Predators: Contender or Pretender?
Is this the year the Preds finally make a statement in the playoffs or is it just going to be another disappointment?
This year has generated a lot of optimism in the fans of the Nashville Predators. After last year’s defeat to the eventual Stanley-cup champions the team felt like they needed to prove something to everyone. So in the off-season a lot of changes were made to the team in trading Hamuis, Arnott and Ellis away and getting O’Brien, Kostitsyn and Lombardi to strengthen the team.
As it currently stands after 51 games into the season the Predators have 61 points good for 4th in the Western conference. Currently on pace to finish with home-ice advantage in the playoffs everything is looking good for the team, and this is even with have key injuries throughout the season. Legwand, Sullivan, Erat, O’Reilly, Suter, Rinne, Lombardi, Bouillon, Svatos, and Tootoo have all missed extended time this season. The team has lost a total of 188 man games lost this year already, and some players don’t look like they will be coming back any time soon.
Even though with this team injured, I feel like it can make a splash in the playoffs, they have been great defensively this year having allowed the second fewest goals in the western conference and their goaltending has been amazing. They have had players step up for their injuries which is needed and some have seemed to have found a home on the team maybe even if the team does get fully healthy.
Let’s say though this team can get fully healthy by the end of the regular season so come playoff time they have a full roster, I believe that they will make it past the first round and maybe even be a true contender for the cup this year. A fully healthy team would have lines that will probably resemble this:
1st Line: Wilson – Lombardi- Svatos
2nd Line: Sullivan – O’Reilly – Hornqvist
3rd Line: Erat – Goc – Kostitsyn
4th Line: Ward – Legwand – Smithson
1st Pairing: Weber- Suter
2nd Pairing: Bouillon- Klein
3rd Pairing: O’Brien- Franson
Goaltenders: Rinne – Lindback
With centers that could all be at least second liners on most teams, and wingers that from 1st to 3rd line can score and produce offense as well as be responsible defensively is a real threat. Last year both Philly and Chicago showed the league that depth is key and the Red Wings are showing it again this year and I would like to through in that Nashville is one of those few very deep teams that can play with the best of them. I obviously left out Dumont as I don’t believe that with a full roster he fits on the team as we need a shut-down line in the 4th one and he cannot fill that role nor has he been producing offensively enough this year to warrant a spot on the other lines.
With a fully squad I believe that the Preds goal scoring and Power play would improve quite a bit as they are currently 25th in goals per game and 27th in power play percentage. Their defence might take a small hit removing some of the more defensive players they have on the team but the goal scoring should make up for it and I wouldn’t see the defence dip drastically as the defence core would basically remain untouched along with goaltending which has been the main factor in this teams success .
Even with all the injuries this year the Preds have proven to be competitive and a team that can win, now all they need is to get healthy and the team can roll form there.
Let me know what you think, if the Preds can contend this year or not in the comment section below.