The NHL’s Central Division isn’t like it was when the Blackhawks ran roughshod over everyone. Now, the worst team is probably the Minnesota Wild, through the Hawks are probably close. The Wild barely missed the playoffs last year, and despite my dire statement, they could just as easily grab the 8th spot this year too.
The Blues, of course, won the Stanley Cup, and the Predators have been one of the best teams in the League for the last few years. They have a plan for continuing to reinvent themselves, but the PK Subban trade proves that they also have the willingness to execute the plan.
Then there are two teams that are, perhaps even explosively, on the rise. The Jets may be closest to their apex, but the Avalanche are swiftly getting on track. Both teams have a buffet of young talent to choose from and watch develop. Neither team should expect to miss the playoffs for the next couple of years.
So that leaves the Stars. The Stars tallied 93 points last season and were the #1 Wild Card team. They beat Nashville and put the Blues through their paces. They certainly deserve to be a part of the conversation in the Central. But where do they fit?
They really aren’t up and coming. The Stars seem to recognize this as well, opting to add Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski in a pair of moves that are not designed for an organization developing young stars. The Stars are there, whatever that might entail.
But “there” doesn’t really reach the levels of some of their divisional rivals. The Stars obviously haven’t been winning the Cup this millennium, and I don’t know that they have really struck fear into any of their rivals. They aren’t really on a rapid decline either, as their playoff run indicated.
This might be their peak, though. They rely heavily on Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Benn is 30, and there have recently been indications that the Stars might be trying to preserve Benn by limiting his ice time. That’s not the type of thing a team does for a player still on the rise.
The Stars always seem to have solid veteran netminding, and that is the case with the current iteration, with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin sharing responsibilities. Do they have the legs to carry a team to 16 wins from April to June? Maybe, but that gets less likely with every passing year.
The Stars aren’t a bad team, but they probably aren’t getting much better either. The Stars added some aging veterans this year because I think they know that. They should start pushing hard for a title. They rely heavily on a few stars, and their window is about as open as it’s going to get.