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Last season broke a string of 3 straight playoff appearances. In those 3 playoff years, the Predators accumulated 99 points or more in each of those seasons. The Predators were 16-23-9 a season ago finishing last in the Central Division, and 14th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference, just 2-points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche who finished last. The current NHL betting odds show the Nashville Predators at 35-1 to win the Stanley Cup.
Where was the weakness?
When taking into consideration that last season was an abbreviated 48-game schedule, there’s still only one way to assess what was the biggest flaw for this club last season. They were absolutely anemic offensively averaging a NHL low 2.27 goals per game. David Legwand led the team with a paltry 12 goals a season ago while their leading scorer was Shea Weber with just 28 points. Then you add in the fact the goaltender you signed to a lucrative long term deal in Pekka Rinne had a career low .910 save percentage while playing in 43 of the 48 Predators games.
General Manager David Poile didn’t waste any time when the free agency signing period began on July 5th. Poile signed 4 new forwards to upgrade the offense. He signed 36-year old veteran center Matt Cullen who spent the last 3 seasons with the Minnesota Wild, and another center in former Chicago Blackhawk 27-year old Viktor Stalberg. He then added some grit and tenacity by signing wingers Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom. Nystrom spent all of last season with the Dallas Stars scoring 4 goals, adding 7 assists, and accumulating 61 penalty minutes while playing in all 48 games. If the name rings a bell the 6’1 and 193 pound winger is the son of former Islander great Bob Nystrom. The 6’0 and 211 pound Hendricks spent the last 3 season with the Washington Capitals where he rang up 278 penalty minutes in 205 games. Hendricks also has scored 27 goals and added 31 assists in 263 career NHL games.
The Predators organization is extremely excited with their number 1 pick (4th overall) in the 2013 NHL entry draft Seth Jones. The 6’4, 205 pound defensemen is offensively talented and doesn’t neglect his responsibilities in his own zone. Ironically the youngster is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. The offense should also benefit from the addition of top offensive prospect Filip Forsberg, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in April. Forsberg had 15 goals and 33 points in 38 games for Leksand in Sweden's No. 2 league and captained his country to a silver medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship with three goals and five points in six games. The Predators are also counting on former 4th round 2009 draft choice Mattis Ekholm to contribute to the big club on a full time basis this upcoming season. The 6’4 and 204 pound defenseman has only appeared in 3 games with the Predators over the last 2 years. In his last 2 seasons while for his the Swedish Elite League team Brynas IF Gavle he had 19 goals, 31 assists, and racked up 93 penalty minutes in 96 games.
The Nashville Predators have had only one head coach in their franchise history and that’s Barry Trotz. Trotz teams have historically been extremely disciplined and strong in their own zone. GM David Poile also hired former NHL defenseman and United States Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Phil Housley, to the coaching staff. Housley, who spent 21 seasons in the NHL, was coach of the U.S. National Junior Team that won the gold medal at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, in January. Under Housley, the Americans finished with the fourth-highest power-play efficiency (29.3%) and the top-ranked penalty-killing unit (89.3%) among the 10 teams.
The Final Analysis
The Predators current roster is a definite upgrade from the one they put on the ice a year ago. They have a nice blend of youth and veterans which brings a lot of anticipation and excitement to their fan base following last season’s debacle. Pekka Rinne must return to form if this club is going to have any chance of qualifying for the playoffs. My take is that they’re still a year away from possibly getting back to where they were in the 3 years prior to last season. The current NHL betting odds of 35-1 to win the Stanley Cup will most likely be even higher the closer it comes to the start of the season. You would have to have money to burn if you’re considering this wager. You can find a lot more realistic sports betting value on a team to win the Stanley Cup.Disagree with our analysis? Share your thoughts on SBRForum's hockey message boards!