Last season was a difficult one for Nashville. David Poile knew things had to change going forward, and in that he parted ways with Barry Trotz in favor of Peter Laviolette. Trotz was the only coach in franchise history; was a no-nonsense coach who focused on defense. Coming to the Music City is Laviolette; a no-nonsense coach who brings a high-octane offense to the team. They have appeared to add many offensive weapons, which is expected to be a high improvement over the unit that was 19th in the league with 19 goals per game.
There are several weapons Poile added over the summer. The biggest fish he landed was James Neal from Pittsburgh. He scored 27 goals last season, and he has a strong chance to set the franchise record for goals in a single season (Jason Arnott with 33 in 2008-09). They also added Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen, and Derek Roy. The reason why an arsenal of centers was added is because Mike Fisher is out until at least Thanksgiving due to a ruptured Achilles he suffered while training. The acquisitions of Ribeiro, Jokinen, and Roy could pay huge dividends if they gel quickly as they don’t have risky contracts attached.
One young player to keep an eye on is winger Filip Forsberg. He was the 11th overall pick two years ago and Nashville got him in the Martin Erat trade. He might start the season in Milwaukee, but he deserves a shot to make the final roster if he plays well enough in the preseason. On the left side, Colin Wilson or Gabriel Bourque are contenders to play on the top line with Jokinen and Neal.
Shea Weber is about the only sure thing on this team. He’s in the echelon of best offensive-defensemen as he led the team with 23 goals and 33 assists last season. Weber is going to be paired again with Roman Josi who proved he can handle the workload on the ice as he averaged over 26 minutes of ice time per game. Going further down, the depth looks pretty solid with youngster Seth Jones and newcomer Anton Volchenkov.
The question mark is with Ryan Ellis. He’s currently an RFA and as of today the he and the club are far apart on a new contract. If he ends up getting shipped out, look for Victor Bartley or Jonathan Diaby to fight for the last pairing with Mattias Ekholm.
Pekka Rinne is your No. 1 goalie. No doubts about it, but Predators fans everywhere are hoping he stays healthy. Last season he suffered a hip injury and a subsequent infection that caused him to miss 51 games. When he did play, he had a record of 10-10-0, 2.77 GAA, and .902 Save Percentage in 24 games. That’s not what you want from someone carrying a salary cap hit of $7 million and five years remaining.
As for understudies, Carter Hutton was signed to a two-year extension based on how well he played (20-11-4 in 34 starts). Third in line is Marek Mazanec, who went 8-10-4 in 22 starts.
Poile likely knows this is his last chance to make a playoff run. And that will be incredibly difficult considering the division they play in. He already changed a coach in favor of someone who was ran out of Philadelphia faster than you can order a Geno’s cheesesteak last season. He brought in a lot of players on one-year deals, so Poile is treating this season like a poker game: all-in. And with him going all-in they will either make the playoffs or fail trying to do so. It’s too early to determine how they will play, especially with Fisher out for an extended amount of time. Predators fans should give them until Christmas before evaluating if they can make the playoffs or not.