The Chicago Blackhawks are in a very tough new Central Division.
The Chicago Blackhawks and National Hockey League are going to finally get their seasons underway. Training Camp all of a sudden looms and the regular season will begin on January 13th. They are going to play in a 56 game season against a brand new Central Division. The COVID-19 restrictions are going to make the divisions have everyone close geographically. The hope is that these divisions only last for one season but it is going to be a tough challenge for the Blackhawks.
This will be a division that consists of the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and Tampa Bay Lightning. They get to keep the Nashville Predators as a division rival and they gain the Detroit Red Wings back but they lose the St. Louis Blues who will join the Pacific.
The Blackhawks, on paper, are the second-worst team in this division. Only the Detroit Red Wings are projected to be worse and they are significantly worse. The Red Wings were one of the worst single-season teams in 2019-20 and it is going to be a little bit before they any better. They have some pieces starting to come in place as an organization but it will be a while before they make an impact.
The best team in the division is the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They have elite players at every position and great depth. They can score, they can defend, and they get fantastic goaltending. Having great players like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vassilevskiy will give them a great chance to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions and the Blackhawks are going to have to deal with a team of that caliber.
The team that they defeated in the Stanley Cup Final was the Dallas Stars. The Hawks will have to deal with them in the regular season as well. They have great players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and Miro Heiskanen amongst others returning to try and get back to the Final and have a different result.
The other team in the division that you could consider the elite is the Carolina Hurricanes. They are a team that is still technically considered “up and coming” but they are good. There are elite forwards at the top of the lineup along with one of the best defense cores in the National Hockey League. Their goaltending might need some help but they should be a contender this season once again.
The top four in each division are going to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You should consider Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Dallas as the favorites as of now but anything can happen. The other teams, besides the Blackhawks and Detroit, should all be able to battle hard for that fourth playoff spot. They are all pretty even on paper so it will come down to who snags the most standings points throughout the year.
It isn’t much fun to go into a season knowing that the Blackhawks have no chance. They let Corey Crawford go for nothing so now their goaltending is in shambles. Beyond Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the forwards are young players that they are trying to develop so they might take a year to become true impact players. The defense leaves a lot to be desired as well so it just doesn’t really have the makeup of a playoff team.
This new-look Central Division has some good teams. Even though the Blackhawks aren’t going to be that good, it will be a good experience for some of these young players to play against this level of competition on a nightly basis. Hopefully, the important young players are able to develop and the management group continues to try and rebuild.