The Central Division is stacked heading into the 2019-20 season, and if that surprises you, then brace yourself for some disappointing news about which team won the Stanley Cup. The last time a Central Division team didn't advance to at least the Western Conference Finals? 2012.
For the Blackhawks to return to the playoffs in 2020 after a two-year absence, they will have to knock off some of the NHL's toughest teams. Before things get started this fall, Blackhawks.com took a look at the offseasons for the six teams battling Chicago in the Central Divison race.
- Last season: 38-30-14 (90 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog
- Major Offseason Additions: Nazem Kadri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Andre Burakovsky
If the ping-pong balls had bounced a little differently this summer, the Blackhawks could have been staring up at Colorado on Draft night, even after the Avalanche made it all the way to the Western Conference semis last season. Fortunately for Chicago, some lottery luck saw their pick (an 8.2 percent chance at the top three) jump Colorado's pick acquired from the Senators (which had a 49.4 percent chance). The rest is history…and Kirby Dach.
That's where the good news end however, as the Avalanche still boast one of the most potent trios in hockey with MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog poised to be as dangerous as ever in 2019-20. Offseason additions Nazem Kadri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Andre Burakovsky round out a roster expected to compete immediately.
- Last season: 43-32-7 (93 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Miro Heiskanen
- Major Offseason Additions: Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry
With one of the league's top young blue lines and a steady netminder in Ben Bishop, the Stars looked for guys who have been there and done that this summer.
Former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski and former Hart Trophy-winner Corey Perry should provide a spark on offense, as Stars fans don't need reminding the team was a goal away from the Western Conference Finals a season ago.
- Last season: 37-36-9 (83 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Devan Dubnyk
- Major Offseason Additions: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Donato, GM Bill Guerin
Minnesota's last-place finish in the Central is a bit misleading - the Wild would have finished above at least three teams in every other division - but the team will face an uphill battle in 2019-20.
On the plus side, new General Manager Bill Guerin inherits a team full of playoff-tested veterans. Unfortunately, he inherited much of his team after previous General Manger Paul Fenton was fired at the end of July and we'll have to wait to see how Guerin shapes the team in the future. Adding Mats Zuccarello only increases the importance of a rebound from the current roster.
- Last season: 47-29-6 (100 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Roman Josi, Pekka Rinne
- Major Offseason Additions: Matt Duchene
It takes a special kind of player to soften the blow of losing P.K. Subban, but Matt Duchene is that kind of player. The Preds traded from a position of strength on the blue line and got the former Senators alternate captain from Columbus.
Duchene will bolster Nashville's offense in spades, as it's hard to argue the reigning Central Division champs got worse over the offseason.
St. Louis Blues
- Last season: 45-28-9 (99 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Ryan O'Reilly
- Major Offseason Additions: Carl Gunnarsson
The Blues enjoyed some modest success in 2019, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 52 year history. Like most championship teams, the Blues have been focused on keeping their core together ahead of the new season.
The addition of Carl Gunnarsson should buoy a defense that sparked the team's second half turnaround, while the loss of Patrick Maroon will be the only significant absence from a team looking to run it back in 2019-20.
- Last season: 47-30-5 (99 points)
- 2019 NHL All-Stars: Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler
- Major Offseason Additions: Neal Pionk
Moving further up the Central Division standings, the offseason becomes less about splashy moves and more about keeping talented players in town. Sometimes, that's easier said than done.
As the Jets work on new deals for Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor, they've already been forced to part ways with Jacob Trouba in a trade that brought back Neal Pionk from New York.