Who are the contenders, pretenders in the Central Division?

Central Division, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Central Division, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Wild

If this discussion doesn’t scream Minnesota Wild, I’m not sure what does. There may not be a single NHL team that has more often found itself walking this contender versus pretender line over the last decade or so.

Minnesota almost always makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs but almost never wins a series. That feels like it could be the case once again in 2023.

I think the Wild have a solid roster, and this isn’t a club that appears to be going anywhere any time soon, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s one that can challenge for the Stanley Cup in 2023.

Most of what this team does is good but not great, and the weaknesses that it does have are not masked, as Minnesota is not great in any category.

This isn’t a bad team, but it’s not a contender.

Nashville Predators

This is hard for me because I have tried to remain optimistic when it comes to the Nashville Predators. Like the Wild, the Preds have underachieved for quite some time, as their rosters never quite seem to fully live up to expectations.

Nashville has a real chance at qualifying for the postseason, but I don’t expect the team to pose much of a threat. I had one stipulation when I previously praised this team as having contender potential, but I believe that that ship has sailed.

As long as head coach John Hynes is still behind the bench, the Predators will not be a threat in the playoffs. Seeing as we’re nearly to the end of February, I don’t see a coaching change in Nashville’s near future. As a result, the Preds are pretenders.

St. Louis Blues

I had high hopes for the St. Louis Blues coming into the season, but the 2022-2023 campaign has been a struggle for the 2019 Stanley Cup champions.

Goaltender Jordan Binnington has been wildly inconsistent, face of the franchise Vladimir Tarasenko was traded to the New York Rangers, and captain Ryan O’Reilly was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There have been rumors that the Blues are interested in acquiring Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks, which deviates drastically from the message they’ve sent by trading away two key players. Regardless, this is not a team that can win this spring.