Central Division Breakdown: Contenders & Pretenders

The Blackhawks and Blues look likely to battle all season for Central supremacy. - Jonathan Daniel

Now that a quarter of the season is complete, we have a decent idea how NHL teams are shaping up - and no, their Win/Loss record doesn't tell that story completely. Which teams have a legitimate shot at hoisting a Central Division banner next fall, and which are already looking further down the road?

(stats from NHL.com & ExtraSkater.com below include games through Tuesday, November 19)

Team Record Goals/Gm GA/Gm Fenwick Close 5-5 Shoot % 5-5 Save % PDO PP% PK%
Chicago Blackhawks 14-4-4 3.59 3.00 57.50% 9.2 .914 100.6 20.8 74.2
St. Louis Blues 14-3-3 3.50 2.35 57.20% 8.8 .937 102.5 25.7 83.1
Colorado Avalanche 15-5-0 3.20 2.10 49.50% 10.9 .945 105.3 19.0 84.1
Minnesota Wild 13-5-4 2.59 2.27 55.80% 7.3 .948 102.1 22.5 78.0
Dallas Stars 11-7-2 2.90 2.80 52.10% 8.5 .918 100.4 11.4 82.1
Winnipeg Jets 10-10-3 2.65 2.87 48.10% 6.0 .914 97.4 11.2 82.2
Nashville Predators 10-9-2 2.29 3.00 49.70% 6.8 .919 98.7 20.0 82.2

The Contenders

As expected, the Blackhawks and Blues are off to strong starts which are supported by impressive performance measures that bode well for their championship aspirations. These are two talented teams which dominate the flow of play on most nights, keeping opposing goaltenders under fire and enemy forwards hemmed in their own end of the ice. When you've got that going for you, you don't necessarily need that world-class goalie on your side.

So no surprise with those two, but the Minnesota Wild have kept the pace right alongside, and look likely to hang in the chase for the Central Division crown. Head coach Mike Yeo was looked at as one of the likeliest bench bosses to walk the plank this season, but his squad has taken a significant step forward in terms of total team play; they lead the league with fewest shots on goal allowed in close 5-on-5 situations, a feather any coach would love to put in his cap.

The Pretenders

Note that I left the Colorado Avalanche out of the discussion above - like a racehorse that's bolted out of the gate to an early lead, they're due to fall back into the pack. The Avs enjoyed hot goaltending and hot shooting in the opening weeks of the season, but as both those factors inevitably regress to NHL norms (sorry, I don't see a Dominik Hasek or a bunch of Ilya Kovalchuk's on that roster) their mediocre puck-possession numbers will relegate them to roughly .500 hockey the rest of the way.

The Dallas Stars are the most fascinating team to follow in the Central, given the tremendous amount of change they've undergone since bringing in general manager Jim Nill and head coach Lindy Ruff. So far, the dynamic duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have delivered the goods, each with 23 points through 20 games. Much like the Wild, they are also getting solid play up and down the depth chart, and appear to be built to last.


Tyler Seguin

#91 / Center / Dallas Stars

6-1

182

Jan 31, 1992


Maybe Next Year

For the Winnipeg Jets & Nashville Predators, hopes for winning a division title were faint to start with, and there isn't much reason to believe they've brightened during the first quarter of the season. Under the snazzy new uni's, deep-down the Jets are still the Thrashers, an inconsistent bunch that would probably throw a parade if they just made the playoffs, let alone got within hailing distance of the division lead.

The Preds (as we've discussed here repeatedly in recent weeks) are a team in transition, trying to develop that next generation of home-grown leaders like Roman Josi, Colin Wilson and Seth Jones. There's a delicate balancing act there between getting some of the younger guys (Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis, Taylor Beck, etc.) the ice time they need, and the desire by the coaching staff to get a reliable (if limited) level of performance from veterans like Matt Hendricks, Nick Spaling and more. On top of that, Pekka Rinne's situation has thrown a giant monkey wrench into the team's plans, as they are relying on unproven NHL talent to get by until their franchise goalie returns.

Vote in our Twitter/FB Poll!

So who gets your support as the favorite to win the Central Division title this season? Vote in the following poll using one of the following options: #CHI, #COL, #DAL, #MIN, #NSH, #STL or #WPG. See the results as they arrive in real time in the widget below:

More from On the Forecheck:

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join On the Forecheck

You must be a member of On the Forecheck to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at On the Forecheck. You should read them.

Join On the Forecheck

You must be a member of On the Forecheck to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at On the Forecheck. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker