Colin Blouin’s rankings (@colinblouin)
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Dallas Stars
4. Nashville Predators
5. Florida Panthers
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Chicago Blackhawks
8. Detroit Red Wings
Coming off a 2020 Stanley Cup Championship, the top of the Central Division as of right now for is the Tampa Bay Lightning, and until they look otherwise, they are still the class of the NHL.
A close second, and what may come as a surprise to some, is the Carolina Hurricanes; they are a young team that has made some runs and gotten some great playoff experience that one would thing would benefit a schedule like this one.
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Third is the Stanley Cup runners-up, the Dallas Stars; they’re a team that doesn’t look like they’ve gotten markedly better, but they also haven’t gotten any worse. They’re beatable as the Predators showed late in 2019-2020.
The 4-6 rankings were where I struggled, because they can and will be interchangeable. As a fan I can’t help but have hope the Predators will get the valuable fourth spot; they’ve gotten more physical, they’ve added some offensive weapons, but this will come down to coaching.
I really like the staff that Predators Head Coach John Hynes has put around him to deal with many different players in different places in their careers, and these hires will help the team mesh into a competitive club that can and should be respected.
The Florida Panthers have been on the rise, but I’m not sure how a schedule like this will treat them; the jury is still out on the Panthers, but they’ve been steadily improving and becoming more and more competitive.
The Columbus Blue Jackets feel like the more clear No.6 team, but you never know when they can overachieve, and they should at least make things interesting.
The bottom two of the division are two teams that have been considered “rebuilding” as of late; I’m not sure where this will put them in the new season, and if they are ready to show some consistency.
The Red Wings are less of a threat, and I have yet to see anything that shows me otherwise. At least we get to reignite that rivalry eight times this season.