How Central teams are trending
July, 30, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Michael Ivins/USA TODAY SportsAfter winning the 2013 Stanley Cup, the Chicago Blackhawks could take a step back next season.Continuing our look at how teams are trending in the new divisions, we move to the new-look Central. How will the defending champs adapt to their new competition?
Central DivisionAverage team point total last season: 53
2012-13 playoff teams: 3 (Blackhawks, Blues and Wild)
Notable strength: When it comes to allowing shots, this division features some of the stingiest teams in the NHL. Four of the 10 teams that allowed the fewest number of shots per game come from the Central (Blues, Blackhawks, Wild, Predators), with the Blues No. 2 in the NHL at 24.2 shots against per game last season.
Points last season: 77
Key additions: Nikolai Khabibulin
Key losses: Ray Emery, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, Daniel Carcillo
Trending: Down -- But only because it's almost impossible to repeat during the salary-cap era, especially for a team that was playing into late June. This is still a great team. This group knows as well as any that there's a hangover coming, and last time it took nearly the entire next season for the Blackhawks to recover. The major difference is that nearly every major contributor from last year's championship team is returning, although Bolland will be missed. Khabibulin is a capable backup for Crawford, but it'll be interesting to see how long Antti Raanta, signed from Finland, has to wait before getting a shot at NHL playing time.