Detroit Red Wings: The 2021 NHL Central Division Preview

DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 30: Samuel Girard #49 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against the Minnesota Wild in the third period at Ball Arena on September 30, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 30: Samuel Girard #49 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against the Minnesota Wild in the third period at Ball Arena on September 30, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Winnipeg Jets

Record Last Season: 30-23-3

Playoff Result: Lost in the Second Round

Expectation This Season: Deep Playoff Run

Other than depth forward Mason Appleton, a majority of the 2020-21 team is returning this season. Although they lost in just the second round, the Jets showed promise throughout the season and in their opening round sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. They added defensive depth with Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon and extended a handful of important players. With goaltender Connor Hellebyuck in net, the Jets can be competitive against anyone in the league. However, they need to a start finding more than just morale victories in the playoffs. A deep play off run is needed if they want to keep the momentum going.

The Jets are a well rounded team; there aren’t any glaring holes in the roster. However, that’s actually not a bad matchup for the type of scheme that the Red Wings run – that muck-it up defensively, dare your opponent to make a mistake style. But yhe Jets are certainly the better team, especially with Hellebyuck in net.

Nashville Predators

Record Last Season: 31-23-2

Playoff Result: Lost in the First Round

Expectation This Season: Make the Playoffs – or Start the Rebuild

After a terrible start to the year, the Predators made a surprising turnaround to prevent the start of a rebuild. They are trying to tiptoe the line between rebuilding and pushing for the playoffs, sort of a “re-tooling”. They traded away Ryan Ellis, but the defense is still pretty stellar and probably the strength of the team. The offense, as has been the case for years, is the main question. Viktor Ardvidsson is gone on and they didn’t do much to make forward improvements. 2021 will tell is if the re-tooling worked, or if they’ll need to lean into a full rebuild.

Despite the rough start the season, the Predators were quite good in their eight games series against the Red Wings, securing six victories. Their stout blue line is hard for a struggling offense like Detroit’s to break through, and it’ll likely be just as strong this year. The Preds will be a tough matchup yet again.

Dallas Stars

Record Last Season: 23-19-14

Playoff Result: N/A

Expectation This Season: Make the Playoffs

Least season, the Stars were victim to the injury bug. They are going to be a heavily improved team this season – if they can stay healthy. Even with the injuries, they missed the playoffs by just four points. They added plenty of depth on the blue line, namely with former Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. They also added Andreas Borgman, Alexander Petrovic and Jani Hakanpaa. Luke Glendening and Michael Raffl were signed to help the depth of the forward room. The most important move of the off-season was signing Braden Holtby, which makes the Stars goaltending group one of the deepest in the entire NHL.

The Stars bested the Red Wings for most of the 2020-21 season even in a regressive year; they were 6-2-0 against the Wings last season. They’ll be even better in 2021-22, so expect some struggles against Dallas when they match up.

Minnesota Wild

Record Last Season: 35-16-5

Playoff Result: Lost in the First Round

Expectation This Season: Deeper in the Playoffs

With Kirill Kaprizov officially back, the Wild are a dangerous team in the central. The organization has historically struggled to “get over the hump” in the past, but they finally seem to have some momentum. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are gone, as the Wild look to move on to an updated core. The defense is going to be good this year, bolstered by acquiring Alex Goligoski and Dmitri Kulikov, but the forward group is still relatively limited. To maintain the momentum, the offense needs to show some growth, and they need to do more than just make the playoffs. Results are important this season.

The Wings struggled against solid defenses last season, and the Wild look to have just that. Add to that a game breaking talent like Kaprizov and you have a hard matchup for Detroit.

Next. Analyzing the Red Wings Opening Day Roster. dark