Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 season preview: Central Division
We finish our league-wide look with the Blackhawks’ own division.
We continue our countdown to the start of the NHL’s 2022-23 regular season with a look at the rest of the NHL, this time the Central Division.
Last season: 25-50-7 (57 points), eighth place in Central Division
Key losses: F Phil Kessel, F Alex Galchenyuk, D Anton Stralman
Key additions: F Zack Kassian, F Nick Bjugstad
By far the only team on this list that’s in any sort of competition with the Blackhawks this season, and that’s in the race to the bottom for the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. The rebuild continues in the desert, with the team having five picks in the first two rounds of last year’s draft. Arizona also has two third-round picks in 2023, three second-round picks and four third-round picks in 2024 and four second-round picks in 2025. So the future could be bright for the Coyotes.
As for the present ... the only things worth watching here are potential steps forward for Clayton Keller and Barrett Hayton along with the possible trade of blue-liner Jakob Chychrun.
Last season: 56-19-7 (119 points), first place in Central Division, Stanley Cup champions
Key losses: F Nazem Kadri, F Andre Burakovsky, D Jack Johnson, G Darcy Kuemper
Key additions: F Lukas Sedlak, G Alexandar Georgiev
After finally capturing the Cup last season, Colorado now looks to become more than a one-hit wonder with a substantial part of its young core intact. Salary cap restraints meant that postseason hero Nazem Kadri is playing elsewhere and the Avalanche will also have a new goalie in Alexandar Georgiev.
But, of course, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar and Devon Toews and Gabriel Landeskog and Sam Girard and so many other familiar names are here. Bowen Byram is still on his entry-level deal. The Avs have the firepower to be Cup contenders again — as long as the collective hangover has subsided.
Last season: 46-30-6 (98 points), fourth place in Central Division, lost in first round
Key losses: Coach rick Bowness, D John Klingberg
Key additions: Coach Peter DeBoer, D Colin Miller, F Mason Marchment
Outside of a run to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2020 bubble, the Stars are the NHL equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Since the 2008-09 season, they’ve made the playoffs just five times and have only advanced beyond the second round once. Last season, the Calgary Flames sent Dallas home after the first round.
Dallas still has Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski at forward along with Miro Heiskanen on defense. Jake Oettinger is emerging as a potential long-term No. 1 starter in net.
But is that going to be enough for a season to end with anything but another ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?
Last season: 53-22-7 (113 points), second place in Central Division, lost in first round
Key losses: F Kevin Fiala, D Dmitry Kulikov
Key additions: F Nic Petan, F Sam Steel, D Andrej Sustr, G Filip Gustavsson
For perhaps the first time in this franchise’s existence, the Wild are a legitimately entertaining hockey team. They have one of the game’s top offensive stars in Kirill Kaprizov and have added multiple young draft picks who are grabbing NHL ice time, most notably 2019 first-round pick (12th overall) Matt Boldy, who could build open his impressive rookie season with 39 points (15 G, 24 A) in 47 games. Minnesota needs Boldy — or someone — to step up to replace the loss of Kevin Fiala, the team’s second leading scorer last season.
Still, though, the Wild did what the Wild have so often done last postseason: exited early. A six-game defeat to the St. Louis Blues was yet another unexpectedly quick playoff departure for the Wild. With 2022 trade deadline acquisition Marc-Andre Fleury back again, this team is banking on a deeper run next spring/summer — but it will certainly have to prove it on the ice before anyone outside of Minnesota believes it.
Last season: 45-30-7 (97 points), fifth place in Central Division, lost in first round
Key losses: F Luke Kunin, F Nick Cousins, D Matt Benning, G David Rittich,
Key additions: F Nino Niederreiter, F Kiefer Sherwood, D Ryan McDonagh, G Kevin Lankinen
Nashville has seemed like a team on the verge of a complete blow-up several times in the last two years. Then it managed to qualify for the playoffs, only to be sent home after the first round each time. Will Nashville get over the hump this season with an awfully similar team?
Well, the Predators did go to Europe and open the regular season with two wins, so perhaps the offseason additions of Niederreiter and McDonagh will be more of a push forward than expected. Or, maybe, a pair of victories against a bad San Jose Sharks team are not indicative of the season-long outlook for Nashville. Who knows?
St. Louis Blues
Last season: 49-22-11 (109 points), third place in Central Division, lost in second round
Key losses: F David Perron, F Oskar Sundqvist, D Calle Rosen, G Ville Husso
Key additions: F Noel Acciari, F Anthony Angello, G Thomas Greiss
St. Louis had a ton of scoring depth last season and also got a point-per-game performance from Vladimir Tarasenko, once he backed down from his trade demands. So much of that scoring depth is back, but the real question is in net, where Ville Husso left for the Detroit Red Wings and Jordan Binnington returns after a subpar 2021-22 regular season but a better postseason. Which version of Binnington takes the ice this season will likely be a decent harbinger of the Blues’ fortunes.
Last season: 39-32-11 (89 points), sixth place in Central Division
Key losses: F Paul Stastny, F Andrew Copp, F Evgeny Svechnikov,
Key additions: Coach Rick Bowness, F Sam Gagner, D Kyle Capobianco, G David Rittich
Since a conference finals appearance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Winnipeg has only one playoff series win and didn’t even make the playoffs last season. New coach Rick Bowness has been charged with turning this sinking ship around and he started by stripping Blake Wheeler of his captaincy. There are some talented forwards here, including Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois and the aforementioned Wheeler.
There’s also Connor Hellebuyck in net and a quality defenseman in Josh Morrissey, but the Jets have never seemed to have quite enough overall depth to hang with the top teams in this division — or the league.
And another underwhelming season could mean a teardown is coming.