2021-2022 Regular Season: 53-22-7, 113 points, 2nd in Central
Marc-Andre Fleury will be taking over the starting duties in goal for his first full season in Minnesota, with a very potent offense in front of him. Kirill Kaprizov’s 47 goals and 108 points will be a threat again, as will Ryan Hartman (34 goals) and Mats Zuccarello (24G, 55A)
Goaltender Cam Talbot couldn’t handle the backup role to MAF, so he was swapped with Filip Gustavsson from Ottawa. Kevin Fiala was signed to a seven year, $55.125 million deal, which means that the Wild will be short a 33 goal, 52 point scorer next season.
Filip Gustavsson will be taking on an increased role as MAF’s backup, getting the 37 year old goaltender breaks when needed.
Will Gustavsson be able to hold up his end of the goaltending bargain? It’s assumed that MAF will be the consistent starter, but if he needs to shift the workload to Gustavsson, will the new goaltender be able to handle that load on a playoff-contending team?
2021-2022 Season: 45-30-7, 97 points, 5th in Central
Key Returning Players:
Goaltender Jusse Soros should be back to his healthy self, confounding opponents all season long. The current Predators goal scoring record holder, Matt Duchene (43G), Philip Forsberg, Ryan Johnson, and superstar defenseman Roman Josi will also all make the Preds a very, very difficult team to play against.
Ryan McDonagh adds a Stanley Cup pedigree to the Predators that will be an asset in the locker room, but he will also add support for Josi to do his thing much in the same way that he allowed Viktor Hedman that opportunity in Tampa Bay for several years, making the Preds’ defense even that much harder to play against. Nino Nederreiter signed a two year deal this offseason worth $4 million per season after a 24 goal, 20 assist campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes.
So much of the Predators’ success last year relied on the career points and goals pace of so many of their players. A team that was expected to continue their stumbles in the Central fought hard for a wild card spot. Despite the fact that they were steamrolled by the Avalanche in the first round, there is a lot to build on for the Preds and they should continue to be a tough opponent this season.
2021-2022 Season: 39-32-11, 89 points, 6th in Central
Key Returning Players:
Many players are back this season for the Jets, but the question is how many want to be there? Blake Wheeler, no longer the captain, is back, along with Kyle Connor, Neal Pionk, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Connor Hellebuyck.
Paul Stastny, Evgeni Svechnikov, and Zach Sanford signed elsewhere this offseason, and interim coach Dave Lowry joined the Seattle Kraken’s coaching staff .
Lowry’s departure left a vacancy that was filled by Rick Bowness, whose arrival in Winnipeg suggests that the team is serious about their culture change. Sam Gagner and David Rittich’s arrivals suggest they needed to fill some roster spots. Rittich will have to step in for Hellebuyck but probably won’t relieve him much, while Gagner adds some experience to both the fourth line and to the locker room.
Can Bowness really change the culture, or will having six alternate captains and no captain just let a bad situation fester? It seems unrealistic to expect Wheeler to be a-ok with having the C stripped from him. How he and the team responds to this new climate will go a long way to determining how they’ll fare in the division this year.
It also remains to be seen how much work Hellebuyck has the ability to let weigh on him. He carried the team last year; will he be overly relied on again this year?