With a new CBA agreed upon early this morning, the 6th of January, the odds of hockey being back in our lives around January 19th is around 100%. Now, all we can do is speculate about the upcoming season and about how the Predators will perform in this shortened, undoubtedly crazy, season.
I’ve come up with a short list of things that have been slowly going through my head over the past few weeks, so let’s share it together:
- Who do the Predators start the season against? My money all along has been the initial opponent, the Detroit Red Wings. However, it could be against any team in the Western Conference. Yet, with at least 28 games to be played against divisional opponents (most likely), the odds are in favor of a Central team being the first one.
- What’s the status and health of Pekka Rinne? The last we heard, Rinne had injured his groin over in the KHL while playing for Dinamo Minsk. Word is that the “injury” was actually just him taking more rest in case the season started soon. Whatever the case is, how healthy is Pekka Rinne?
- In that same regards, which Pekka Rinne will we see when he comes back to the Predators? In the KHL, Rinne will most likely finish his time over there with a record of 9-11-2, including a miserable .897 save percentage and 3.08 goals against average. Was he just “going through the motions” across the pond, as we like to say for football players? Was the injury just a ruse to get him off the team? We’ll find out very soon.
- With just a handful of Predators playing overseas during the lockout, how will they perform compared to the players who stayed at home and waited out the end of the negotiations? We’ve already seen how Sergei Kostitsyn has performed over in the KHL, scoring 27 points in 26 games, so he’ll be ready for action here in a couple weeks. However, what about the rest of the crew? Training camp will be a big tell here in the next week or so.
- Speaking of training camp, how will the Predators defense gel this season? The loss of Ryan Suter still leaves a pretty big hole on that top defensive pairing and the entire defensive corp. You’ll most likely see a lineup of Weber/Josi, Klein/Hannan, and Ellis/Gill. You’ll also probably see Jon Blum, Mattias Ekholm, and Victor Bartley at training camp fighting for Ellis’ spot. Out of all of those, I think Bartley should get it and definitely deserves the opportunity, however time will tell if the aforementioned lines will be the true starters or if we’ll see something different.
- How will the Predators fare in the Central Division this season? Chicago and St. Louis seem primed and ready to go already, being the forerunners for the division title. Columbus and Detroit seem to be hanging around at the bottom. Yes, I said Detroit at the bottom. Why? They lose Lidstrom and potentially Holmstrom as well. They don’t do any improvements at all (including nabbing Tootoo in free agency). So where does that leave Nashville? A good quick start to the season could prove to be the difference in first or second place in the division. Can Nashville put the pieces of the puzzle together quickly and start off on the right foot?
- What, if anything, will the Predators as an organization do to lure back fans to the arena? They could do nothing at all, and doing any sort of thing (if it’s nothing or a large amount of things) would surprise me either way.
- How will the first game in Bridgestone Arena look, fan-wise? Will fans attempt to boycott the first game, like some fans are saying they are going to do? Will it be business as usual, like I think it will be? I personally think we’ll see a raucous sold-out crowd for Game 1 and a good 95% capacity for the remainder of the home games this season. We’ll see, though.
I’ll have my “Bold Predictions” for the season here soon and then we can get prepared for training camp.
Good to be back with you fine folks, see you at the rink!