In 2013-14 the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs for
the second straight year and they will start this season with a new head coach
for the first time in their franchises 16-year history.
James Neal – RW Patric
Hornqvist – RW
Derek Roy – C Nick
Spaling – RW
Anton Volchenkov – D Michael
Del Zotto – D
Olli Jokinen – C Patrick
Eaves – RW
Mike Ribeiro – C
Barry Trotz started with the Predators when they came into
the NHL in 1998-99 and spent the next 15 seasons behind the bench in Nashville.
In those 15 seasons, Trotz coached the Preds to a 557-479-60-100 (W-L-T-OTL)
record, but now begins a new chapter as the head coach of the Washington
Capitals. Peter Laviolette will be the second head coach in Predators’ history
and has an entirely different looking team than the one that went 38-32-12 last
On June 27th, the Predators made a splash when they acquired
James Neal from the Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The
26-year-old winger is a one-time 40-goal scorer and is coming off of a season
where he scored 27 goals with 34 assists (61 points) in 59 games. Coming to
Nashville, he will be the clear focal point of the offence, but losing Evgeni
Malkin as his centre you can expect his production to drop a bit. If he can
stay healthy, a 30-30 season should be accomplishable.
With Mike Fisher expected to miss at least the first two
months of the season after rupturing his Achilles in early July, the Preds went out and signed veteran centres Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen and
Mike Ribeiro. At an average age of 33.3, those three are past their prime, but
they should help the Predators win. Jokinen has only missed six games in the
last four seasons, which is good news for Nashville. Roy averaged just 13:37
TOI in St. Louis last season, but should see a bump in minutes this year. He
still posted 37 points last year, so an increased role could get him back to
40-points. As for Ribeiro, he was picked up after the Coyotes waived him
because of off the ice issues. In the lockout shortened year, he had 49 points
in 48 games and the crafty forward is capable of 50 assists if he can
straighten out his attitude.
Nashville also has some up-and-coming young forwards that could
conceivably make an impact this season. Calle Jarnkrok was acquired from
Detroit at last year’s deadline. He posted nine points (2G / 7A) in 12 games at
the end of last season, which shows he could be a serviceable playmaking centre
in 2014-15. Filip Forsberg is another player to watch having posted 15 goals
and 19 assists (34 points) in 47 AHL games last season. Lastly, 24-year-old
Craig Smith had a huge bounce-back season, posting 52 points (24G / 28A) in 79
On the blueline is where the Predators boast a lot of talent.
They are led by Captain Shea Weber, who led all NHL defensemen in goals (23)
and power-play goals (12) last season. He is a model of consistency and every
season he approaches at least 20 goals, it is hard to find that kind of
production on the blueline. Weber is joined by a couple of former first-round
picks. Seth Jones had a strong rookie campaign, recording 25 points (6G / 19A)
in 77 games and he should improve on those totals this season. Ryan Ellis, 23,
had 27 points (6G / 21A) in 80 games in his first full NHL season. He has
played 144 career games, but had been bouncing from AHL to NHL in his previous
two seasons. He is undersized, but offensively gifted.
Then there is Roman Josi who had 40 points (13G / 27A) last
year and as long as he is playing with Weber on the top-pair and top power-play
unit, he has a chance at 40 points.
Goaltending was a huge hole for the Predators last year.
However, with some luck that should not be an issue this year. Pekka Rinne
missed the majority of the year with an infection in his surgically repaired
hip. He will be at 100 per cent to start 2014-15 and return to his status as an
elite netminder. He will be backed-up by Carter Hutton, who went 20-11-4 with a
2.62 GAA and .910 SV% last season.
Season prediction: In a loaded Central Division the
Predators end up sixth and miss the postseason for the third consecutive
View the Predators’ entire roster and cap space heading into
the 2014-15 season.
Other team previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens