Howdy, Preds fans!
It’s been a bit since I’ve had the time to put some words down that aren’t daily hockey links. It’s the offseason, and it’s time to start thinking about what kind of season the Predators are going to have in 2022-2023. Is it possible they contend for another Central Division champions banner? I’d say so.
Let’s talk about the Central Division. If you told me 3-4 seasons ago that Winnipeg would be in the dumps and Colorado would win the Cup, I’d probably have told you how out of touch you were. Winnipeg was on the rise and Colorado was floundering.
Going into 2022-2023, I’m thinking things will look a bit like this:
5. Dallas Stars
Let’s look at each squad.
The Colorado Avalanche are the 2022 Stanley Cup Champions. There’s a reason for that. They boasted strong goaltending, an elite defense, and an offense that could score on request. Even losing Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, and a few other pieces, the Avalanche are poised to be the top dogs in the Central Division once more.
I struggled to determine where to put the Minnesota Wild on this ranking. With Marc-André Fleury in net and power forward Kyril Kaprizov in the lineup, the Wild are fantastic. However, they’re without Kevin Fiala after this summer’s trade and they’re hoping for Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi to take the next step. The Wild were in second in last year’s Central Division, and I see the same happening this season.
Our very own Nashville Predators are in the #3 spot, and that’s simply because I believe Juuse Saros and Nashville’s defensive corps to be better than St. Louis’s goaltending and defense. With the addition of Ryan McDonagh, the Predators have a slight edge over the Blues...for now. Maybe I’m too hopeful, but Nashville has nearly all the necessary pieces to advance past the first round this season.
We are underway with the NHL European Player Media Tour in Paris. Our first interview was with Nino Niederreiter, who put on his Predators jersey for the first time since signing with them. pic.twitter.com/ZCXxRqQ8wc— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) August 24, 2022
St. Louis will be fighting tooth and nail to keep up with the Wild and the Predators this season. We know that Nashville’s relationship with the Blues and the Wild is a little fraught, but those inter-division games are always full of hits, spirit, fights, and ridiculous goals. Vladimir Tarasenko remains a Blue, and goaltending can be hit-or-miss from Cup Champion Jordan Binnington. David Perron is gone, but depth pieces Martin Frk, Nick Leddy, Noel Acciari, and Josh Leivo were brought in.
The Dallas Stars have been on a downward trajectory since their appearance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Injuries have plagued their stars (pun intended) for a season or two, and some of their biggest names have left for other teams—John Klingberg and Alexander Radulov. However, big seasons from guys like Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz might elevate the Stars higher in the Central. They have a stud in net in Jake Oettinger...if they can get him under contract. The same goes for Robertson. Depth pieces like Joel Kirivanta and Denis Guarianov are true wild cards.
It’s simply mind-blowing to see the Winnipeg Jets so far down this ranking, but that’s because of a number of large losses to their squad in the last season and a half. Pierre-Luc Dubois is a true star, but I don’t know that he’s enough to get the Jets past simply “competitive.” Connor Hellebuyck had an awful season, so I’d look for him to bounce back. He has no strong defense in front of him, and it seems like Winnipeg has more holes than other Central teams. Winnipeg could unpleasantly surprise Central teams this year, though. Do not underestimate players like Nikolaj Ehlers and Mason Appleton.
The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be in a perpetual state of struggle, but no Nashville fan will feel sorry for them. Seth Jones, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane remain on the roster. The Hawks added Jack Johnson, Max Domi, and a few other pieces to essentially assemble a hockey team, but it’s evident they are tanking in order to pick high in 2023 and draft exceptional talent. The Blackhawks will be better than the Coyotes, but only barely.
And finally...we arrive at the Arizona Coyotes. They’re at the bottom of the list simply because they have not done enough to put together a competitive team. They had an excellent 2022 draft, and Clayton Keller and Jakub Chychrun are talented youngsters who can be counted on to be leaders. When researching the Coyotes’ absurdly-small new rink that’s connected with Arizona State University, I found that they’re playing 20 of their first 24 games on the road. That’s brutal. Their new 5,000-seat rink won’t be finished until mid-December.
What do you think, Preds fans? Where will Nashville end the 2022-2023 season? Is another banner possible? If Nashville can get outstanding seasons from Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot, Roman Josi, and Juuse Saros, it’s entirely possible.