So I didn’t get through the whole Central before the season started. Whoops. There were things to do. Luckily all we have left are the two teams that are most certainly going to be the also-rans in this division, unless Peter Laviolette can find leftover Trotz elixir and sprinkle it on his Preds. Am I half-assing this? Yes, of course. But no more so than the Jets spent building their team, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
Predators: The Preds have a better chance at making some noise, simply because they’ll have a very good top four on the blue line with Weber, Jones, Josi, and Ellis with Ekholm and Volchenkov not exactly being a bad third pairing either. Combine that with a healthy Pekka Rinne, if you can consider a goalie who had his hip go into a coma healthy, and the Preds could be a stingy outfit again. If Laviolette can preserve the power play magic that Trotz found the past couple years they might squeak enough goals to be a nuisance. However, they lost the net presence of Hornqvist for that unit and James Neal is not quite that type of player.
They’ll count on trying to get anything resembling competence out of Mike Ribeiro, and good luck with that. He didn’t look all that interested on a try-hard effort-first team last year in Phoenix and I doubt it’ll look much better in Music City. James Neal without anyone to get him the puck is kind of just there. We know Olli Jokinen isn’t really that either. Derek Roy? Colton Sissons? Matt Cullen? We’ve seen this movie. Filip Forsberg is the one to watch as he contains the most offensive talent but hasn’t been able to translate it to the NHL game, or hasn’t been allowed to depending on who you ask.
The Preds will be annoying. Lavvy will have them playing fast and hard. They’ll score more than we think, but probably not enough. Except we know Craig Smith will light the Hawks up.
Jets: It’s really amazing that Kevin Chevyldayoff has been allowed to keep his job after returning basically the same team that didn’t really come close to the playoffs last year. Maybe he thinks a full season of Paul Maurice behind the bench will be improvement enough over the overmatched Claude Noel. As long as Ondrej Pavelec is in net, he can forget it.
I keep looking at the Jets roster and thinking there’s enough young talent here to make some noise, but I’ve been saying that for three years. Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane (before they finally run him out of town for intent of being black) are just about top line wingers, but probably just short. Mark Scheifele will impress right before he gets hurt. Bryan Little is a great #2 center who gets forced into playing #1 minutes. Trouba, Enstrom, and Bogosian should be the base for a pretty good defense, whether they play Byfuglien there or not. But it just isn’t.
Everywhere you look on the Jets, they just look a little short. Just not quite enough scoring. Just not quite enough defense. And a whole lot of not enough goaltending. About the only thing Jets can hope for is that another playoff-less season will result in regime change and maybe someone with a clue will finally be brought in. Maybe Stan can get Chevyldayoff to trade us Kane and Bogosian first before he’s canned though.