Contrary to popular belief, there are teams in the central that are not named the Detroit Red Wings. I know that it sounds like an abstract concept really, but it's the truth. But hey, I can't tell you what to believe.
Anyway, here's #4 in our NHL season preview that we are obligated to do for all of you lovely folks out there. If you missed any previous editions, please check them out by clicking here.
Whoa! Hey, look at that! It's not the Red Wings!
And look at all that I just wrote. How many Hawks fans do you think I was able to piss off in a mere three paragraphs of writing? The over/under is about 52. Yes it's a rejuvenated fanbase, but that doesn't mean the United Center is bursting at the seams.
Anyway, if you're looking for trivia points, the young child pictured above who looks like he wants to punch the cameraman is actually Logan Couture (via Sharkspage). He has nothing to do with the Hawks, it's just a neat photo.
But yes, we are here to talk about the Hawks. They have got to be the feel good story in hockey right now. This franchise seems to have done a complete 180 in the last year and is heading in the right direction. They missed out on the playoffs last year by a mere three points and still have three of the best kids in the game -- Jon Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Given these kids a few more years and this team is going to be sick. The Hawks should sneak into the playoffs this season especially with the edition of Cristobal Huet. Oh and they're no slouches on defense either, what with Seabrook, Keith and a host of others.
What's New: Cristobal Huet is in and the Bulin Wall is out. Added Brian Campbell through free agency. Scotty Bowman joins the front office.
Questions That Need Answering: Really, the biggest question is 'how much are these guys going to improve?' We know they have tons of talent and now they just need to go out there and show everyone how far they can go with it. Other questions are as follows; with the Hawks having only 4 players on the roster born in the 1970s, is it more like sleep away camp than an NHL team? Does Patrick Kane have a fake ID? If so, shouldn't he be able to get into any Chicago bars he wants anyway?
Detroit Red Wings
Oh, hey. There they are. This part of the preview should basically write itself... Wings won the Cup last year... Favored to win it again... Seven division titles in a row... Something about Marian Hossa... Yawn. Damn team is so repetitive and boring.
But honestly, there's not a whole lot to say about these guys that you don't already know. You know about Hossa. Last year in the playoffs we saw a really scary side of Johan Franzen that probably even he didn't know he had. We also saw the Red Wings do whatever the hell they wanted during the playoffs, save for a couple of games. The addition of Hossa makes them downright frightening. Honestly, just skip the horror movie antics and start running for your lives right now. It's reached that point.
What's New: Ty Conklin is in for the retired Dominik Hasek. Marian Hossa, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Questions That Need Answering: How much does it hurt to get in the way of a speeding freight train? Is there an NHL team out there that cares to find out? How badly would you (or I) like to be Mike Babcock right now?
Columbus Blue Jackets
So we are now seven years into the Blue Jackets' existence and they still have not seen the promised land. Seven years is a long playoff drought and it may feel even longer if you've never tasted them. But here we are and Scott Howson has done a nice job retooling the team to try and turn things around this year. Probably the biggest hurdle facing them is that they're in a good division in an even better conference. In the East, you could make the argument that they might be in the mix for the eighth spot. Not so in the West.
Nonetheless, the team made some nice acquisitions over the summer and hopefully for them they will pay off. Huselius is a good addition, as he once again escapes the jaws of Mike Keenan. Also in the mix are RJ Umberger and a cluster of less-impactful players. Pascal Leclaire, who laid his life on the line for Canada last year, is back with a nice three-year deal. The Blue Jackets don't have a lineup that looks very intimidating on paper, but aren't going to be push overs either.
What's New: Christian Backman, Fedor Tyutin, Raffi Torres (who just hurt his shoulder), RJ Umberger, Mike Commodore, Kristian Huselius.
Questions That Need Answering: Why doesn't this team actually wear blue jackets instead of jerseys? I could see it now... Mid 90s denim jackets from Calvin Klein with each players' name sequined on the back. Simply FABulous!
(Poor attempt at Predator humor that has already been done a million times.)
Is there a more frustrated fanbase in all of hockey? They pack the arena, but are still in danger of losing the franchise. A ticket drive helps and gets the team through the season, a season in which they arguably overachieved on the ice, and yet here we are again with rumors of Jim Basillie buying the team and moving them to wherever he pleases.
(Warning! Tangent! Warning!)
By the way, can we just go ahead and blame America's economic problems on Boots Del Biaggio? Apparently he owes lenders about $170 million. I mean shit, that's gotta count for something.
(Train veers back on track)
So we were talking about the Predators. They did squat in the off-season in terms of bringing in people. They shipped out a few players, but kept the roster basically the same. At this point, if I'm a Preds fan, I would be happy this year if my team stayed put and made the playoffs. Sometimes it's the simpler things in life. Trust me, I know. I'm an Islander fan.
What's New: Who's Gone: Marek Zidlicky, Chris Mason (sucked anyway), Jan Hlavac, Martin Gelinas.
Questions That Need Answering: Who gets Del Biaggio's stake in the team? Mmm... Can I have some steak myself?
St. Louis Blues
It's been tough times in St. Louis in recent years. They haven't been to the playoffs or had a winning record since before the lockout. And now there is a serious injury with highly touted #1 pick Erik Johnson suffered while golfing. To pile on, their biggest off-season addition was Mike Weaver. Hoo boy. It might be another long season in St. Louis. The folks there might be, ha, singing the blues!!! hahahahahaha GET IT?!!?1!
Woooo. I just love a good pun.
Sorry, I'll stop.
What's New: Not a whole lot. Lots of key young players got re-signed (Jackman, Oshie, Eller) so it's apparent things are heading in the right direction. It might just take some time. Doug Weight has departed along with Jamal Mayers and Martin Rucinsky.
Questions That Need Answering: Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?