Predicting How Chicago Blackhawks Will Fare Against Each Team in New Division

Nicole Blum@@nblumNHLContributor IIIJuly 10, 2013

Predicting How Chicago Blackhawks Will Fare Against Each Team in New Division

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    The Chicago Blackhawks will face new rivalries in the 2013-14 season. And even without the Detroit Red Wings in the division, the Blackhawks shouldn't expect it to be easy to win the division.

    Trades, draft picks and free-agent signings have shaken up the division. It will be interesting to see how the Blackhawks respond to their improved opponents.

    The following slides were ranked based on which teams will be the most challenging for the Blackhawks to face next season.

6. Winnipeg Jets

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    Record in 2013 Season: 24-21-3

    The Winnipeg Jets are unknown to the Blackhawks. Because Winnipeg was in the Eastern Conference, Chicago hasn't played the Jets in more than a year. 

    The Blackhawks shouldn't have a hard time adjusting to their new division rival, though.

    The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs by only four points in the 2013 season. They were, however, in the Southeast division—the worst division in the league.

    In the offseason, they acquired offensive-power Devin Setoguchi and former Blackhawk Michael Frolik by trade. These are two players who can start to rebuild the franchise.

    The Jets may not give the Blackhawks too much trouble this year as they restructure their team.

5. Colorado Avalanche

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    Record in 2013 Season: 16-25-7

    Blackhawks' Record: 2-1-0

    The Colorado Avalanche struggled last season. The Blackhawks wouldn't have lost a game to them if they didn't have a goaltending mishap.

    Defense is a problem for the Avalanche, and they still need to fill some defensive holes in order to be a playoff contender. But they have $10,289,167 in cap space and players to offer to repair the defense before next season.

    Expect the Blackhawks' defense to be tested next season.

    With the signing of Nathan MacKinnon, the first pick in the NHL draft, the Avalanche could become an offensive powerhouse.

4. Dallas Stars

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    Record in 2013 Season: 22-22-4

    Blackhawks' Record: 3-0-0

    The Dallas Stars lacked depth at center last season, and the Blackhawks made them pay for it by sweeping them in the regular season.

    This offseason, however, the Stars added more quality centers to their lineup by acquiring Shawn Horcoff and Tyler Seguin.

    Seguin could become the face of the franchise if he matures off the ice. The Blackhawks know how dangerous Seguin can be at center.

    Plus, the Stars' first-round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin will bring a physical offensive game to the Stars.

    As the Stars bring in star power, they will be a challenge to play.

3. Nashville Predators

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    Record in 2013 Season: 16-23-9

    Blackhawks' Record: 5-0-0

    The Nashville Predators' record is deceiving. The scoring just wasn't there, and the Blackhawks shut them out twice. 

    Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, the offseason definitely strengthened this Nashville team. Now, the Predators have Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom, who will offer more offensive talent.

    The Blackhawks shouldn't expect the Predators to be ranked last in scoring next season. Plus, it's going to be even more difficult for the Blackhawks to run their offense. 

    Nashville's draft pick Seth Jones will only add to the stellar defense the team already possesses. It's already hard for any player to get the puck past Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne.

2. Minnesota Wild

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    Record in 2013 Season: 26-19-3

    Blackhawks' Record: 2-0-1

    The acquisition of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last year helped put Minnesota in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. 

    Chicago eliminated them in 5 games in the first round.

    The Wild didn't have the chemistry to move past the Blackhawks in the playoffs. This season, however, the Blackhawks should prepare to face a cohesive team.

    The addition of Matt Cooke should also make the Wild more physical, even with the trade of the big-hitter Cal Clutterbuck.

    Minnesota will be one of Chicago's biggest rivalries next season.

1. St. Louis Blues

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    Record in 2013 Season: 29-17-2

    Blackhawks' Record: 3-1-1

    Coach Joel Quenneville's old team happens to one of the toughest teams in the league the Blackhawks face.

    The St. Louis Blues have skill and depth, and they know how to play a game that is both physical and skillful. This combination has proved to be effective against the Blackhawks.

    The Blues haven't been active in trades or free-agent signings, except for the signing of the physical center Derek Roy. St. Louis has chemistry, and there's no need to mess with it when the Blues are one of the top teams in the league.

    It wouldn't be surprising if the Blues and Blackhawks meet in the Western Conference Finals.