at the age of 36. He should partner up with Miro Heiskanen on the second pairing. The first pairing should be solid with the duo of Esa Lindell and John Klingberg. Holtby and Anton Khudobin look to be a solid goalie tandem. Offensively the top line of Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin/Alexander Radulov should lead the way.

The Stars have spent all the way up to the cap this year but are projected to have over $23 million to spend after next season. Veterans Joe Pavelski ($7 million AAV) Alexander Radulov ($6.25 million AAV) and Klingberg ($4.25 million) notably will become UFA’s.

Dallas Stars-Team Statistical Rankings



3rd-St Louis Blues

Blues Captain Ryan O’Reilly

Key Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Brandon Saad

Key Losses: F Sammy Blais, F Mike Hoffman, F Jaden Schwartz, D Vince Dunn, D Carl Gunnarsson (retired)

The Blues are one of the most polarizing teams heading into the upcoming season following lots of personnel movement. They lost Vince Dunn (expansion draft) and fan favorite Jaden Schwartz to the new kids on the block Seattle Kraken. Also, Sammy Blais was dealt to the New York Rangers bringing in up and coming star Pavel Buchnevich.

Brandon Saad was brought in on a typical Doug Armstrong special signing for only $4.5 million AAV. The Blues also brought bask Tyler Bozak on a team friendly deal for the league minimum (potentially $2 million based on bonuses). The Vladimir Tarasenko trade drama has temporarily stalemated, and he appears to be returning on one of the top 2 lines.

RFA Robert Thomas remains unsigned, but recently was skating with the team. The Blues should be very deep up and down the lineup providing lots of help from all four lines. Beyond the top 2 defensive pairings, there are plenty of questions of who will step up and seize the role between Niko Mikkola/Jake Walman and possibly Scott Perunovich.

Don’t Be Saad, no one Knows What the Endgame is for 21-22

St Louis Blues- Team Statistical Rankings



2nd-Minnesota Wild

2022 Bridgestone Winter Classic

Key Additions: D Alex Goligoski, D Dmitri Kulikov

Key Losses: D Ryan Suter, F Zach Parise, F Nick Bonino

Assuming young star Kirill Kaprizov reaches agreement with the team, the Wild should roll out 2 great lines. As of this writing however, Kaprizov remains in his native Russia and will not report to training camp until he signs a new contract. The possibility of the current Calder Trophy winner playing in the KHL is also a possibility.

If he returns, the top two lines of Jordan Greenway/Joel Eriksson Ek/Marcus Foligno and Kaprizov/Victor Rask/Mats Zuccarello should provide plenty of scoring. The third line is anchored by veteran Kevin Fiala along with gritty Ryan Hartman and Nick Bjugstad. The Wild boast a steady, veteran group of defenders most notably Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Alex Goligoski and Jared Spurgeon.

Minnesota Wild-Team Statistical Rankings



1st-Colorado Avalanche

Key Additions: G Darcy Kuemper, D Ryan Murray, D Kurtis MacDermid

Key Losses: F Brandon Saad, G Philipp Grubauer, F Joonas Donskoi, D Ryan Graves, C Pierre-Edward Bellemare, D Conor Timmins

The Av’s were absolute world beaters last year before ultimately stumbling in the playoffs, eventually falling to the Vegas Golden Knights. They are once again Vegas betting favorites again this year and are hoping to finally get over the proverbial hump. The good news is they return much of their core, including their superstar top line of Captain Gabriel Landeskog/Nathan MacKinnon/Mikko Rantanen.

Former NHL plus/minus leader Ryan Graves was traded to the New Jersey Devils in the off season. He most likely would have been lost in the expansion draft, so they made the trade for Mikhail Maltsev, and received a 2nd round pick in the deal. The defense looks solid if not top heavy, led by budding superstar Cale Makar. The bottom two of Bowen Byram and Ryan Murray along with netminder Darcy Kuemper raises some concerns.

Colorado Av’s-Team Statistical Rankings



This is how we at the Fan Report see it. How do you see this division shaping out?

Please leave your feedback and predictions in the comments!

Brian Phipps

Brian Phipps is a lifelong St Louis Blues and Mizzou Tigers football fan. Very proud, yet humble husband and father of one beautiful daughter. He is also the founder of the Facebook Group “All Blues Everything



If you would like to write for the Fan Report, send an E.mail to Guy@stlfanreport.com

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