The Nashville Predators had the most successful season since their inception 19 years ago. It was a memorable occassion in Tennessee sporting history, as the Preds made it to the Stanley Cup Finals as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The NHL hasn’t seen a city come alive like Nashville did since Detroit in the late 1990’s.
However, in the world of hockey memories, they are as short as they come and Nashville still has a lot to prove. Are they the real deal that can compete for Stanley Cups for the next three, four, five, or maybe more years?
Can the Nashville Predators’ defense that quickly became the best blueline in hockey last season sustain that level of play? Were they just a one hit wonder? Can Pekka Rinne play as a top tier goalie or will his age catch up with him?
Nashville proved that all you need is to make the top eight in your conference and you have a chance, but this team is destined for sustained greatness if they can play to their potential.
Nick Bonino (C)
If you can beat ’em, join ’em?
It had to have crossed his mind that it is a tad strange to join the team that you just beat to win the Stanley Cup. Bonino was honest when he said he signed with Nashville to ensure stability for his family.
However, it is hard to say how this signing will pay off. Nick Bonino is tough as nails and a supreme faceoff man and penalty killer. You also cannot deny that he has experience that is hard to replicate.
He played 80 games last year on an injury-plagued Pittsburgh team, where he also collected 37 points. Bonino is also only a season removed from being a part of one of the most dynamic lines the playoffs have seen in a while with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin – the HBK line.
He has upside, and experience that cannot be replicated, but he won’t replace James Neal and it is hard to say how well he will fair with an increased role.
Alexei Emelin (D)
The 6’2″ defenseman is sure to bring a more stay-at-home feel to the Predators defense that is always locked and loaded to score goals.
He doesn’t score much and will most likely lay low and play a pretty even-keeled game. He is more physical than any other Nashville blueliner and will be sure to pack a punch if needed.
It is hard to tell why Nashville brought in the Russian, but there is a chance that it is in order to set up another trade for a top six forward, where they may have to give up a big piece in return.
The 31-year-old brings stability and depth on a team that hit a patch of injuries last year.
If the Nashville D stays healthy, Emelin will be nothing but a depth piece, but if they don’t expect him to step in and play a big role.
Scott Hartnell was also an addition to Smashville. The most significant addition, however, was the signing of Ryan Johansen to an eight-year, $64 million contract. This all but guarantees that for the next eight years, the Predators will have a number one center. All though not the kind of addition one would think of, this addition of stability is welcomed in Nashville.
James Neal (LW)
The most obvious subtraction is former 40-goal scorer, James Neal. He was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft.
A ten-year veteran in the NHL and a key piece of the puzzle in Nashville; anytime you lose a top-six forward it is a tough pill to swallow.
Neal spent the past three seasons in Nashville and it’s hard to believe that either Neal or the Predators wanted to part ways, but the expansion draft called for the split.
Colin Wilson (C)
A mainstay in the Preds’ lineup for eight years, Wilson was traded to the Colorado Avalanche this offseason for a fourth round pick.
Last season he played 70 games and had 35 points. In the playoffs, he appeared in 14 games and tallied 4 points.
He had become a depth piece for Nashville, and Wilson himself will welcome the chance to play an increased role on a rebuilding Colorado team. However, he provided stable depth in Nashville that comes in handy during a long playoff run.
Wilson will be missed in Nashville for his play, but anytime a long-time member of a club gets traded it changes the chemistry of the team.
Mike Fisher (C)
The captain and as well as the heart and soul of the Predators retired this season after a long career with both the Predators and the Ottawa Senators.
When you look at his numbers, you wouldn’t think he would be missed but Fisher, like so many members of a team that makes it deep into the playoffs was a part of the glue that held everything together.
What can the Nashville Predators acheive this season?
The sky is the limit for this team. With a projected line-up as strong as this one they should be a lock to make the playoffs and don’t be surprised if they win the Central Division.
They have a strong goaltender, a bonafide number one center, strong core as well as one of, if not the best defensive cores in the league.
The subtractions were substantial but expect them to not skip a beat. It is hard to say if this team was a one hit wonder and one would hope that they were not, but if injuries derail this club it would be a shame, as the potential is limitless.
The question would be, have they lost too much depth and/or chemistry in the locker room?
Keep your eye on Nashville this season, and also do not be surprised if they make a trade for some more high-powered offense. Nashville has been linked to Matt Duchene trade talks for months now.
Like previously stated, the sky is the limit for this club, but realistically they should finish in first or second in their division and make a good playoff run.
If they catch fire and Bridgestone Arena come alive again, who knows what they can do.
There are a lot of questions for this team. Primarily because the last postseason they virtually came out of nowhere to put together one of the more memorable runs in recent memory. They eventually came up short to a Penguins’ team that seemed to have destiny on their side.
A 55-win season isn’t out of the question for this team, but 45 to 50 wins is more realistic.
Nashville has the chance to make a big splash this year. Keep your eyes on this team this year.
Was Nashville a one hit wonder? Can they sustain an elite level of play? What do you think we can expect from Nashville this season? Let us know in the comments sections below.
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