Although Nashville’s off-season has been lackluster thus far, you would be hard pressed to say that their chances of getting back to the Stanley Cup playoffs have been dashed. Losing Dumont, Sullivan, Ward, and Goc took a toll on the franchise, however the Predators current roster still sits around even keel with where they were at last season.
Their top 2 lines are essentially coming back (Legwand, Erat, Hornqvist, Kostitsyn, Fisher, and O’Reilly [when he wasn't injured]), and their bottom 2 lines are ALL coming back (Geoffrion, Halischuk, Smithson, Tootoo, Spaling, Wilson). Their defense is nearly identical except for the subtraction of Fransen/O’Brien and addition of Hillen, and the goaltending combo of Vezina Trophy-finalist Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback return for another year as well.
So what’s the clamor about?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read many different outlooks about “how the Predators will do this season” and “why this terrible off-season is going to come back to haunt them”, but I pose a simple question: Why such pessimism?
Nashville DID lose 4 players, yes. 4 good players? Maybe. 4 great player? No. Ward/Goc had their moments, but neither could be deemed a “great” player. Sullivan/Dumont were the last of the “old guard” for the Predators, both were effective at times and both suffered setbacks in their careers (although Sullivan’s came a couple of years ago and Dumont’s has been recent with his decline), yet both weren’t “great” players. The common denominator between all 4 of these players was one thing: The Predator Way
Every player that plays in Nashville plays with “The Predator Way”, so losing 4 contributing players to bring in 4 more contributing players that all play “The Predator Way” is a win-win scenario, right?
Some people may believe that David Poile likes to take risks. I like to believe that everything Poile does is calculated. Kostitsyn? Calculated, not risky. Poile had to have known what kind of player Kostitsyn was before he was ever signed in Nashville, or else he wouldn’t be here. Bergfors? I’d like to think the same as well. Same thing with Jack Hillen.
Nashville may not have taken large strides forward in their off-season work, however they certainly didn’t take any large strides backwards either. Look at the other 4 teams in the Central:
Additions – Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, and Steve Montador.
Subtractions - Troy Brouwer, Jake Dowell, Tomas Kopecky, Chris Campoli, Marty Turco, Fernando Pisani, and Jordan Hendry to name a few.
Improvement? – NEUTRAL, if not negative
Additions – Mike Commodore, Ian White, Joey MacDonald, and Ty Conklin
Subtractions – Kris Draper (retired), Chris Osgood (retired), Ruslan Salei, Mike Modano, and Derek Meech
Improvement? - NEUTRAL, if not negative
Additions – Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, Mark Dekanich, Curtis Sanford, Aaron Johnson, Alexandre Giroux, Radek Martinek, Vinny Prospal
Subtractions – Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov, Craig Rivet, Ethan Moreau, Mathieu Garon, Chris Clark, Mike Commodore, Scottie Upshall, Ben Guite, Jan Hejda, Kyle Wilson
Improvement? – POSITIVE
Additions – Brian Elliott, Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jonathan Cheechoo
Subtractions – Paul Kariya (retired), Cam Janssen, Ty Conjklin
Improvement? – POSITIVE
So, what does that tell us? The three top teams in the Central Division didn’t do too much this off season while the two bottom teams in the Central Division improved their rosters.
And? Nashville has as much a chance to win the Central Division crown as any of the other 4 teams in the division. The Predators boast arguably the top defensive pairing in the league, one of the top goaltenders in the world, and are a bonified 30+ goal scorer away from being a deadly Stanley Cup contender.
Every off-season Nashville is counted out as a possible returning player in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the next season, however they continue to “shock” the hockey world every year by returning to the playoffs and after last seasons success, what’s to stop them from raising the bar?
Even if Nashville were to have stood pat and not made ANY off-season moves whatsoever, the talent that is returning to the team and the talent waiting in the wings for their chance is enough for this blogger to at least pencil the Predators in a playoff spot come May next year. Division champ? Who knows, anything is possible when it comes to the Nashville Predators