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The Hater's Guide to the 2014 Offseason: Central Division [Part 1]

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So much hate, so little room. Hence this is divided into two posts. Humans (and Midwesterners) don't hate things that don't cause them at least a little bit of fear. So given that six of these seven teams have been good in our lifetime, there is plenty to hate. This division doesn't even contain the most unlikable teams in terms of the players themselves, it's mostly the fanbases. But since we wish harm, shame, and sadness upon the fanbases, we have to hate the teams.

Tom Pennington

And now, the undercard:

Central Division

Colorado Avalanche

There was a time where this was the "cool" team to follow. They had just left Quebec, had three legends on their roster, and won the cup as their first year as a team. And to top it off, they defeated a team that was on a mission to kill hockey; the 1995-96 Florida Panthers. The Avs were a savior to hockey. And now Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, two of those legends of the game are back in Denver, doing their best to screw their team up.

Last year, Stan Bowman showed the entire league on how to master free agency and player contracts. If there are two players in demand, one is a UFA and the other is an RFA or has one year left, trade the latter. The Blackhawks signed Bryan Bickell and traded Dave Bolland, which is looking better and better. The Avalanche had Paul Stastny coming off a career year and Ryan O'Reilly, both were due new contracts this summer. Instead of trading O'Reilly for a monster bounty and paying Stastny, they let Stastny walk but didn't want to pay O'Reilly "More than Matt Duchene" money. Again, it's not a good idea to have an expensive, nasty arbitration hearing. So to avoid it, the Avs finally paid Ryan for two years, which takes him to unrestricted free agency. DUMB, but it's the Avs so screw 'em. The Hawks have learned how to not lose players of value for nothing, and until other teams learn this trait expect Chicago to be in the conference finals every year for a while. #Realtalk

Maybe the Avs were so busy trying not to pay O'Reilly and hold on to Stastny, but they didn't really address their needs in free agency. Sure, they brought in Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere, but that's not where they're hurting. Defense is their issue. Now with those old guy contracts, the Avs had just less room to bring back O'Reilly under the cap, assuming their best defenseman down the stretch doesn't the paycheck he earned. And that's just Tyson Barrie's raise, the rest of their defense is very cheap, and due for raises soon.

Isn't this great? It makes me wish that Sergei Federov and Darren McCarty would go back to Detroit to dismantle their team.

All of this is not on Sakic and management of Greg Sherman. But signing Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract with a NMC is pretty silly. And that's completely on Sherman and Sakic. So is signing Sir-Trips-A-Lot to a deal worth $4 million for this year. They didn't need anymore centers. And even if they did, it would be for the fourth line. I'm looking forward to the day when we'll all remember that Briere and Iginla helped undo a potential empire.

I'd feel bad for Avs fans, but I don't know any. Up until last year, they've been about as well attended as the Nashville Rollergirls.

Dallas Stars

Speaking of mostly empty buildings, the Stars also have their share of attendance issues. However, the Stars are one of the best teams in terms of TV revenue. I'll let them slide; I can't imagine its fun sitting in traffic on I-35E right after work in 97 degree heat in the middle of December.

And also, I'll give their team's fan relations and promotions a pass as well. They got the glass banger guy to stop his constant pounding on the glass. Yes, FS-Southwest shouldn't have put a microphone there, but he was a grown man beating callouses into his palms to "annoy the other team". Yeah man, that really worked. But the Stars told him to stop. Also, the team constantly has one of the best in-arena productions in the NHL. The freedom of only having to entertain 9,000 fans each night allows for great attention to detail.

After looking at a picture of Jamie Benn, you have to remind yourself he's not actually from Texas.

But their team does have a couple of guys that are worth the aim of this site. The obvious one is Jason Spezza. I don't blame Spezza for saying no to Nashville. Spezza knows that because he's been carrying the Ottawa offense, hopes, and dreams on his back for so long, his time is running out. Nashville is in a re-tooling phase whereas Dallas is poised to ascend the division. It'll be a nice one-year trial before the Rangers make it rain on him since he's over 30 and going to be a free agent. That's how this works.

Dallas operated on the buddy system, and brought in Ales Hemsky to play alongside Spezza on the second line. We all should prepare ourselves for the audio onslaught that is the Dallas goal horn echoing throughout an empty arena 3-5 times a game.

