Nashville Predators/NHL Season Preview By Brandon Felder
The season is almost here. I’m not sure about you but I’ve never been more excited to see a Preds team then this one. Call it the Subban effect but I’m legit giddy to see these guys take on Chicago Friday night on national TV.
The national hockey media? They seem to love the Preds too. From EA Sports to SI, USA Today, or even CBS Sports, they all seem to see a DEEP playoff run for Nashville. I wish we could get this thing going already, but wait we must. To help pass the time you the kind readers have supplied some questions for me to answer. After that is my season prediction for the NHL standings. Finish it off with my expectation and dream for the Preds season.
From @apfleisc “serious question: Is there a scenario this year in which Laviolette and Poile pull the plug on Rinne?”
The simple answer is yes. There’s always a worst-case scenario. The bigger question for me is if Rinne underperforms consistently will they finally have the fortitude to give Marek Mazanec more starts than they did Carter Hutton? I am concerned. I love Pekka but the eye test and the stats show a growing problem. He’s simply not at the elite level he once was. Does he have enough to get the Preds deep in the playoffs? I believe he does with the back of my brain saying this season and next may be the last ride as the #1 guy. This question of how well can Rinne perform this year is THE question for these Preds.
From @John_Smith426 “Thoughts playing Josi with Subban and if that pairing could have a defensive liability?”
My first thought is “electric” as a huge grin is on my face. I am not concerned. For one, people vastly underrate Subban’s defensive skills. He is so flashy on the offensive side that you tend to forget he can still take a puck away or lay out a big hit. There is a very real reason that teams hate to play against him. Josi showed in the World Cup he can be more balanced. If Laviolette chooses to keep these two paired I’m totally fine with it. As Roman Josi said recently you have to let the other team have the puck to be forced to play defense…. I LOVE that mentality.
From @JBradDeBord “What young players do you see having a break out year?”
The easy answer is Kevin Fiala. He finally makes the big club and has some added confidence going into the season. If he is put on a line in which he can be encouraged to not simply defer to other players but also shoot the puck he can be an impact depth scorer in the 12-18 goal range. I’m more sold on him than say a Viktor Arvidsson to put up semi-consistent points. Arvidsson I would be pleased if he reached 12 goals and 25 points. Also, he’s not a “young” guy necessarily but Anthony Bitetto has shown he deserves more minutes than last year. I’d like to see him start on the bottom pair with Yannick Weber.
From @PREDStotheCAP “when do you think Joey’s contract gets done?”
Not soon enough…. In truth, I fear this will be a touch harder than expected. If Ry Jo performs to the expected level (cause let’s not forget David Poile challenged him a bit before the offseason) the earliest in my mind would be January. I think
Poile knows the opening asking price which is why he publicly put pressure on Johansen to have a solid offseason and continued regular season success. You don’t make trades to have talent walk away. So if DP is going to meet the asking price then the performance must be there, otherwise he goes below. That’s where it can get tricky. The agent for Johansen is the same one for Jacob Trouba of recent trade demand news. Kurt Overhardt has also represented Kyle Turks who demanded a trade out of Arizona. That gives some concern, but on the other hand he is the agent for Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm who all found deals smoothly with the Preds. So while some will point to what happened between Johansen and Columbus, I think Poile has a good relationship with Agent and player. If Ry Jo performs he gets paid before playoffs.
Thanks for the questions. You can always ask more or just talk some hockey with me on Twitter using @brandon_felder to reach me.
So how does 2016/2017 shape up? Here’s my wild guesses with a touch of reasoning on each.
Tampa - I like their scoring depth and goaltending. My only concern is D not named Hedman. That said they are a very talented team that should win a boatload of games.
Florida - Love what they are building but my concern is goaltending. They won the Atlantic last season but I have concerns for their injuries at the start of regular season. A slight step back but continued bright future.
Montreal - Carey Price cures all when healthy. I think Shea and Radulov will have a good impact. I’m not as sold as others who have them winning the East, but I feel they are a playoff team for sure.
Boston - They narrowly missed the playoffs last year. They haven’t done enough for me to feel they get back in this one.
Buffalo - The rise of the Sabres continue. Not quite there to playoffs just yet but if they continue to make smart moves (and get Rasmus Ristolinen re-signed already) they may be knocking on that door next season.
