The Central Division of the NHL is a very interesting one. It is rather top-heavy right now but the holiday break is an opportunity for everybody to reset and be ready for the dog days of the season.
Dallas and Colorado are the top two teams in the division. Everybody saw that coming as they have been elite for a few years now. Both of them see it as “Stanley Cup or bust”.
After them comes a log jam. Third and seventh place in the division are only separated by 4 points. The parity is off the charts. Everybody believes that they can be a playoff team at this point.
The Winnipeg Jets were expected to full off this year but they didn’t get the memo. They retained a lot of their key players and that has helped them continue to play well. As of right now, they have that third and final division spot.
The Central Division has a lot of good teams trying to make a push.
The Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild are the other teams in 4th-7th place. The Predators, Blues, and Wild have been good for a long time but the Coyotes seem to be turning a corner. All of these teams are good but none of them scream “Stanley Cup contender”.
If the season ended today, both Western Conference Wild Card teams would come from this Central Division. The Predators and Coyotes would be the teams making it. Plenty of squads are on their tail but they should be confident in their ability to do so.
The worst team in the division is the Chicago Blackhawks. They are the only ones with essentially no chance of being a playoff team at the Christmas break. They are in last place by a wide margin (13 points).
The funny part about it is that the last place Blackhawks have the most exciting young player in Connor Bedard. He was the number one pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and has lived up to all expectations so far. They should have another high draft pick again in 2024 so they won’t be at the bottom for long.
This division will be a fascinating group down the stretch. There are a few Cup contenders, some playoff hopefuls, and the Blackhawks with Bedard. Hopefully, the fun will continue following the break.