Minnesota Wild

There really is so much to hate on this team. There is Matt Cooke; arguably the dirtiest player of our generation. There are Zach Parise and Ryan Suter; two former free agents who let America down in Sochi (At least Patrick Kane can use the "sorry I was drunj" excuse). There is Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, two guys trying to recapture the magic of the Buffalo Sabres.

The worst part is even with all the talent on this team, they're more boring than ice fishing. Not too many teams can make a playoff game with the Blackhawks or the Avs dull. This is a product of Mike Yeo, but with hockey as boring and neurotic as the state it represents I doubt it's 100% his fault.

We can't hate on Chuck Fletcher, who has drafted and bought very wisely since taking the helm. I'm not sure how the Wild will find a way to re-sign Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Cody Almond, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Christian Folin, and Jonathon Blum, but if anyone can, it might be him. And those are just the RFA's next summer. Fletcher got Charlie Coyle as part of the Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns trade. Even with that, no one has won a trade with the Sharks in a long, long time. Even the mighty Chuck Fletcher is just another victim.

All that said, the Wild will be a good team this year. We're not certain if the goaltending will be solid enough for them to accomplish anything more than their annual loss to the Blackhawks in the playoffs, but getting to that point is nothing to sneeze at. This team is far from perfect and far from likable so an ugly Viking-style death in the playoffs is warranted. The Wild's annual Ragnarok in the playoffs is quite enjoyable provided you stay awake long enough to see the handshakes.

One thing we always appreciate on OTF is advanced stats and the methodology behind them. This guy did some serious sleuthing regarding Suter's numbers the past few seasons. I kept expecting one of the charts explaining why Suter's numbers are worse this past year just to be a drawing of Shea Weber. I left disappointed. Like, Craig Leipold crying on his yacht in June disappointed.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are becoming masters at being just good enough to not get a top-3 pick, but not being good enough become relevant. It's a cycle that's pretty cruel to the city and it's fans (who are some of the best in the league). And to think, someone else hired Don Waddell. Twice.

Yes, Thrashers fans know all about "Teflon Don". Alex Burmistrov leaving for the KHL is yet another first round pick that didn't go as planned for the franchise. His actions years ago affects this team still to this date. He selected Zach Bogosian over Alex Pietrangelo, Erik Karlsson, Luca Sbisa, and John Carlson. ONE of the players he traded Ilya Kovalchuk for are with the team (2 aren't in the NHL as of right now, Patrice Cormier played 9 games last year for the Jets, and Johnny Oduya is a Blackhawk). So some of this isn't their fault.

But some is. The fans and media aren't too fond of Evander Kane. They're paying Ondrej Pavelec wayyyy too much money when he's statistically one of the worst in the league. There's some decent talent here, but unless a trade to bring in some legit scoring happens OR the team is bad enough to tank towards a top-3 pick, the Jets will continue to be a haven for young players looking to join a contender.

If players and media think that Nashville hasn't grown up as a team, I really want to know how they view the Jets. If Nashville just moved out of their parents' house, the Jets took down their cartoon bird wallpaper and put up vintage airplanes stickers in their bedroom.

Conclusion:

Here's why you need to hate Minnesota more: with the exception of Colorado, the Wild have the best set of forwards in this article. They are by far the most boring. When people in NASHVILLE, who are used to their own team boring them into slumber in the stands on Tuesday nights against the Flames, call you boring... you're boring. Fans in Minnesota are smart enough to know this themselves, so throw Mike Yeo's name into the "finna be fired" pool. As good as Colorado was last year, they failed to improve their weakest area. No really, they completely avoided it. Dallas got better, Minnesota got better, but Colorado? Nah.

Fun questions to ask about these teams; "Who loses it on the bench first: Paul Maurice (+250) or Patrick Roy (-315)?" "Does Winnipeg say 'screw it' and trade Evander Kane within the division: Yes (+125), No (-150), or contract expires before they make a decision (+200)?"

Detective Rustin Cohle: Transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It's catharsis. He absorbs their dread with his narrative. Because of this, he's effective at proportion to the amount of certainty he can project. Certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain. Dulls critical thinking.
Detective Martin Hart: Well, I don't use ten dollar words as much as you, but for a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure fret about it an awful lot; and you still sound panicked.
Detective Rustin Cohle: At least I'm not racing to a red light.

Good luck to the team that draws Chicago this year.