It has been some time since we last spoke, and wow has the Central Division changed. Not so much for any team that isn't the Nashville Predators, but Nashville's continued fall from grace has all the pacing of Peter Jackson's Hobbit films. Even now there is little end in sight for the Predators as Poile trades players, waives non-contributing players, gives Kevin Fiala a spin, and for some reason also chose to recall general nice hockey man and professional warm body Cody Bass. In the last edition I wrote about how Preds fans are suffering through the worst of things in the Central. It's truly unfortunate that this is still the case. One might believe that Jets fans have it the worst, but they won't realize how bad things are in Winnipeg until their brains thaw out around mid-July. Myself, I realized that my themes for the CDPR were becoming extremely sensory oriented, and I'm not going to run away from that. I'm going to continue to embrace my senses by rating teams against a food invented overseas, but embraced by the red, white, and blue arms of America.
There are the Central Division Power Rankings: Served in the French Manner Edition. Europe loves to fight over things. For hundreds of years those fights were extremely bloody and looking back feel somewhat silly and arbitrary. From the late 20th century forward Europe has found far more civilized ways to battle. Europe now fights over who invented which foods. One of the fiercest fights has been over the invention of the french fry, with no fewer than four countries claiming title. Despite all of the bickering, it is widely accepted that America made the french fry great. Similarly, America made hockey great. The Central Division made hockey greater, even with the inclusion of a Canadian team. For this edition I'm focusing on cuts of fries rather than preparations such as chili fries or poutine. Why set this parameter? Because I'm interested in a true and honest assessment of hockey teams without all the cheeses, gravies, and sauciness that comes with various preparations.
Curly Fries: Curly fries are magical and inexplicable. These fries may sometimes be loose arcs of crunchy goodness or other times tight spirals of warm, crispy love, but they are always delicious. What may set curly fries apart from all the rest is the seasoning. Curly fries automatically are kicked up a notch since the cooking process always seems to involve adding an extra layer of seasoning that balances well against a number of sauces, including the stalwart fry sauce ketchup. If given the choice between curly and regular fries, never trust the person who chooses regular without having first provided extremely sound justification for the decision.
1. Dallas Stars: They've been slumping? So what. This team is dynamic, fun, and the next closest team had to go on an eight game winning streak to get anywhere nears the Stars in the standings. It's vital to note that the Stars' version of a slump involves going 4-4-2, I doubt they are all that worried about being caught by Chicago. Watching the Stars play, one can hope that their magic takes them through the entire season and post-season. It would be good for the game of hockey and the NHL for dynamic, talent driven team like the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup.
Steak Fries: Steak fries are universal. When ordering fries in a French restaurant or anywhere in Belgium, you are going to get a thick cut fry that is golden and salty on the outside, and light, fluffy potato goodness on the inside. Not only can steak fries stand up to any condiment, they also are great as a base for a dish. It's difficult to not feel better when faced with a plate of steak fries with chicken curry ladled on top (thank you, Macnamara's).
2. Chicago: There is little bad to say about a team in the midst of an eight game winning streak. What's scary is that this is team who believes in only trying hard enough to make the playoffs. Through the half-way point, Chicago are 3rd in goals for and 8th in goals against, a very strong position against the 3rd place Blues who are maintaining a +2 goal differential.
3. St. Louis Blues: Speaking of Blues, boy are they consistent. Last time I wrote a CDPR they had gone 4-3-3 in their last ten. This time around they've gone 4-3-3 in their last ten. Their record isn't terribly exciting and that's seen this team stumble down the power ratings as Chicago has surged up, but the team remains in a very strong position. The Wild may be knocking on the door but the Blues aren't that far off of Chicago. When Chicago eventually cools off, St Louis will have the opportunity to try to grab the 2nd place seat away from their Illinois rivals.
Classic, Skin On: french fries are great, you leave the skin on and they somehow get better. The skins add texture, color, and earthiness to what is otherwise a visually basic plate. Beyond that the standard french fry fills all the basic needs and does it in a way that people across North America treasure. The biggest issue is that the classic, skin on fry is subject to endless marketing that claims they are somehow more "home cooked" or "fresh cut" than other fries. While fresh cut does make a difference, any of these fries can be cut fresh, it's just easier to do it with classic cuts.
4. Minnesota Wild: the nice thing about the being a Wild player or fan is that all you have to do is not suck. By not suck, I'm not referring to the quality or entertainment level of the play on ice, because that's going to be dreadful, but rather simply being more consistent than the Avalanche or Predators. These middle rankings are often tricky to write because they are often filled with the Minnesota Wild who are often boring. The Wild do have three games in hand on St Louis and next face the Jets, Preds, and Ducks, all currently winnable games for the moon-ear-bear-river-trees.
Shoe String: Shoe string fries are probably the most divisive french fry cut in the United States. Some people enjoy the pile of thin fries that are inevitably hidden underneath a flood of overpowering and artificial sauces. Others recognize that the personality of the potato is lost and the lack of surface area prevents anything more than the most basic of seasonings. Additional problems with shoe string fries are that they go from blazing hot to cold far to quickly, and their thin nature means you're mostly eating oil rather than potato. Shoe string fries are problematic and their continued popularity in select venues is inexplicable.
5. Colorado Avalanche: wait, do I actually have to write about these guys? When was the last time a team at the bottom of the Central Division table benefited so much from the failures of other teams that should be much better? The Avalanche are inexplicable because they still haven't addressed their problems on defense or their offensive depth and are hoping to ride a top-six and quality goaltender all the way to the playoffs. I'm sure Avs fans would love to return to the playoffs, but 1) you're not going to the playoffs and 2) if you were, wouldn't you rather go in with a team that could actually compete?
6. Nashville Predators: Yes, I've placed the Predators after the Avalanche because the Preds are inexplicable in their own way. Why has the penalty kill totally fallen apart from last season so that it is nearly the worst in the league? Why can a group of reasonably talented forwards not find a way to scrape together the three goals a night they need to win a game? The team has reached a point where they've recalled Kevin Fiala in hopes that he can be the Ma-Ti to finally turn a bunch of wannabe Green Lanterns in an eco-friendly goal scoring juggernaut.
Crinkle cut: apparently the point of these is that they hold sauce better. They are gimmicky fries, and I simply can't be bothered with them.
7. Winnipeg Jets: someone has to be in the last spot, and the Jets have earned it. They are only four points off of Nashville and the Avalanche (with a game in hand on the Avs), but no one is really convinced by this team. They should be better, but they aren't. And much like crinkle cut fries, I simply can't be bothered.