Can any team catch the champs? The Colorado Avalanche just won the Stanley Cup, and they're heavily favored to take the Central Division in 2022-2023. Let's examine the Central Division with our odds, picks, and predictions.
The way that the Central Division is priced, it's almost a foregone conclusion the Avalanche will once again take the top spot. But that doesn' take into account the unpredictable nature of the sport. The Avalanche finished six points ahead of the Minnesota Wild in 2021-22, close enough that goaltending or injuries to star players could close that gap.
The Wild ranked sixth in five-on-five expected goals percentage in 2021-22 while leading the Central Division. The Avalanche finished 10th. Beyond that, the Stars ranked 13th, the Predators 16th, the Jets 17th, and the Blues 19th. At the bottom, the Blackhawks were 29th and the Coyotes ranked 32nd. That suggests the division should be relatively competitive in spots two through six, but maybe one of those teams will be able to surprise and challenge the Avalanche.
Top Central Division Odds and Picks
The Avalanche are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup again, and they're heavily favored to at least take the Central Division. The Avs have played to a .728 points percentage over the past two seasons while winning two division titles.
Though they lost goaltender Darcy Kuemper and center Nazem Kadri during free agency, the Avalanche are still loaded with elite talent. Center Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar lead the way as two of the league's top half dozen players. But Colorado is so heavily favored to win the division that there's little upside to backing the Avalanche.
The Wild recorded a franchise-best 113 points in 2021-22, but salary-cap issues led to trading second leading scorer Kevin Fiala during the offseason. Minnesota boasts some young players with potential, including second-year winger Matt Boldy, rookie center Marco Rossi, and first-year pivot Calen Addison.
The Wild will likely need significant contributions from all three to win the Central. The prices from them to sit atop the division are therefore relatively short.
There's some divergence of opinion among the leading sportsbooks regarding whether the Blues or Nashville Predators should get the third shortest odds in the Central Division. The strong veteran core that pushed the team to a Stanley Cup win in 2019 and a division title the season after is still in place for the Blues.
But after putting up 109 points in 2020-21, the Blues lost winger David Perron and goaltender Ville Husso, who both signed with the Detroit Red Wings as free agents. Both of those holes need to be filled, and it doesn't look like this Blues team will be better than the 2021-22 version. Thus, the +550 price at Caesars makes no sense, but maybe +1200 at DraftKings offers more suitable value.
Although the Predators finished with 97 points in 2021-22 and they've played to a .577 points percentage over the past three seasons, Nashville did re-sign free-agent winger Filip Forsberg. He scored 42 goals over 69 games in 2021-22, and the team also acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With some internal improvement and strong goaltending, the Predators could earn a shot at the division. But there's some notable variance in their pricing. On the low end, +1000 isn't great value, but +1600 at Barstool could be enticing.
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The Stars earned 98 points in 2021-22, their highest total since last winning the Central Division in 2015-2016. They added winger Mason Marchment in free agency, but the team lost defenseman John Klingberg. The club is also still trying to work out a new contract with leading scorer Jason Robertson.
For all of his NHL success, new head coach Peter DeBoer has never led a team to more than 102 points in a season. However, his Vegas squad did notch 82 points over 56 games during the shortened 2020-2021 campaign, a 120-point pace over a full season.
Much like the Predators and Blues, there's notable variance on the Stars' pricing at the top sportsbooks, from as low as +1200 through DraftKings to a high of +1700 at Barstool.
The Jets didn't make major changes after missing the playoffs with 89 points. Aside from bringing in new head coach Rick Bowness, they're effectively replacing veteran forward Paul Stastny with rookie Cole Perfetti. Otherwise, a lot of the key players remain the same.
While there's some elite talent on the Jets that could lead to better results, earning the 20-plus points needed to win the Central is asking a lot. Goaltending can be a wild card for any team, but the Jets might hold more upside in that area, as Connor Hellebuyck is often among the league's top netminders. Winnipeg’s outlook could change dramatically If Hellebuyck puts together an outstanding season in 2022-2023, making the +3500 price through DraftKings worth monitoring.
The last two teams are playing for the future more obviously than any other squad leaguewide. The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes are entirely fine with poor results in 2022-23.
The Arizona Coyotes notched 57 points in 2021-22. They'll be playing in a college hockey arena in 2022-23, and there's no reason to believe this year’s team will be better. Even when priced at +50000 to win the division, it doesn't make sense to pick the Coyotes. They're simply not trying to be successful.
If you believe the Coyotes are the only team tanking for a shot at Conor Bedard with the top pick in the 2023 draft, here come the Blackhawks. Longtime stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain, but those two and defenseman Seth Jones are the only ones left over from the team’s top-eight scorers in 2021-22.
Chicago is tearing its roster down to the studs before rebuilding. The Blackhawks won't come close to a playoff spot, never mind winning the division.