2010-2011 NHL Predictions: Your 2010-11 NHL Division Champions Are...

Kyle WahlgrenCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2010

2010-2011 NHL Predictions: Your 2010-11 NHL Division Champions Are...

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    The time is now for the drop of the puck to start the 2010-11 NHL hockey season.

    While many teams have aspirations and dreams of success, the unfortunate will once again be left behind. Often the words of salary caps and free agency allow for the rise and the fall of league supremacy.

    Take the Chicago Blackhawks, for example. After a Stanley Cup season they were relegated to cost-cutting measures in order to meet the monetary demands of a young team.

    Don't get me wrong here—every young athlete in that locker room and many other locker rooms deserved pay hikes resulting from positive output. What the Blackhawks had to deal with was perhaps a "mass overhaul" over a stretch of two long months.

    Was it easier to handle being in the midst of celebration? Probably.

    Will it shake up the Central Division for the 2010-11 NHL season? Undoubtedly so.

    Take a look at how not only the Blackhawks will fare, but how five other divisions will play out in the 2010-11 NHL season.

    Kyle Wahlgren is a featured columnist for bleacherreport.com and owner of chicagosportsauthority.com

Atlantic Division

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    Division Champion: New Jersey Devils

    Division Contenders: Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers

    After the offseason mess with Ilya Kovalchuk, who could pick against the Devils? With Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Travis Zajac all in the lineup, one could hope for a magical season.

    Now throw in the likes of Martin Brodeur, and the thought of choosing anyone else to claim the title would seem foolish.

    Although both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have legitimate shots, with Pittsburgh's flaws in net and the Flyers' unproven ability, the Devils are the way to go.

Northeast Division

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    Division Champion: Buffalo Sabres

    Division Contenders: Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens

    Two words...one name...Ryan Miller—the difference maker on this team. With developing talents and raw determination, the honest assertion of the Sabres taking the division isn't much of a wild card.

    Many have undoubted belief that this may be the season that Miller flat-out dominates the crease in ways Brodeur and Patrick Roy used to on a nightly basis.

    With other favorites such as the Bruins quietly lurking in the wings, pondering what happened to close out their 2010 playoff run, the Sabres have very little wiggle room for any kind of mistake—especially when your best defenseman is your goalie. Should Miller get streaky, it could get ugly fast.

Southeast Division

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    Division Champion: Washington Capitals

    Division Contenders: Tampa Bay Lightning

    How can anyone but the Capitals be favored in perhaps the weakest all-around division a season ago? The often touted dynamic offense will see very little resistance as Alex Ovechkin and company continue to have their way with whomever stands in their path.

    While not wanting misunderstanding, many teams in the Southeast will take a collective step forward as their front offices are seeming looking harder to provide growth.

    The team looking to really make an impact this year will be the Lightning. Led by Steve Yzerman, the Lightning will strive with Steven Stamkos and a rejuvenated Vincent Lecavalier leading in scoring.

Northwest Division

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    Division Champion: Vancouver Canucks

    Division Contender: Colorado Avalanche

    The Canucks are perhaps the most dangerous team this season. Aside from having a solid offensive attack, they did what they needed to over the offseason. By addressing their defensive concerns, the Canucks have taken the next step in showing commitment this coming season.

    The piece that the majority put into question will be the desire once playoff time comes. After losing for a second time to the Chicago Blackhawks, one can questions the ability the Canucks have to maintain the will to take it to the next level...because clearly they have the talent.

    The only team that will give them trouble throughout the regular season will be the Avalanche. This team showed incredible growth a season ago and will once again be in playoff contention come April 2011.

Central Division

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    Division Champion: Detroit Red Wings

    Division Contender: Chicago Blackhawks

    Another year commences, and this time around we will see an ultimate battle for the Central Division. As both teams took turn commanding the division the past two seasons, the idea of a division being won in the final "home and home" series is very likely.

    While the Blackhawks are coming off a remarkable season, they will have a very different supporting cast and a target on their back all season long.

    For the first time in over a year, the Detroit Red Wings are in the limelight after a "subpar" season according to many vocal fans. With a healthy lineup and a desire for vengeance against their rivals, the aging Wings should have one final opportunity to seize control of the division.

Pacific Division

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    Division Champion: Los Angeles Kings

    Division Contender: San Jose Sharks

    For the last three seasons the Pacific has been owned, dominated, and stamped by the San Jose Sharks. However, losing very important pieces Evgeni Nabokov and Rob Blake and just the mere fact that another team is ready to take the reins will spell the end of division supremacy.

    The Los Angeles Kings are the team this season, as they addressed all of the main concerns of the offseason.

    Unlike many other teams in question regarding defensive strength, the Kings' offensive consistency is what will make or break them. With a young corps that hasn't managed a real breakout season individually, it will take team success to lift them to a Pacific crown.