|3rd in Central Division|
|7th in Western Conf.|
|GM: David Poile|
|COACH: Barry Trotz|
|$48,158,000 ($12.1M below cap)|
Nashville, the laughingstock of the league when the Predators first entered the NHL in 1998 via expansion, has become one of the best models of consistency and long-term focus around. They have the second-longest tenured GM/coach tandem – both GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz have been on the job since day one in the Music City, entering their current posts together a year after Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff took over in Buffalo. After failing to qualify for the playoffs once in their first five seasons of existence, the Preds have managed to reach the postseason five of the past six seasons in a tough pack of middleweights in the Western Conference.
Of course, reaching the postseason and actually making something of the opportunity are two very different things. The past two times they’ve reached the playoffs (2008 and 2010), they were bounced in the first round by the eventual champion. In fact, the team has failed to advance past the first round even once in their history, winning just eight playoff games total in their five appearance. In hopes of wresting the franchise from the risk of stagnation, Poile retooled the lineup this year. A clear starter is now in place in net after the franchise has wobbled for a decade on granting such power to one man, and he is backed up by a defensive corps led by newly-minted captain Shea Weber that can stand up with any in the division. Whether that will be enough to even reach the postseason in an increasingly competitive Western Conference remains to be seen…
|28||F||Jonas Andersson||6′ 3″||204||29|
|3||F||Wade Belak||6′ 5″||222||34|
|71||F||J-P Dumont||6′ 1″||205||32|
|10||F||Martin Erat||6′ 0″||200||29|
|9||F||Marcel Goc||6′ 1″||202||27|
|27||F||Patric Hornqvist||5′ 11″||188||23|
|74||F||Sergei Kostitsyn||6′ 0″||210||23|
|11||F||David Legwand||6′ 2″||204||30|
|15||F||Matthew Lombardi||5′ 11″||195||28|
|21||F||Jamie Lundmark||6′ 0″||197||29|
|16||F||Cal O’Reilly||6′ 0″||187||24|
|25||F||Jerred Smithson||6′ 3″||206||31|
|26||F||Steve Sullivan||5′ 8″||161||36|
|22||F||Jordin Tootoo||5′ 9″||197||27|
|29||F||Joel Ward||6′ 1″||218||29|
|33||F||Colin Wilson||6′ 1″||214||20|
|51||D||Francis Bouillon||5′ 8″||198||34|
|4||D||Cody Franson||6′ 5″||213||23|
|2||D||Aaron Johnson||6′ 1″||208||27|
|8||D||Kevin Klein||6′ 1″||201||25|
|77||D||Ryan Parent||6′ 3″||198||23|
|52||D||Alexander Sulzer||6′ 1″||204||26|
|20||D||Ryan Suter||6′ 1″||198||25|
|6||D||Shea Weber||6′ 4″||234||25|
|39||G||Anders Lindback||6′ 6″||205||22|
|35||G||Pekka Rinne||6′ 5″||207||27|
MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Pekka Rinne (starting G) — The 27-year-old from Kempere, Finland is now the undisputed man in the net for the Predators after Poile played a selling game in the offseason that moved Dan Ellis to Tampa. He’s posted back-to-back seasons with seven shutouts, each time with less than 60 games played. How Rinne holds up to the rigors of being the number-one goalie posting number-one minutes remains to be seen. If injuries plague the netminder — and other than his off-ice incident in 2006 that led to a dislocated shoulder that required surgery and four months of rehab, he’s been relatively injury-free — the team has no single backup with even one game of NHL experience. So the hopes and dreams of the Predators will rise or fall based on how well Rinne steps into his new office and handles the rigors of 70 or more games in a season.
KEY ACQUISITION: Matthew Lombardi (C – FA from Phoenix) – The speedy center is just the infusion of talent that they needed to revitalize a pivot position that had languished under the thumb of undermotivated and injury-prone Jason Arnott in recent years. His trade back to New Jersey opened the door for Poile to sign Lombardi to a 3-year, $10.5 million contract in the offseason. Last year he played 78 games for the surging Phoenix Coyotes, notching a career-best 53 points, a third straight season with a positive +/- and prominence at the perfect time for his pocketbook. The team will be crossing its collective fingers that his groin sprain in the preseason doesn’t develop into a nagging injury, but as long as he’s healthy his ability to move from offense to defense and back again quickly will open a lot of ice for his linemates and create more chances.
KEY DEPARTURE: Dan Hamhuis (D – FA to Vancouver) – The 27-year-old was the franchise’s 12th overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, but the simple economic reality in Nashville kept the team from being able to resign the defensive stalwart just as he was entering his prime. Hamhuis averaged 21+ minutes of ice time with the Predators, and is slated to be the top dog in the Canucks blueline group protecting Roberto Luongo’s crease. The team will now look to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who shined last season for both the Predators and for Canada and the United States respectively at the Olympics. Will the youth movement pay off? It will all depend on whether Weber picks up the stick and provides the kind of leadership left behind by Hamhuis’ departure.
KEY YOUNGSTER: Sergei Kostitsyn (LW – trade from Montreal/23 years old) – After entering the NHL with such promise and suiting up for the same franchise as his older brother, Kostitsyn burned his bridges irrevocably in Montreal. The volatile Belarussian winger has the potential to be a top-six forward with points galore on his stick, but a petulance and sense of entitlement — twice he refused to report to AHL affiliate Hamilton and demanded a trade before capitulating — led to Habs management finally wiping their hands of their troubled project. They were so fed up they took Dan Ellis in trade, fully knowing they wouldn’t sign him before he hit free agency. So now Kostitsyn is Trotz’s problem, and we’ll see if the coach who has a penchant for getting more of out less can coax some consistency out of him. At just 23, the youngster could still have a future ahead of him yet.
OUTLOOK: The Predators decided to take another step on their logical plan toward long-term successes. Unfortunately for fans in Nashville and elsewhere, that might also mean a step or two back in the standings. The team still has plenty of talent to remain competitive in the Central and in the playoff race, but this might be a year where Trotz and company are taking early tee times on their favorite golf courses.
There are simply too many variables going against Nashville. They lost players at both ends, and the players brought in to fight for spots are potential explosions waiting to happen (in Kostitsyn’s case, at least). The talent remains to compete, but the lack of an experienced netminder behind Rinne and a new core leadership on the blueline and amongst the skaters as a whole could be just enough to keep this team from the second season in 2011. …
- 42 wins
- 95 points
- 4th in Central/9th in Western Conference