2013: Year in Regress
Article By: Greg Moshopoulos
This entire year has been one with very little positive news for the Nashville Predators. From the first game of the 2013 lockout-shortened campaign that ended in a rare home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the last game of 2013 vs. another former divisional foe in the Detroit Red Wings, even those of us with gold-colored glasses have had little to cheer for in between.
One could argue that the delay in the 2013 shortened season would only help the Predators fan interest as the season began after all the college bowl games and most of the NFL playoffs had run their course. Though fan interest was high and eager to get the delayed season going, the Preds never got their legs under them and slumped out of the playoff picture in a hurry. As the season was winding down, and injuries mounted, it became clear that they would own one of their highest draft picks in their history. Youngsters like Daniel Bang, Taylor Beck, Kevin Henderson, Joonas Rask and Austin Watson got a taste of what the NHL is like and there’s a reason none of those players have sniffed a roster spot this season….they just aren’t ready yet. Finishing with a record of 16-23-9, they ‘earned’ the 4th pick overall.
Here we turn to one of the few bright spots for the team. Everyone was sure that one of the top 3 forwards would fall to them with that pick. Already trading away an aging Martin Erat for 18-year old scoring dynamo Filip Forsberg (which many believe was a steal by GM David Poile), the team has Seth Jones fall into their lap in the draft. Yes, many will argue that they took a defenseman when the bigger need was a top-scoring forward and who is to say otherwise with the team’s scoring struggles since their inception. However, Seth Jones was largely recognized as the best defensive prospect since Chris Pronger, and was the top prospect overall for the majority of the season in juniors.
The front office brought in some nice depth in the off-season with the acquisitions of Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks, and Stanley Cup winner Viktor Stalberg. Though each of these players have made impacts at various points of the 2013-14 campaign, none of them have been home runs. The stalwart of the organization, David Legwand, has actually had one of his best seasons, leading the team in points with 25. He is in a contract year, and as the season progresses, one has to wonder if he wouldn’t be trade-bait at the deadline to a contender.
Not surprisingly, Jones has stepped right into the lineup and leads all rookies in ice time but as we’ve already seen, his time has slowly decreased as the grind of the NHL takes its toll on the 19-year old. As much grief as the PP seems to get, that has actually been the team’s strong suit, currently 7th in the league. The problem for them has been scoring 5 on 5 (only the Sabres have scored fewer goals overall). The lack of scoring is evident when you consider that when the opposition gets the first goal, you can almost bank on it being a long night for the boys in gold.
Going into their final game of 2013, the Preds are a very mediocre 17-18-4. As average as that may seem, their division sports much higher standards and better play up to this point in the season. Those 38 points still puts them in last place in the Central and 12th out of 14 in the Western Conference. With so much money and years being tied up in captain Shea Weber and the still-healing, all-world goaltender Pekka Rinne, the team is not set up for a rebuilding year. The only significant unrestricted free agent after this season is the aforementioned Legwand. One can only hope that by the time Rinne returns to the ice, the team can tread water and be relevant if they want to make a run at a playoff spot come April. But in all reality, this team is average and will continue to be for the immediate future.