Nashville's 2013 season was, to say the least, not pretty, They started off a little rusty and, instead of shaking that rust off, they let it grow. The team finished fourth-to-last in the league with a 16-23-9 record as they proved to not be up to the task. With the loss of Suter, there was a lot of question as to whether the Predators would be able to function properly and that answer, so far, has been no. In fact, we not only lost Suter, we lost one of our franchise players in Erat due to a lack of trust in management. Nashville suffered many injuries this season, including Colin Wilson, who might be out in the beginning of the season. Our team didn't look good and the "Predators system" that has been known for its consistency was anything but. Now the Predators have the offseason to play golf, condition, and think about what went wrong.
Despite its many flaws, this season for the Predators can produce some positives. Despite Nashville's terrible record, the Predators Fans have still come out to support their team with enthusiasm. The Erat trade showed a lack in faith by the players but it also brought excitement to the fans. While we lost a great franchise player in Erat, we gained a young, very talented, and potentially very good player. Nashville hasn't ever had a forward of this potential since the days of Legwand and Hartnell. Predators fans have been starved from offensive since the days of Paul Kariya. Filip Forsberg hasn't put any pucks in the net but it was refreshing to see a player with all the tools to do so successfuly.
The many injuries allowed them to see a glimpse into the future. Along with Forsberg, players like Beck, Henderson, Rask, and Watson played hard with a youthful exuberance and raw talent. They and played fairly well for the unexpected situation they were thrust in and they worked hard to show their skill and impress their superiors. Nashwaulkee was a very youthful and exciting place indeed.
Along with a bad season comes a good draft pick. This year, however, Nashville got an uncharacteristically great draft pick. Being in the bottom four, Nashville will end up with a offensively skilled, potentially elite, and potentially NHL ready player in either Jonathan Drouin or, likely, Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov. Both of those players have great hands and a good-great scoring touch and either one of those players will fit great with their newly-acquired handsy sniper Filip Forsberg. Both of them have the potential to be perennial all stars but at the least will be solid first line players for the Predators. Both Forsberg and the Predators draft pick could be fixes to the well known scoring drought; possibly even next year. If we chose not to use this pick, we will get a very high return for it considering Poile said as much. Teams like Buffalo and Calgary might be willing to give their right arm in order to have the opportunity to drat such a player.
Now lets look at potential moves over offseason. This season served as a wakeup call for Predators management. We have too many "Predators," as Trotz would say. We have too many average-size grinders and hard workers and they realize that. Poile realizes we need to get bigger, and we need to get more dynamic. I wouldn't expect a major pickup for fear of a major letdown but you can definitely expect a few transactions made by the Predators. At the least, expect them to go after (but not necessarily be successful) an Erat-replacement, some other back-line pieces, and the shopping of some players. Poile and Trotz know something has to be done and I would expect to see a few new pieces at the Bridge come next September.
While I have no doubt the "Predator way" will still be a mainstay while Trotz and Poile are still running things, I wouldn't doubt that they try to get back to a team closer to the 05-06 Predators with the hopes of developing into the 06-07 Predators. That team represented a more balanced Predators team that can both defend and score. With the big contracts of Weber and Rinne, I have no doubt that it will be a more defensively minded mid-twothousand Predator team but they will try to emulate that successful team none the less. This might not be that hard of a task considering Filip Forsberg and the highly regarded prospect/high yielding trade piece we have.
I would not be surprised to see a Montreal-like rebound next year and I would be surprised if the team didn't come out guns blazing with a chip on their shoulder come next fall. GO PREDS!