NHL Free Agency is starting to wind down and most hockey analysts and insiders are on vacation right now. With only minor changes in store for most teams from now until training camp, this is a good opportunity to take a look at the state of each team.
Let’s take a look at the Nashville Predators today. After missing the playoffs the previous two seasons, the Predators surprised last season by finishing second in the Central Division. They lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks. Could they continue their success into next year? The always-challenging Central Division is a huge obstacle, but the Nashville Predators are still dangerous.
David Poile, the GM of the Nashville Predators since the team’s inception in 1997, has proven that he and his management team can still put a competitive team on the ice with a limited budget. In fact, he has built the Nashville Predators into one of the best Western Conference teams in the salary cap era. They have gone to the postseason seven out of those 10 seasons. He is regarded as one of the best executives in the league.
Coach Peter Laviolette just came off a season in which he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. He has coached a few teams, and although he was fired twice, he won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. Having recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Phil Housley also behind the bench doesn’t hurt.
The Nashville Predators do not have a superstar forward on the team, but have a great cast of scorers and backcheckers that have proven consistency. Filip Forsberg, Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, and James Neal are considered the scorers of the team, while Paul Gaustad, Calle Jarnkrok, and Gabriel Bourque can play on both sides of the ice. Shea Weber leads a young defence corps that includes studs like Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and Ryan Ellis. Newly-acquired veteran Barret Jackman will be a leader in the dressing room. Pekka Rinne proved last year he can be consistent in net.
The Nashville Predators do not usually spend to the cap, so they had to let go of some decent homegrown players in free agency, like Ryan Suter. However, the team just keeps on bringing in NHL-ready prospects. If they continue to scout and breed a wealth of these young players and bring in cheap veterans like Jackman and Gaustad to help guide them, they should be set.