In addition to our amazing staff here at OTF, we have a very deep contact list full of wise folks. So as a rare treat for you people, we decided to empty a full clip into the season preview. The staff roster for this piece is Chris Link, Anish Patel, George "The Memphis Tiger" Scoville, Zeke Starr, Alex Daugherty, Caroline Davis, Jeremy Sargent, Kristopher Martel, Dirk Hoag, and Jon Garcia.
So kick back, read up, and enjoy the show.
1. Experts are picking Nashville to finish anywhere from 1st to 5th in the division. Aside from Pekka Rinne unlocking a cheat code (again), what would be the reason why Nashville wins the division, or comes very close?
Link: Pekka doesn’t need to unlock a cheat code. He needs to play a more reasonable number of games and Carter Hutton needs to pick up the slack and be at the very least an average backup NHL keeper. Ribeiro and Fisher have to hit similar numbers to last season. Ribeiro may achieve that, but I don’t believe that Fisher can repeat his scoring pace from last year. Still, a consistent and active third line could have a notable impact and make up for hot-and-cold top six guys.
Anish: I agree with Chris about limiting Pekka's games played this year. Carter Hutton needs to step his game up so that Rinne can get some rest during the season. Other than that though, Filip Forsberg will need to continue his stellar play. If Forsberg has another year like last year, everyone around him will benefit and in turn, will make Nashville that much of a better team.
George: Well, thank goodness none of them picked the Preds to finish 6th or 7th in the Central. If the Preds win the division in 2015-16, I'm going to credit Peter Laviolette. The coaching change seemed to make a big difference last season, and it's clear he has the attention of the room. Let's see if he can pull the next level out of some of these guys, most of whom are holdovers from last season.
Zeke: There will be a lot of talk about Forsberg, Neal and the defense, but the reasons this team is going to win the Division (and I think they will) will be two fold:
1) Mike Ribeiro replicating last season almost exactly, because this team is going as far as its centers take it.
2) The guy we’re not talking about now. Someone in the bottom six, I don’t know who, is going to have a career year and its going to make this team dangerous from top to bottom in ways it just wasn't last year.
Alex: Three names: Seth, Colin, and James. If Seth Jones builds on his progress late last season, if Wilson becomes a 50 point guy on the 2nd line, and if James Neal breaks the Preds single-season goals record (Arnott's 33), then the Predators win the division. I think all three of those things happen.
Beka: I believe it all comes down to two things:
1) your second and third defensive pairs continue to develop like they are (we all know what Josi and Weber can do). However, the other two pairs need take the next step.
2) Secondary scoring. Last year, the majority of the scoring came from the first line with the second line contributing some as well. In order for Nashville to take the next step, the third and fourth lines need to make some significant (offensive) contributions, too. Mainly, the third line.
Gumpy: Consistent scoring and production from the 3rd line. Since the dream 1st line center doesn't seem to be on the horizon, additions like Moses and Hodgson need to pay off. The Preds also need to live up to last season's dominance at home. It felt like they couldn't lose on home ice, that needs to happen again.
Caroline: Filip Forsberg unleashes the lingering wrath of watching the Calder slip out of his fingertips and Colin Wilson is finally finished with being inconsistent (pleasepleaseplease).
Jeremy: In a word...Forsberg. You hate to put all that pressure on the kid coming off an exemplary rookie campaign, but the brilliance is there in bushels. He is able to elevate everyone's game and I don't believe the sophomore slump will affect him. If anything, the Calder snub should add fuel to that fire. Coupled with a return to form from Weber and the Predators have top to bottom one of their best lineups since 2006-07.
Kris: If the Predators can get breakout seasons from their centermen and find themselves in the top half of the league in special teams, I think that would be enough for them to truly compete for the Central Division crown. That's asking for a lot, because neither of those has happened in the same season.
Dirk: The biggest factor will be team health, especially with their top two centers coming into the season at 35 years old. There's nobody behind them that inspires confidence as a driving offensive force up the middle for any length of time.
Jon: Filip continues to Forsberg, Neal and Weber have better years, Smith stays steady, Jones breaks out and defense is as good as we think it is. It also wouldn't hurt for Colin Wilson to stay active all season. Of course, the biggest reason is three worlds: No. Significant. Injuries.
2. Who plays the most games for the Nashville Predators this season: Austin Watson, Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, Eric Nystrom, or Gabriel Bourque?
Link: At this point I want the answer to be Moses, hope that it’s Bourque, but know in the darkest parts of my mind that it’ll be Nystrom. The only answer that doesn’t make me some level of sad would be Kevin Fiala, but I’d like him to spend a bit more time in Milwaukee
Anish: I would probably say Steve Moses for this one. He is only on a one year deal with the Preds, and if can somewhat do what he did in the KHL over here in the NHL, he will see a good amount of playing time.
George: Eric Nystrom.
Zeke: Most to least: Moses, Watson, Nystrom, Fiala, Bourque. Not to be confused with what is SHOULD be: Watson, Fiala, Moses, no one else.
Alex: Kevin Fiala plays the most. After that, Watson, Bourque, Moses, Nystrom.
Beka: With Fiala being sent to Milwaukee, I am going to rule him out. Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t get called up at first beckon. I’d say Moses will see the most ice time this season, of the given players. Bourque and Nystrom are easy choices to land on the scratched list and Austin Watson’s role is up in the air for me.
Gumpy: Barring injury, Steve Moses. Feels like his level of talent and speed are a little underestimated. Breaking a pro league goal-scoring record last year is enough to convince me he's NHL ready. Being accustomed to the larger international ice and being a small guy make some doubt if hes ready for the big bodies of the NHL, but its not like KHL rosters are full of Hobbits. After some time to adjust, he will fit just fine.
Caroline: Probably Gabby Bourque, but I hope it's Watson or Fiala. (I admittedly don't know much about Moses.)
Jeremy: Was hoping for Fiala, but after the send down that is not going to happen. I think Steve Moses becomes the offensive player as advertised. In the preseason game against Tampa Bay in Nashville, Moses may not have got on the score sheet but his speed and ability to get to the open areas of the ice made for some mismatches for the opposition. He is on a "prove it" contract and I think by the end of the season he will have done just that with 15-18 goals on the year (maybe more if he gets 2nd line power play time).
Kris: Seeing Fiala isn't even starting the season with the team and Watson is kind of an unknown commodity, I'd put my money on Steve Moses. Nystrom and Bourque can be scratched and replaced on any given night, while Moses is going to be looked at is a potential offensive weapon. They'll give him the time to do so.
Dirk: This is a real head-scratcher, but I'll go with Moses because he's probably the best offensive player they can put on the 3rd line, and they may give him spot duty further up the lineup if somebody gets hurt. Fiala will start in the AHL, Watson has to earn his stripes, Nystrom gets hurt and I can only think Gabby Bourque is still here to serve as the obvious expansion pick for Quebec City this summer.
Jon: In order from most to least: Steve Moses, Austin Watson, Gabriel Bourque, Kevin Fiala, Eric Nystrom.