The 2021 NHL season is still months away, but it’s never too early to consider where teams stand. Here are some early rankings for the Central Division.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the offseason consists of celebrations and attempts to turn one championship run into a dynasty. For the other 30 clubs, including the reigning Western Conference Champions the Dallas Stars and their Central Division rivals, it means trying to improve upon 2020’s shortcomings.
With plenty of time between now and the start of the season, a lot could change in the NHL. For now, though, this is where the seven teams that call the Central Division home stack up against each other.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are in a very odd place, where it seems the organization is attempting to rebuild on the fly, and it is not working. Chicago was able to knock off the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but that didn’t feel like the start of a rebound for the franchise.
It feels even less like that now that players like Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad are no longer in the Windy City. There are certainly still players to be excited about for the Hawks, but at the goalie position, this team is young and inexperienced, and that does not bode well when offenses like that of the Colorado Avalanche reside in the same division.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and other champions could help Chicago surprise us in a season that is sure to be different than any other season we’ve seen but, odds are, this team will struggle to gain traction in a very good Central Division.
6. Minnesota Wild
The Wild belong in the same category as the Blackhawks: should be rebuilding but apparently trying to compete. It is even more important for Minnesota to enter a rebuild because this is an old team. Chicago, overall, has a young roster, but the Wild feature an older group of players.
The team got a little bit younger when Eric Staal was moved to Buffalo, but that clearly was not the start of a trend, as seven players still on the roster are 32 or older. The team’s average age, according to CapFriendly, is 28.7 years old.
There are two things that give Minnesota the edge over Chicago. One is that the roster feels more complete and less dependent upon only a few top players. The addition of a player like Nick Bonino helps that. The other thing is the goaltending. While Cam Talbot was not the best fit for the Wild, he certainly provides a more stable situation than the young tandem for the Blackhawks.
For years, the Wild have been close, but haven’t been able to find a way to make a deep run through the playoffs. In a difficult Central Division, things will not be different in 2020-2021.