2013 was a remarkable year not only for the Nashville Predators but for this website as well, so I wanted to highlight a few of the achievements and moments that stand out to me from the year gone by. Please share your special moments in the comments below!
NHL Lockout Leads to Shortened 2012-13 Season
The year began with many fans pondering whether they should just give up on the NHL, given the cynical nature of the owners' lockout which delayed the start of the season for 4 months. Ultimately the league and its players decided to get back to earning their millions and billions of dollars at our collective expense, engaging in a 48-game season that ran later into April than usual.
It looked like business returned to usual pretty quickly, but as it turned out, a record-setting sellout streak that the Predators touted was in large part the result of increased giveaways of free tickets. Once the playoffs were on, pretty much most of the bad taste from the lockout was washed away, and the Chicago Blackhawks stormed to their second title in the last four seasons.
Preds Stumble to Last Place Finish
A number of factors came together to undermine the Predators 2012-13 campaign, from the inability to replace talented free agent departures like Ryan Suter, Alexander Radulov & Andrei Kostitsyn to a host of injuries to Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad, and more. By the final month of the season, the lineup resembled a pre-season exhibition with the number of Milwaukee Admirals called up to fill out the ranks.
Did it get any worse than on March 28, when the Preds lost 7-4 to Phoenix, and were down 5-0 before the 1st period was even half over?
Martin Erat Requests a Trade
The 2013 NHL Trade Deadline wasn't expected to be exciting around here, with the Preds falling short of the playoffs, but late in the day stunning news came through with the Martin Erat trade to Washington. As the #2 guy on all of Nashville's career offensive categories, Marty was a franchise staple, and this trade took local fans by complete surprise.
The upside is that in return Poile landed prize prospect Filip Forsberg, who may develop into as good or better a forward than Erat ever was. Of course, as with all prospects, that word "may" looms large. As for Marty, things haven't worked out well with the Capitals, and he's already asked for another trade.
The Preds Draft Seth Jones
The upside to that awful 2012-13 season was that the Predators got to select 4th overall at the 2013 NHL Draft, their highest selection since David Legwand went 2nd overall with Nashville's first pick ever back in 1998. Setting aside all the other good & bad things that happened to the Preds in 2013, this may turn out to have the biggest impact on the franchise going forward.
David Poile Goes Shopping in Free Agency
For years we heard "prices are too high on the first day of free agency", but on July 5th David Poile went wild, signing five players to contracts and getting most of his summer work done in the first 24 hours. The organization trumpeted the signings of guys like Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom as a return to "Predator Hockey", but critics (including yours truly) say too much money and too many years were committed to role players rather than the core difference-makers, and that these contracts will constrain the team's ability to assemble strong teams in the years ahead.
No matter the opinion, there's no question that the July 5th signings had a huge impact in shaping the roster we've seen on the ice this season.
OTF Continues Growing
Over 550,000 unique visitors dropped by OTF this year, racking up more than 2.3 million page-views, to go along with a Top 3 finish in the Toast of Music City's Best Local Blog category. Our Twitter following has topped 8,600, and the OTF Facebook page has over 2,200 Likes. It's pretty impressive to me that the Preds are represented among the Top 50 hockey-blog-related Twitter accounts listed over at CapGeek. Heck, we don't even engage in trade rumor nonsense!
Those are huge tributes to you for making the conversation here so lively, whether things are going well or not with the Nashville Predators, and don't think for a minute that people don't pay attention.
New Season Brings Ups & Downs
The 2013-14 regular season has seen the Predators struggle through a number of challenges - Pekka Rinne's hip infection threw a tremendous amount of uncertainty into the goaltending situation, and an early-season concussion to Roman Josi tested the team's depth on defense. Problems with goal scoring and defensive play have the team sitting in last place of the Central Division once again, with little hope to contend for the playoffs unless major changes are made. As if that wasn't enough, you can't buy GooGoo Clusters at the arena any more, they transmogrified the Predators Dancers into an "Energy Team" (zzz...), and the giveaway for a goal in the last minute of the 2nd period is now a free day at a gym(!).
It hasn't been all bad news however, as Seth Jones has impressed in his rookie campaign and Craig Smith has rebounded from an awful 2012-13 season. Recently we've seen three home ice victories that would stand out in any season, the 7-2 stomping of Chicago back in mid-November, the late-game thriller over Los Angeles last Saturday, and last night's 6-4 barn burner over Detroit. The challenge now is to build upon those victories and carry positive momentum into the opening weeks of 2014.
Who was the Preds' MVP for 2013?
I opened the question up on Twitter & Facebook, who was the Nashville Predators' MVP for the calendar year of 2013? Voting as recorded in the widget below is now closed (it was open for 12 hours), but feel free to debate in the comments below!
For your reference, here are the Nashville Predators' top 10 scorers during 2013:
- Tuesday's Dump & Chase: Hooray For Selfishness!
- Nashville Predators 6, Detroit Red Wings 4: Predators Best the Wings in a Wild, High-Scoring Affair
- Nashville Predators Analysis: 2 Goals in 10 Seconds
- Nashville Predators Schedule: Red Wings, Bruins & Panthers coming up this week
- Sunday's Dump & Chase: Happy Days Are Here Again!