Where are your 2013/14 Nashville Predators headed to? New heights? Complacency?
The Nashville Predators are coming off just their second non-playoff season of hockey since 2003 and are looking to change their fortunes for 2013/14.
Head Coach Barry Trotz had previously said that there would be a lot of changes this offseason and he was right. The team jettisoned a number of players, young and old. Gone are the likes of Hal Gill, Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, Brandon Yip, Jonathan Blum, Chris Mueller, and Chris Mason. Even the future of forward Nick Spaling remains up in the air as the 25 year old has filed for arbitration.
General Manager David Poile was active on July 5, signing free agents Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, Eric Nystrom and Carter Hutton to contracts. Stalberg will serve as a top-6 forward replacement for Martin Erat. Cullen will be a dependable two-way 3rd line center with a couple deep playoff runs under his belt including a Stanley Cup ring. Hendricks and Nystrom will play in the bottom-six forward group. Hutton will be groomed into the backup role to goaltender Pekka Rinne.
It is safe to say that the future of the Nashville Predators defense is bright. The team had stud defenseman prospect Seth Jones fall right into their lap at the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey. As a result, the Preds will boast a solid defensive core for years to come. With Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Kevin Klein locked up long term, add in Jones to Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley and Mattias Ekholm and the Preds have a great future on D. Expect Charles Olivier-Roussel to push hard at training camp too.
Nashville Predators’ Centers
I am really liking the center position for the Nashville Predators this upcoming season. Mike Fisher, David Legwand, Cullen and Paul Gaustad are solid for the roles they play on this team. That is excluding Nick Spaling and assumes that Colin Wilson will remain on the wing.
Nashville Predators Projected Forward Lines
Smith, Beck, Watson, Puustinen, Rask
I personally think these are solid forward lines going into the season. With all the signings, it leaves the Preds with some depth. I really think Taylor Beck should be in the starting lineup. He really impressed me and I think the Preds can use his size. I assumed Spaling would be traded. I think Watson is ready and I don’t think they will keep him in Milwaukee this year. He got a glimpse of the NHL late last season and wants more. I’ve got Bourque and Nystrom on the same line even though both are left-wingers. Beck and Clune are also left-wingers. I really think this year will be David Legwand’s best in awhile. He’s been solid the last few years and really amped up his play last season after the Erat trade. He knows he is leader for sure now and with his 6 year contract almost up, he wants to stick around.
Nashville Predators Projected Defense Pairings
The addition of 18 year old Seth Jones will certainly add to the size presence for the Preds. He can be very mobile for a big guy and has a great shot. Kevin Klein is a top-4 defenseman on this team and so he will have to bite the bullet on playing on the weak side with Jones (both being right-handed). Bartley really came into his own last season and I think this is Ellis’ coming out year. He needs to rebound badly.
Nashville Predators Projected Goaltenders
No real surprises here. If Hutton falters, Magnus Hellberg will get the call.
Change Or More Of The Same?
All of this moving back to the traditional Predator hockey sounds good to some and not so great to others. Predator hockey circa 1998-2004 and 2008-2011 was tight-checking, trap the neutral zone and capitalize on mistakes plus lots of the checks and finishing them. Most of those teams were very undisciplined too.
What fans will hate the most about this revert is the lack of scoring. Let’s face the facts. Its going to happen. This team will have trouble scoring this season. I like the promise of having a full year of Wilson, Forsberg and the rest of the large group that missed most of last season. Seeing Seth Jones will be exciting too. We can’t forget about Pekka Rinne. He basically IS the team and he played injured for the second half of the season. There is lots to be hopeful for with this Nashville Predators team. Believe me. However, don’t expect a ton of pucks in the net.