With the NHL’s second half of the regular season 2021-2022 starting Monday, it’s a good time to look into what has unfolded in the league so far this year. We started Sunday by looking at the Atlantic Division; today we turn our attention to the Central; and later this week we move on to the Metropolitan and Pacific divisions.
Colorado Avalanche: It took them a while to reach their pace, but when they did, the Avs were probably the best team in the entire NHL. Indeed, their current winning percentage of .773 is tops in the league, and they currently have an eight-point lead in second place, Nashville, and a nine-point lead in third place, Minnesota (although the Wild three games in hands it on Colorado). The Avalanche’s offense is truly terrifying: five of their players averaged at least 1.10 points per game, and they are tied with the Florida Panthers for the best goals-per-game average (4.09) in the match. GM Joe Sakic has put together a terrifyingly powerful series, and he may not be ready to add to his roster, with Flyers star Claude Giroux being a prominent name linked to them in trade rumors. But even if Sakic stands beat, the Avs have more than enough talent to go on a deep Cup play-off round. If you’re looking for the gold standard for NHL teams these days, look no further than Denver.
Nashville Predators: Attack remains a problem for the Predators, but they are high on the central standings because their defense is elite. They have the league’s seventh best goals-per-game average (2.67), and goalkeeper Juuse Saros has a Vezina trophy caliber year (2.35 goals-against-average, .927 save percentage and 24-11- 3 record). Their place on the points ladder is a bit misleading, as they are just one point ahead of Minnesota (and the Wilds have five games in hand at the Preds), and they are just three points ahead of St. Louis. Louis in fourth place. (and the Blues have two games in hand at Nashville). In short, they are a bad week or two (or a very good week or two by the Wilds and Blues) out of the fourth and final playoff spot in Central, and a first-round playoff date with Colorado. CapFriendly.com projects Preds GM David Poile has $ 10.7 million in cap space to bolster his team, and he was not afraid to make big moves. The star and captain, Roman Josi, will be 32 years old this year, and Nashville may have to make one last playoff push with him leading the way. They increasingly look like a sleeper choice to inflict damage on the playoffs.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild is a dynamic attacking team that also gets good performances from their goalkeeper tandem of Cam Talbot (18-8-1 record, 2.81 goals-against average, .913 saving percentage) and backs Kaapo Kahkonen (10-2- 2, 2.53 GAA, .922 SP). Their special teams are mediocre, but it is projected that they will have more than $ 11.325 million in cap space by the March 21 trading deadline – more than enough to be a bidder for Giroux, Kraken veteran Mark Giordano and a few others before the deadline has passed. The Wild’s looming hat-trick in the next few seasons gives them a sense of great urgency to take a big step forward as a legitimate Cup contender, and perhaps that’s something Wild GM Bill Guerin as a motivator for the current campaign considered. But it’s going to be hard for Minnesota to get out of the first round of the playoffs, especially if their opponent is the Avs.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues occupy fourth place in the Central, and although it is unlikely that teams fifth to eighth in the Central will win extremely consistently enough to beat St. Louis. Preds of Wild – in other words, stay away from a first-round clash with Colorado. The Blues are now benefiting from the development of the no. 2-goal keeper Ville Husso – who has better individual numbers (9-3-1 record, 1.90 GAA, .941 SP) presumably no. 1 Jordan Binnington (11-9-3 record) has, 3.27 GAA, .901 SP) – and relies on offense that comes from all points of the series to win games. That said, they are essentially limited, but they have big decisions ahead of hanging UFAs Husso and sniper David Perron, and they only have $ 10.3 million in limit space to sign nine players for next season. Like many teams, the Blues dedicated themselves to their core, but exhausted their middle class, creating a boundary space for their core by selecting as many NHL league minimum newcomers and rookie contract deals as possible. We’ll see if it works out for them in the long run, but at the moment they are still a play-worthy team that, when they reach a peak, can beat anyone.
Dallas Stars: For this writer’s money, the Stars were the biggest disappointment in the league this season. They are great at home (15-6-1) but bad on the road (8-12-1). Jason Robertson is a rising star, but the track for veteran stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn is not what it used to be. Defender Miro Heiskanen is one of the great young blue liners in the sport. Soon UFA D man John Klingberg will appear on his way out, and can be dealt with by the March 21 trade deadline. It’s starting to become clear that the Stars are not going to make the playoffs, and that should give GM Jim Nill a number of trades to build for their future. At the moment, Dallas’ biggest earners are not at the same cream-of-the-harvest level as their fellow stars in other teams. Having a deep defensive corps will help them, but with nine points behind the Blues, so late in the year, there is not enough time or schedule left for the Stars to get out of their rival crater in the first half of the season. do not climb.
Winnipeg Jets: As we said recently, it seems like Paul Maurice, former Jets head coach, knew exactly what he was doing to retire as Winnipeg’s head coach late last year, as the Jets got under to the point that they were the year as a potential top-four team has started. the Central, and is now a potential under-three team. Violation was a struggle for them, and injuries also hurt them in a significant way. But the more I see the whole of the Jets together, the more I think they are less than the sum of their parts. Kevin Cheveldayoff, head of Winnipeg, does not have many bullets in his rifle before his job security really comes up, but questions – and many of them – will undoubtedly come up for Winnipeg in the off-season, no matter how the Jets play in the next 10 weeks or so. The intense disappointment of their current season is going to have significant consequences.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Falcons’ abysmal public relations performance in the wake of abuse scandals is not related to their poor play on the ice. They fired former head coach Jeremy Colliton after going undefeated for their first 10 games, and the only reason they stayed near Winnipeg for sixth place was simply because they won 3-1 in knockout matches. Having captain Jonathan Toews back in the series is a sentimental boost, but Toews has no plans to put the team on his back and bring the Blackhawks back to their recent glory days with Patrick Kane. They have depth issues at forward and at ‘D’, and they have to make big contractual decisions about Kane and Toews over two summers from now. The transition phase in Chicago seems to be dragging on, and the Hawks are one of a few teams facing the abomination of being likely to be a non-playoff team again next year. Is this how Toews and Kane want to spend their last seasons as impact players? Are they a pack duo if they choose to play elsewhere? Many crossroads-type moments lie ahead for the Hawks, but not many that involve post-season hockey.
Arizona Coyotes: As an all-time scary start for the season candidate, this year’s Coyotes made it very clear that their tank work would be relentlessly painful – and that’s to say nothing of the constant embarrassment that the Coyotes’ search for a new home arena is for play next season – and only the injured Montreal Canadiens have a weaker winning percentage (.261) than Arizona’s (.289). There’s very little reason for ‘Yotes fans to want to stay engaged this year, when Arizona has almost locked up last place in Central. No sensible hockey is going to be played there for at least the rest of this season, and that will be reflected in their ticket sales. Long-term Coyotes fans have heard enough lip service about the team’s future. Only positive results will bring them back to the arena, and the Coyotes are about two years away from being two years away from a real playoff threat.