Predictions are a tricky business.
An 82-game season is a lot to try and pin down based on various factors, and a lot of unforeseen events and intangibles come into play on a nightly basis.
As we've seen through the last few seasons, major injuries can have a large impact on the way a team is able to compete and maintain a position among the Top 8 in either Conference.
While the Penguins of 2010-2011 will be remembered for continuing to battle for the division lead sans their two top centers, the St. Louis Blues will just as soon forget their year, derailed by untimely injuries to top players.
And the hot and cold streaks are polarizing.
Look no further than the New Jersey Devils from last season. After an awful—I mean really awful—first half of the season, the team nearly hot-streaked their way to a playoff spot in the East.
Both runs were miraculous. And both show how one eight-or-nine-game slide can do a lot of damage to a season.
The Central Division is one of the best and toughest in hockey.
Barring injuries, all five teams have the makeup and pieces needed to make it to the big dance.
The Pacific Division almost turned the trick last year. This season, the Central could do the same thing.
Placing fifth in the Central doesn't make you a bad hockey team. It just means you're playing against recent Cup Champions like Chicago and Detroit quite a bit, and have to contend with their numbers for placement.
One big trade (that works) or one big injury to a key player can change everything.
But this is how I see the Central shaking down as the teams stand right now.