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NHL Team Grades 2021: Central Division

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NHL Central Division This Year

Carolina Hurricanes: A+

The Carolina Hurricanes have finally broken out as a high-level team in the NHL. They currently lead the Central and are succeeding more than they have for the past several years. Some of the returning players are also making the most of their time. The team has been a surprise as it would have been expected for the Lightning to be 1st in the Central. Martin Necas has been one of the bright spots on this team and someone to keep an eye on.

Florida Panthers: A+

Last NHL season was full of nothing but mediocrity for the Florida Panthers. This season has been anything but that. Their offense has been the typical explosive offense and this offense has been a huge help in their run on the division as they have held the top spot several times though they don’t right now. Overall this is an improvement and that is always welcome among hockey teams. The Sergei Bobrovsky contract still isn’t looking good but the Panthers are prevailing nonetheless.

Tampa Bay Lightning: A+

Typical Tampa Bay Lightning just without Nikita Kucherov. The result is a great team missing their best forward and as a result not doing quite as well but as well as you would expect of the former NHL Stanley Cup Champions. They have now also added David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets which will bulk up the defensive core. Altogether they have a real chance at going back to back especially if they get Kucherov back.

Nashville Predators B-

The beginning of this season was what we expected from the Nashville Predators, regression. They were really a below .500 team that needed some help. Late in the season though, they have made somewhat of a comeback. They sit in a playoff spot as of now and are trying to keep the Stars from taking it over before the end of the season. 

The goaltending has to be the biggest surprise though as the Predators goaltending, more specifically Juuse Saros. See, he has a .929% save percentage at the moment with 18 wins. The save percentage is an elite level considering the NHL’s standards. Last year he melted down in the playoffs which is typically a staple of Pekka Rinne so for the Predators it is key for Saros to keep it up during the playoffs and not just the regular season.

Dallas Stars: C

Understand these rankings do take into account how the team should have done so no we are not saying the Dallas Stars are on a similar level to the Red Wings however for what they did last year this is horrendous. They are attempting to make a comeback here late in the year so they can make the playoffs but whether they succeed or not remains to be seen. Keep in mind they have had numerous injuries so that could be playing a part in their 2020-2021 season.

Chicago Blackhawks: B+

Talk about surprises because the Chicago Blackhawks have been one for sure. This time in a good way though. Most projected them to be seventh in the division or at least not very good and for a good portion of the season, they were fourth and holding onto a playoff spot. In fact, they are still fighting for one. Altogether this is not the season expected out of the Blackhawks and they should be proud of their team.

Blue Jackets: F

What should have been a dark horse contender for the cup has been an awful season for the team, totaling fewer wins than the Red Wings team. Considering the talent the Columbus Blue Jackets infused in the offseason and during the season in Max Domi and Patrik Laine they should be far better than they are. 

They have one of the worst records in hockey and have lost to the Red Wings 3 times this year. Nick Foligno and David Savard are gone and John Tortorella is about to go. Let’s also not forget about how Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out and is now a Winnipeg Jet. Patrik Laine is having similar body language now as Dubois did then. This season could be the mark that the Blue Jackets are about to blow it up and start a rebuild but it is still an unknown.

Red Wings: D+

So yes, the Detroit Red Wings have certainly improved this season compared to last but considering last year would have been a straight F on this scale that’s not much of an accomplishment. The Red Wings had a great trade deadline as they fleeced Washington by getting Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first and a second-round draft pick for Anthony Mantha.

Goaltending is also now becoming a strength of this team from both its goalies, not just one doing all the work. In addition, they have the most picks coming up in this year’s draft. Unfortunately, the picks may not mean as much as this draft class is weaker. Overall, the Red Wings roster has a lot of room to grow before they are able to contend to win the Central division as one of the NHL’s dynastic franchises.

Conclusion

It remains to be seen whether or not the NHL’s central division will remain the same going forward. The Tampa Bay Lightning has a strong roster for now but that will not last forever.

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