The Chicago Blackhawks enter the upcoming season with a bit of uncertainty.
They traded away one of the best young talents in the game, Artemi Panarin, and goaltender Corey Crawford is coming off his worst season yet.
Chicago – just like the Wild – bowed out from the playoffs in the first round last year, and their own beat writer, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun, believes it's the Wild's turn to make a Stanley Cup run.
Lazerus picked Minnesota to win the division and he also penciled them into the Stanley Cup Final – where they'll fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning, he predicts. Here's what he had to say about Minnesota:
Coach Bruce Boudreau is basically a guaranteed 100-point regular season — and a guaranteed playoff flameout. Will this finally be the season he breaks through? He has the team to do it, with a deep group of forwards, two solid defensive pairs and an excellent goalie in Devan Dubnyk. If not now, when?
He makes a good point because Minnesota has all the tools: Boudreau's winning pedigree, a talented group of forwards taking the next step, a deep defensive core and a brick wall between the pipes in Devan Dubnyk.
According to Bovada.com, the Wild have the fifth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup, while Chicago has the third best.
The Central Division is a meat grinder as teams like Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg are all vying for playoff spots.
As long as the Wild stay healthy they should have as a good a shot to make a deep run in the playoffs.