Dallas Stars: C
For several seasons now, the Stars have been a team that intrigues me. The defense is often impressive, while the offense boasts top-level talent that makes Dallas a dangerous team on any given night.
Unfortunately, the offense still doesn’t look explosive like it did in the 2020 playoffs, and worse, the defense has regressed this year. On average, the Stars score three goals per game and concede three goals per game, as demonstrated by their -1 goal differential.
If the offense gets hot at the right time, Dallas could win the West. If it doesn’t, this team could miss the playoffs entirely. Since the team currently resides well behind a few division rivals, it will take a pretty big effort to earn more than a wild card spot.
Minnesota Wild: A
The Wild may be fourth in the division right now, but if the games that they have in hand turn into wins, they will be knocking on Colorado’s door before you know it. Minnesota has the second-best point percentage in the West and ample opportunity to climb the standings.
So far this season, only three teams across the NHL have a better goal differential than the Wild, thanks to Minnesota’s 3.8 goals per game (third in the NHL). This team has positioned itself well to brace for a loaded second half of the season, especially in January, where it is 6-1-1.
The questions with Minnesota never come in the regular season, but rather the postseason. Until we get there, I like what I’ve seen from the Wild this year.
Nashville Predators: B+
The Predators have been a very pleasant surprise this year in the NHL. Players like Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have had nice bounce-back seasons and are big reasons for Nashville’s surprising position.
The reason this team doesn’t receive an A is that I’m not sure if I can trust what I’ve seen. Do I believe that the star players that failed to live up to the hype for several years are going to continue the solid first half of the season? Am I positive that the team will maintain its sold special teams efforts? No is unfortunately the answer to both questions.
Maybe I’ll be wrong, but there are a lot of playoff-caliber teams in the Central, and I’m not sure that Nashville will be able to keep up. In the meantime, I have to acknowledge that this team has played well to this point, so the grade is a B+.