Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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Central Division Recap

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks – 44-29-9 – 252 GF – 210 GA

After capturing the Stanley Cup in incredible fashion last year, the Hawks entered this season with a bit of a hangover. With the majority of their role players gone, Chicago struggled mightily out of the gate. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa had down years as their production took a bit of a hit from 2009-10.
The second half of the season, however, was a different story than the first, as their captain Jonathan Toews led the charge to squeak into the playoffs with the 8th seed.

Breakout Player of the Season: Rookie goalie Corey Crawford was a real revelation for a team looking to repeat their success of 2009-10. With Marty Turco starting the season between the pipes, it did not take long for the impressive youngster to steal the reigns. Crawford's remarkable season numbers ended with a 33-18-6 record, .920 save percentage, and 2.30 GAA. He will be coveted next season, no longer a sleeper on poolies' lists.

Biggest Bust of the Season: The days of Marian Hossa as an elite winger option are long gone. Playing just 65 games this year and 57 last year, he cannot be relied upon to provide a healthy season for your squad. His 25 goals and 32 assists were well short of his projections. Playing in only 70% of his team's games he will never again eclipse the 80-point plateau.

Columbus Blue Jackets – 34-35-13 – 210 GF – 243 GA

The Jackets were not expected to do much this season, as the team is gearing downwards in age. The top line for the CBJs will always be strong but the depth presents problems. This team made a run to the playoffs but ultimately did not have enough juice to make it to the end. One or two big-time free agents to play with Rick Nash could go a long way to making a playoff run. Inconsistent goaltending also turned out to be a bugaboo for this mediocre franchise.

Biggest Breakout of the Season: Derick Brassard appears to have taken big strides in his game. While his ice time is still somewhat limited, he was able to put up 47 points in 74 games. With a team that allows too many goals, Brassard's minus-11 rating is somewhat acceptable. This kid has the skill and talent to make a large jump next year, making him a big-time sleeper.

Biggest Bust of the Season: The goaltending for the Jackets was supposed to be a strength heading into the season. Steve Mason was a colossal disappointment. He posted a .900 save percentage and 3.03 GAA. Mathieu Garon, who looked strong at times, turned in an average season at best in the end. Overall the CBJs definitely expected more out of their young stud. Better times are in view for Mason (and many more starts than his 53 in 2010-11).

Detroit Red Wings – 47-25-10 – 257 GF – 231 GA

The Red Wings have showed us all again why they are considered the model franchise. Stung by injuries, they pushed through and finished strong to end the year. Their veterans (Pavel Datysuk, Johan Franzen) missed games here and there but both Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom were healthy all year. As a result, the team went on a nice roll, finishing first in the division. The key to their strong season was the play of their role player. Dan Cleary (46 points), Todd Bertuzzi (45 points), and Val Filppula (39 points) were extremely valuable in a secondary capacity. If not for shaky goaltending at times, the Wings could have finished as the top seed overall.

Biggest Breakout of the Season: Danny Cleary was a man on a mission this season. His 26 goals were by far his best ever, and he did it in just 68 games. While age is not on his side, Cleary can continue to be a force for this veteran-laden squad moving forward.

Biggest Bust of the Season: It appears the days of 30 goals from Tomas Holmstrom are long gone. Drafted in almost every league this year, Holmstrom was a disappointment with just 18 goals, 19 assists, and 62 PIMs. Known for his consistency, it appears that Father Time has caught up with this grinder. He is still a serviceable moving forward but a repeat of his 2010-11 numbers would not surprise us much.

Nashville Predators – 44-27-11 – 213 GF – 186 GA

This team, full of a mish-mash of players, surprised many with their season. Of course, their success can solely be attributed to two people: Barry Trotz and Pekka Rinne. With just 186 goals against, the Predators played many low scoring games while relying on Rinne to be excellent (which he always was). They had just two players with 50 points (Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat) and the rest were below. Spreading out the offense and playing defensive hockey worked wonders, perhaps changing the way teams will play in the future. A nice playoff run capped a great season for Nashville. Good times are ahead for this franchise.

Breakout Player of the Season: While not the team MVP (that luxury goes to Rinne and Shea Weber), Sergei Kostitsyn turned in a season to remember. He notched 23 goals to lead the Preds in goals. His previous career high in goals? Nine. He is easily the choice for breakout player on this interesting team. He seems to have found a new home, meaning another 20+ goal season is not out of the question.

Biggest Bust of the Season: While his point totals are consistent throughout his career, many thought Patric Hornqvist would be an annual 30-goal scorer. While his 21 goals is not a bad start, he will likely be bypassed come next season's draft. A player who scores 21 goals, 48 points, and does virtually nothing else is not a fantasy asset.

St. Louis Blues - 38-33-11 – 236 GF – 222 GA

While most wrote off this team before the season, some Rotoworld writers held faith. The Blues turned in a nice season, finishing five games over .500. Bringing in Jaroslav Halak fostered a new confidence that the Blues haven't had in quite some time. The youth movement is in full swing and appears to be ready for a major step forward in 2011-12. With Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie, Chris Stewart, and David Backes just scratching the surface of their talent, St. Louis will be a force in the years to come.

Breakout Player of the Season: Backes was truly remarkable to watch all season. While staying healthy for all 82 games, he put forth an incredible effort in every game he played. He finished with 31 goals, 31 assists, and a plus-32 rating (good for second in the NHL). Backes is still very young and has the capability of becoming a 75-point player for the remainder of his career. We suggest you buy in now and reap the rewards.

Biggest Bust of the Season: Barret Jackman continued to underwhelm everybody in his eighth season. While he is usually bankable for over 100 PIMs and a decent plus-minus and shot total, he was nothing but terrible in 2010-11. While playing in just 60 games, he finished with zero goals and just 57 PIMs. This disappointing year will likely set him farther back on the depth chart to start 2011-12.

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