- Craig Custance
The champion may reside in the Pacific Division, but its biggest group of challengers is in the Central. While the Los Angeles Kings spent the summer just trying to retain their talent, on and off the ice, the clubs in the Central ramped up the aggression to try and bring the Kings down.
The Chicago Blackhawks brought in Brad Richards to strengthen the team down the middle. The St. Loius Blues added offense in the form of Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera. The Dallas Stars created another scoring line with the additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, while the Minnesota Wild landed Thomas Vanek. Not to be outdone, the Nashville Predators signed every other veteran center remaining on the market.
It was a busy and successful offseason for the general managers among some of the Kings' biggest threats in the West, a development that didn't go unnoticed by Kings GM Dean Lombardi.
“Who went backwards?” Lombardi said and then joked that his counterparts in the Eastern Conference needed to pick up the slack.
“Can't they take some of these players?” Lombardi joked.
The Central, already strong, is better than ever and is the league’s deepest division. Earlier this week, we identified the five characteristics of the Kings that make them the ideal champion in a cap era: a franchise center, a strong top four anchored by a legit No. 1 defenseman, a playoff-tested goalie, a skilled fourth line and entry-level contributors.
We looked at the Atlantic Division on Wednesday, and here’s how the Central stacks up through the lens of those five characteristics