Last season was a heart breaker for fans of the Nashville Predators. The Preds aren’t exactly in a hockey hotbed, but they’ve got their fans, and giving up a 2-1 series lead, on the verge of taking a commanding 3-1 series lead against the eventual Cup Champion Blackhawks, they let it slip through their fingers and lost three straight games to get bumped in 6 games. It was a post-season to forget, but one that has been too often the truth in Nashville. They’ll try to build off of last years moderate success, and make it past round 1 for the first time in franchise history.
With a solid core of players, and having gotten rid of some of the dead weight, the Predators should be in relatively good shape to make it into the playoffs in the Western Conference. They’ll need contributions from players across the board, since just like many of the smaller market teams, they don’t have quite the elite contributors of the Penguins, Capitals or Blackhawks. That said, they’ve got some good building pieces in place and a joint effort from all corners could see the Predators challenging for a reasonably good slot in the playoffs.
Shea Weber, David Legwand, Pekka Riine, Martin Erat, JP Dumont
The Predator offense is a solid “score by committee” effort, with no player a realistic threat to net 40 goals. Hornqvist is probably the most likely, but far more reasonable to expect is that the Predators will have a collection of 20 goal scorers and make up a solid but un-threatening offensive squad. Erat, Dumont, Steve Sullivan, Lombardi and possibly Legwand will need to contribute if they are going to improve on their 2.65 goals per game from last season, good for 18th in the NHL last season.
Youth has been the prevailing mantra on the Predator blue line over the past few seasons. They’ve lost Dan Hamhuis, and that’s a hole they’ll need to fill, but with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter locking down the top pairing, they’ll still be in relatively good shape. With Kevin Klein, who is better than last season indicated, Cody Franson, and a collection of youngsters to fill out the roster, they should be a solid team defensively again. Pekka Riine is the question mark here. The Predators have switched keepers just about every season in a bizarre carousel that has strangely allowed them to actually retain fairly good keeping. Will Rinne make it to the end of this season? Who knows, but if he plays well behind the defense, the Predators could be dangerous.
The biggest threat to the Predators is their division. Playing a regular series of games against the Red Wings and Blackhawks cannot possibly help inflate their numbers. They should regularly beat the Blue Jackets, but even the Blues are much improved. That said, I still see the Predators making the playoffs, though likely as a #7 or #8 seed. Unfortunately for Music City hockey fans, that likely means a quick exit from the playoffs.
Topics: Chicago Blackhawks, Cody Franson, Dan Hamhuis, David Legwand, Detroit Red Wings, JP Dumont, Kevin Klein, Marin Erat, Matthew Lombardi, Nashville Predators, Patric Hornqvist, Pekka Riine, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Steve Sullivan, Washington Capitals