Connect with us

Hockey

2021 NHL Season Preview: Central Division

The NHL will have new divisions for the 2021 season. We are previewing what to expect from the new Central Division.

Tampa Bay Lightning Preshow by Ms. Gemstone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2021 NHL Season Preview: Central Division


Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The NHL 2021 season will begin on January 13th, and it will look a bit different. Most notably, there will be new division realignments due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The season will consist of 56 games played over 116 days, and includes an increased amount of back-to-back games. Each team will only play within their division, and the top four teams from each division will make the playoffs.

This season is going to be a brave new world for the NHL, and we’re starting our preview series with a look at the new Central Division.

Who’s in the division?

  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Dallas Stars
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Nashville Predators
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

Only three of these teams were already residents of the “Central” division (Chicago, Dallas, and Nashville). Carolina and Columbus join from the Metropolitan, while Detroit, Florida, and Tampa Bay move over from the Atlantic. It’s an intriguing division to say the least.

Who are the new faces?

Rick Bowness – Head Coach, Dallas Stars

Bowness isn’t technically a “new” face. He served as interim coach last season, taking over in December of 2019 when Jim Montgomery was fired. In October of 2020 he was officially named head coach. He’ll look to return to the Stanley Cup Final after leading the team there last season.

Luke Kunin – Center, Nashville Predators

After being traded from the Wild, Kunin finally signed a 2-year, $4.6 million contract with Nashville. He set career highs in goals, assists, and points with Minnesota last year, and will look to build upon those numbers with the Predators.

Who was told goodbye?

The “goodbyes” in this case aren’t players leaving teams. Rather, they’re a couple of guys who are currently lost to their teams for all or part of the coming season.

Jonathan Toews – Center, Chicago Blackhawks

In December, Toews announced that he was dealing with symptoms that have left him “drained and lethargic”. He’s been working with doctors to determine the cause of his issues, and there is currently no formal timetable for a return. Given the packed schedule and this truncated season, it’s possible we may not see Toews on the ice at all – which would be a big blow.

Tyler Seguin (Center) & Ben Bishop (Goaltender), Dallas Stars

Both underwent surgeries in the offseason. Seguin had a procedure on his hip, while Bishop had a knee issue. Seguin was the leading scorer for the team with 50 points, while Bishop’s absence will leave the Stars thin on goaltending. Anton Khudobin should be just fine while Bishop is on the shelf, but without him, the backup is rookie Jake Oettinger.

The encouraging news here is that both players are likely to be back at some point later in the season. They’ll be welcome additions to a team hoping to return to the Stanley Cup Final.

What should fans watch for?

How Much Good Hockey Will We Get?

Sure, both halves of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals (Dallas and Tampa Bay) are in this division. Beyond that, though – who knows?

The Blackhawks and Red Wings may be able to rekindle some sort of rivalry, but neither team is what they used to be. Columbus and Carolina are promising and could give Dallas and TB a run for their money. Nashville seems to be heading in the wrong direction these days, and Florida? Well – again, who knows?

Then again, in these strange COVID times, when seasons are shortened, schedules are condensed, and all bets are off? It should be an interesting ride no matter what.

Travel Distance Effect

This division is more of a mix and match than the others thanks to the geographical and travel concerns the league tried to account for. As a result, there are more state and local health regulations/guidelines that could impact the season. Hopefully, they’ll be able to keep things under control enough that all we’ll need to worry about is the hockey.

How will the final standings look?

  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Dallas Stars
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Nashville Predators
  • Florida Panthers
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Detroit Red Wings

It seems like a pretty safe bet that Dallas and Tampa Bay will rule this division. The level of competition in this newly created division should solidify that. The middle handful of teams could end in any number of different ways, but outside of Carolina, I don’t see anyone making a serious challenge to the top two spots. As for the Blackhawks and Red Wings – well, it’ll likely be a race to the bottom.

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Turf Burns!

Advertisement

Editor’s Picks

Latest Articles