Looking back on 2018-19 for the Dallas Stars, many would say a 93-point year was a huge success. After all, the team come up just short in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of eventual champion St. Louis Blues.
Dallas was one of the winners on paper of the 2019 offseason. Signing star center Joe Pavelski and adding depth on the wings and blue line bolsters a team that already entered it with sky-high expectations for the next campaign.
Unfortunately for Dallas, much of its counterparts in the central Division- considered the deepest in hockey for multiple seasons- got better as well. Here’s an overview on what those teams did, and a prediction for how it could all stack up in the standings:
It may be tough for some Dallas fans to admit it, but it seems the rival Blackhawks are back in contention. For a team that won three Stanley Cups in six years this decade, Chicago hit unprecedented lows the past two years after a rare first-round exit in 2017.
They rebounded last year with a solid 84-point campaign, contending for a wild card berth late in the year. They signed Robin Lehner in free agency, who will shore up what’s been a shaky goalie situation due to Corey Crawford’s health over the past few years. They also added Calvin de Haan from Carolina- another marginal move, but they got better enough to perhaps sneak in the playoffs.
Another sneaky good team that should have a wild card spot on lock. The Avalanche added Joonas Donskoi via free agency, traded away Carl Soderberg, and made a surprise marquee trade- dealing away a big name and a team leader in Tyson Barrie to Toronto for Nazem Kadri.
A team with a deep talent pool at the blue line got a ton better offensively with the acquisition of Andrei Burakovsky from Washington. They really can do no wrong these days- one of the true rising franchises in the league.
Already covered this one. A burgeoning young team is now a fortified Stanley Cup contender with a revamped offense to add to a strong backcheck, and arguably the best goalie in the NHL.
Someone has to finish last. Minnesota didn’t get noticeably worse- or noticeably better, for that matter. They were able to lure Mats Zuccarello away from Dallas, a fan favorite indeed, but probably not enough to single-handedly carry a team to a playoff berth. This franchise has been hampered by steep contracts, and can’t fix its holes.
I’m pretty low on the defending division champions after a disappointing finish to the regular season and a subsequent first-round exit. Nashville did what it could to upgrade its at-times anemic offense and power play unit by trading P.K. Subban to New Jersey and overpaying for Matt Duchene, but in my eyes, the writing was on the wall. This team is on the decline.
St. Louis Blues
It is incredibly hard to repeat in the NHL, but St. Louis seems content with ending its 50-year cup drought and staying pat with its core. Who could blame them?
The Blues simply did some housekeeping- resigning a few restricted and unrestricted free agents. It remains to be seen what management will do with Ivan Barbashev and Patrick Maroon, who’s still available in early August.
A confident, unified group could threaten to run away with the division under now full-time head coach Craig Berube.
Winnipeg is in the same boat as Minnesota. They didn’t get significantly worse, but in this division, someone has to miss the playoffs. A strong blue line is so valuable in the NHL today, and the Jets lost two of their strongest defencemen in Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. I think that could cost them a playoff spot down the stretch.
- St. Louis, 100 pts.
- Dallas, 95 pts.
- Nashville, 90 pts.
- Colorado, 88 pts.*
- Chicago, 86 pts.*
- Winnipeg, 85 pts.
- Minnesota, 82 pts.
Point totals arbitrary. Boldface- Playoff team. *- Wild card berth.
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