The puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season in rinks across the country this week (the Sharks and Predators opened the campaign in Prague, CZE over the weekend). I'm running through quick previews of all 32 teams, continuing with the Central Division.
Odds to win division in parentheses.
Colorado Avalanche (-150)
As is often the case following a Stanley Cup championship, the Avalanche lost a number of key pieces in the offseason, namely Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Darcy Kuemper. With Kuemper moving on, Colorado added former New York Rangers backup goaltender Alex Georgiev, who will look to make a name for himself in the Mile High City. Playing goal for the Avs isn't a bad gig as they're capable of lighting up the scoreboard with a wealth of talent up front, not to mention an elite blue line corps led by superstar Cale Makar. No Stanley Cup hangover here - expect the Avs to have little trouble pacing the Central Division for another year.
Minnesota Wild (+400)
Having made few offseason changes, the Wild appear content with the roster that got them to the playoffs last season (but made an early exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues). In somewhat of a surprise move, the Wild locked up trade deadline rental goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, leading to them cutting ties with Cam Talbot. The case could certainly be made that Fleury's best days are behind him but he's made a career out of proving people wrong. Kirill Kaprizov leads a top-heavy forward group along with former first-round draft pick Matt Boldy poised for a breakout sophomore campaign after contributing 39 points in 47 games last season.
Nashville Predators (+1000)
The Predators are already off to a perfect 2-0 start to the season after posting consecutive hard-fought wins over the San Jose Sharks in Prague. With a good mix of youth and experience, the needle is certainly pointed up in Nashville. Filip Forsberg is back to lead the charge after signing a long extension with the club and Juuse Saros looks like a budding star between the pipes. Unlike the majority of the other teams in the Central, the Preds appear to have all of the pieces in place to potentially be a thorn in the side of the Avs at the top of the table.
St. Louis Blues (+1200)
Unable to get over the hump that is the Colorado Avalanche in each of the last two playoffs', the Blues did little to bolster their roster in the offseason. Ville Husso, who split time with veteran Jordan Binnington between the pipes last season, has moved on. Given Binnington's turbulent times with the Blues since helping them to a Stanley Cup championship back in 2019, it stands to reason that St. Louis will be in the market for a bonafide starting goaltender in the near future. The core of the team remains intact, a big reason why the Blues reside in that second tier in the Central Division. Regardless how the regular season goes, getting past the Avs next Spring figures to remain a tall task.
Dallas Stars (+1400)
The Stars remain paralyzed by the contracts of aging superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The team's biggest offseason move was a subtraction rather than an addition as Dallas lost key defenseman John Klingberg to free agency. With question marks up and down the roster the Stars seem far removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final just three seasons ago (albeit in that strange 2020 'bubble' tournament). This is a franchise that always treats a non-playoff season as a disappointment but that's likely where it's headed again in 22-23.
Winnipeg Jets (+2000)
Head coach Rick Bowness is back for a second go-round with the Jets franchise, with three-plus decades in between stints. For a franchise that had so much optimism a couple of years ago, things have fallen apart rather quickly. Guys like Patrik Laine and Andrew Copp are long gone with Mark Schiefele and Kyle Connor left to shoulder much of the load offensively. Connor Hellebuyck provides stability between the pipes but he'll be hard-pressed to get much help from a depthy-shy defensive corps in front of him. Not helping matters if the fact that forwards Mason Appleton and Pierre-Luc Dubois start the season nursing injuries.
Arizona Coyotes (+24000)
The Coyotes should at least be given credit for not standing pat despite the numerous issues that continue to swirl around the franchise's future in the desert. Phil Kessel is out the door, now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Connor Geekie and Zack Kassian are among those joining the fledgling 'Yotes. The big story is of course Arizona's move to 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, located on the campus of Arizona State University. The 'Yotes will share the facility with the Sun Devils and team insiders have already indicated that the players aren't all that pleased with the arena amenities being offered. Expect another trying campaign for the 'Desert Dogs'.
Chicago Blackhawks (+24000)
How the mighty have fallen. The Blackhawks, not so far removed from a Stanley Cup dynasty, have fallen on hard times and continue their quasi-rebuild in 2022-23. It's probably a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' face of the franchise, Patrick Kane, will be traded. Alex DeBrincat, one of the team's biggest offensive producers over the last couple of seasons, has already been dealt to Ottawa. There's help on the way with a wealth of young prospects bubbling under the surface but it's going to take some time for them to come along. Expect the Blackhawks to stay the course this season and ultimately finish near or at the bottom of the top-heavy Central Division.