Toronto - I like Auston Matthews and what the Leafs are building. It takes time. I don’t see bottom of the League again, but an improvement.
Ottawa - This is the team in the East I can’t figure out. I could be totally wrong about them but I feel like they lack identity. For some reason I see a bad year ahead.
Washington - Trotz resumes his Regular Season coaching mode and does well there. That won’t be enough for WSH fans this season. Back to back President Trophy? I’d say yes. Back to back 2nd Round exits? Also yes….
Pittsburgh - The goaltending question will be solved at some point. I don’t see a fast start for them but by seasons end they will be primed to have another deep playoff run.
NY Islanders - The Isles may be the team you see the most different predictions on. Some see drop off with Okposo gone. Others see Ladd as a stabilizing force. All I know is superstar in a contract year so Tavares will get his team in.
Philadelphia - Continued growth under a new coach. I think they have a chance to surprise as a dark horse. I’ll put them in the playoffs for sure.
New Jersey - Great goaltending. Got a great scorer in Hall. I don’t see a ton of offense coming from them but enough D to sneak into the playoffs.
NY Rangers - There’s a lot I don’t like with the Rangers. I think it’s going to be a rough one as the team continues to get older.
Carolina - I like what they are building on D but the offense is lacking other than Skinner. Goaltending even more suspect this year now that they are still playing Cam Ward. They are a few years away.
Columbus - Sadly, this team is going in the wrong direction. The Cap issues, the lack of offense. Only thing I truly like is their D corp. We all know Jones but Werenski is another good add. Still, they have Torts. Enough said.
Los Angeles – I expect a bounce back year but at the same time this whole Division has so many questions. I’m confident in LA for the D and goaltending. That should be enough.
San Jose – A little bit of a Cup hangover? Perhaps. I think it will be a successful season but perhaps a slow start that make the Division crown out of reach.
Calgary – I really like what they are building. Adding Brian Elliott is a temporary solution to goaltending but a good one. Johnny hockey is re-signed and I think it will be a sneaky good year for the Flames.
Anaheim – I see a decline coming. Getzlaf and Perry are not getting younger and the “new” coach has his crew play the game the old way. I’m not liking the trend.
Edmonton – I’m in the camp of others who believe Connor McDavid could win the scoring title this year. I’m not ready to say playoff team yet, but I do like their moves and feel Cam Talbot is a big reason they flirt with a playoff spot this year. Down the stretch I don’t think they have the D to sustain and hold onto a spot.
Arizona – A lot to like here but it’s such a young team and old goaltender. They may start out hot again but ultimately it’s going to be a growing year again.
Vancouver – Well… they have the Sedins. Alex Edler had a good preseason. This is my pick to finish last in the NHL.
Nashville – As you’ve seen in my answers to your questions, I love this team. They have the pieces to go far, but are also primed to win their first Division crown. If the goaltending pans out, it’s going to be a special year.
Dallas – They still have a killer offense. The defense is the biggest question but as we’ve seen already they can have plenty of regular season success. They haven’t addressed the goaltending which is why I have them in 2nd.
Chicago – Another year of re-loading in Chi-town. Depth is why I don’t have them higher. 2 lines, 2 pairs, and a great goalie. That’s plenty to get in the playoffs.
St Louis – They’ve lost depth at forward and in net. Still a solid lock for playoffs but I don’t see them challenging for the Division in Hitchcock’s final year.
Winnipeg – They are shedding Pavelec in net finally and have a nice youth infusion including Laine. If they solve the trouble with Trouba they should be on a solid path back to the West playoffs.
Colorado – Simply changing the coach makes me feel 10x better about the Avs. It’s going to be a slow start for them I would imagine, but they could easily threaten those last Wild Card spots down the stretch.
Minnesota - I’m not sold on anything about Minnesota. It’s a bit of a shock to say they drop to the bottom of the Central but that’s how unimpressed I was with their offseason moves. Even the great regular season coach Bruce Boudreau can’t save this crew in my humble opinion.
Final thoughts: my expectation for this Predators team is a Western Conference Final. My DREAM scenario would be a Central title and that EA Sports runs a great simulator that correctly predicted the future. What a parade down Broadway would be like is quite the thing to imagine.
With that said, its all HYPE at this point. I’m ready to see some meat on the bones and see just how fun this Nashville team can really be. Let’s get the Subban show, the scoring, the season started already!!!!
Drop the puck!