Top to bottom, it looks like the toughest division in the NHL. I think there could be six legit playoff contenders next season. I think Nashville will be in the mix, and could make it back. Typically four new teams make it to the playoffs that didn't make it the last season, and as long as Rinne stays healthy they are a threat in my mind. I also think that even though Trotz was a good coach, they might have both needed a change of scenery. I feel bad for Winnipeg because they do have some talent, they are likely just bound to the cellar for a while simply because this division is so tough.
Right now, I think Chicago should be an easy choice to win the central. They have the most talent all around, St. Louis has gotten worse and even though Colorado had a great year last year I don't think they'll have the same level of success. Appx. 110 points.
Overall, St. Louis should be the #2 team in the division. They still have arguably the best defensemen in the league, and they were top 10 in goals scored last season. I've seen Jake Allen play, he's fine. Behind that defense, I don't think there'll be a huge drop in goaltending. But they need a true number one center if they expect to contend with the great teams. Maybe a one year gamble on Joe Thornton would be in order for them. Appx. 100 points.
Colorado is a team I could see finishing anywhere from 2-6, so 3 or 4 seems to be in order. Varlamov had a great year, but I doubt he is as good next season. Nathan MacKinnon also needs to avoid a sophomore slump. Appx. 95 points.
Dallas I feel like has a lot of room to grow. They won't sneak up on anyone next year, but they can get a lot better. But there are holes to patch up. Need depth scoring and defense. Appx. 95 points.
Nashville, had they had Rinne last season, could have stolen some games that could have vaulted them into the playoffs, as they finished just out with 86 points. Will still be a gritty, tough team to play, but they need some offense. Maybe Laviolette can provide that.
Minnesota is one team I am really not sure about. I think what we saw out of them last year is about all they can do. Be a decent team and maybe pull a first round upset. They have a revolving door in net and they can't score. I think they're in danger of falling out of the playoffs.
Winnipeg did better after they brought in Paul Maurice, and they have talent with Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, etc., but without solid defense and goaltending they won't be able to tread water in this division. But really, they're better than maybe half the teams in the Pacific and Atlantic. A few metro teams too. Just goes to show you how tough the central is. Should be some intense battles for years to come.
Let it be known this is initial thoughts. Free agency and the like still has to happen.