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2014 NHL Season Preview: Dallas Stars & the Central Division Storyline

This article kinda sorta debuts a weekly feature that will be running this season, taking a look at what’s happening around the Central Division. Consider it a soft opening for whatever this feature winds up being called. And speaking of, I need ideas for the title of this feature. Quick. Central Division Family Album? Love to Hate ‘em? All Quiet on the Central Front? The NHL’s Toughest Division plus Winnipeg?

You guys are creative. Help me out.

Anyway, seeing as how the season hasn’t started yet, despite it already being October, we’ll be debuting with storylines. You know, those burning questions we’ve waited all summer to see answered. Will Barry Trotz’ ghost haunt the halls of Bridgestone Arena? Will Winnipeg Jets ownership petition to move the Jets back to Atlanta, anything to get back to the Eastern Conference? Will Patrick Roy spontaneously combust on the bench during a game against the Ducks?

You know, the important things.

We start today in reverse alphabetical order, because otherwise all you lazy readers out there wouldn’t get to read about the Peg.

Winnipeg Jets

Will Ondrej Pavelec continue to make Byfuglien look awful? Last season Dustin Byfuglien was lambasted for his poor defensive play. Digging a little deeper with the #fancystats though led to the revelation that Winnipeg goaltending was posting a .889 save percentage behind him. Thanks a lot Pavelec. Can Pavelec repay the misguided faith place in him by Winnipeg management and make strides to no longer be the worst starting goaltender in the league?

How long will Evander Kane last? No, seriously. Is he a trade deadline move, or does he get shipped out earlier?

St. Louis Blues

Goaltending. Halak gone, Miller gone, but Corsi’s here! No, I mean Jim Corsi, he of accidental fancy stats fame, was hired by the Blues as the goaltending coach. Last year St. Louis went all in on Ryan Miller, banking on goaltending being the missing piece to a cup run. Woops. So now we have journeyman Brian Elliott, and rookie golden boy Jake Allen in the crease. Can Allen handle the pressure? Can Elliott perform consistently as a number one?

The Blues weren’t exactly slouches in the offensive department last season, finishing 7th in the league in goals per game. Then they went and added Paul Stastny. Look out?

Nashville Predators

The Mike Ribeiro reclamation project. Or really, the whole forward corps reclamation project, as Nashville have added a few once-good spare parts to their roster in an attempt to actually generate offense this season. How’s that gonna work out for them?

Speaking of, will Nashville actually score goals in the post-Trotz era? New coach Peter Laviolette is known for being offensively-minded, or at least more so than Barry Trotz, but in the preseason the Preds scored a grand total of 10 goals, in 6 games. So we’ll see…

Minnesota Wild

Goaltending? Hello Bryzgalov. Thought we’d lost you out there in that great big universe, but thanks to a Josh Harding temper tantrum you’re suddenly back in the game. I’m rooting for ya, kid.

Oh the irony of a team called the Wild being boring. Does the addition of Tomas Vanek make Minnesota exciting? Or will the only excitement be derived from watching which goaltender pops up on the lineup card for that night?

Colorado Avalanche

Regression. Not because of PDO, but because of PDO. What I mean is, Semyon Varlamov was ridiculously good last year, and J.S. Giguerre in relief wasn’t half bad. What if Varlamov is only incredibly good this year, and the backup performs at Dan Ellis levels? Right. Regression.

Jarome Iginla replacing Paul Stastny? I’m not a believer in the ‘sum being greater than the parts’ thing. But then again, Nathan MacKinnon’s still there, and another year older and wiser, so where does that leave the offense? Almost as good as Dallas?

Chicago Blackhawks

When will Teuvo Teravainen finally make his proper debut and amaze us all? Last season he had his cup of coffee in the NHL, but at the end of the pre-season he was sent down to Rockford. Does he get a shot at the Calder this year?

Will bandwagon fans continue to dominate the AAC? I’m tired of the Chicago game Christmas tree effect. Here’s hoping when I’m in the arena for opening night on Thursday that it’s a sea of green…

Talking Points