Central Division Continues to Weaken
**UPDATE: Shea Weber will be sticking with Nashville. Please ignore where it indicates he may still leave. Point of the article still rings true.** Rick Nash was finally traded to a new team. As Nash packs his bags for the Big Apple, the Central Division as a whole took yet another step backward. The once mighty division has already lost Niklas Lidstrom (retirement), Ryan Suter (Minnesota), Brad Stuart (San Jose), Jiri Hudler (Calgary), Rick Nash (New York) and Shea Weber appears to be on his way to Philadelphia. It’s safe to assume teams from the Central will take steps to improve but to date the Blues appear to be surrounded by weakened foes.
It’s been an exodus of talent from the Central Division this summer. In previous years the Central Division was arguably the most competitive division in the entire NHL. Winning the Central Division was a legitimate battle as each team fielded a highly competitive roster.
Four Central Division teams made the playoffs in 2011-12 (STL – 2nd, NSH – 4th, DET – 5th, CHI – 6th). Columbus was found at the bottom of the list but the other four teams were considered some of the best teams in the NHL.
Scanning through the past few seasons you’d typically find three Central Division teams in the playoffs with a fourth knocking at the door but barely missing out. The 2008-09 season saw St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and Columbus make the playoffs with Nashville finishing a very close 10th.
Those days of stiff competition from the Central may have just ended over the course of just a weeks. The players that have exited the Central – Lidstrom, Suter, Nash, Weber (potentially) – aren’t ones a team will be able to replace. It’s safe to assume that at least a few Central teams will add new faces over the coming weeks but it’s pretty obvious that Detroit won’t find a new Lidstrom and Nashville won’t find a new Suter/Weber.
Meanwhile, the Blues may have improved the most by simply signing their current players to new deals. David Perron and T.J. Oshie could have been headed for new teams but instead the Blues locked them up for four and five years, respectively. The Blues also agreed to terms with top prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, luring him away from the KHL. The Blues still have weaknesses (they’re missing a defenseman and another option at forward) but they have been able to retain a few of their key players – an accomplishment other teams in the Central have struggled to match.