The expectations for the Nashville Predators this season are quite possibly the highest they have ever been for the franchise.
The buzz around the team began on June 29 when General Manager David Poile pulled off a blockbuster trade that landed P.K. Subban in the Music City. The addition of Subban instantly garnered the Predators national attention as a team that could legitimately contend for a Stanley Cup.
Just before the start of the season, popular EA Sports video game NHL 17 picked the Predators to win the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup in their regular and post season simulations.
Both USA Today and ESPN showed the Predators some love in their expert picks for the 2016-17 NHL season.
Nashville was picked to win the Western Conference by USA Today’s Jimmy Hascup and Peter Barzilai as well as ESPN’s Scott Burnside, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun, and Joe McDonald. Hascup plus all four ESPN experts picked the Predators to win their first Central Division title also.
Sports Illustrated then ranked the Predators No. 1 in their preseason Western Conference power rankings ahead of both Dallas and Chicago.
With so many media outlets finally recognizing the Predators as Stanley Cup contenders, how are they handling such extraordinary expectations?
"There's no question that the expectations are maybe higher than they've ever been before," Poile said earlier this month in an interview with ESPN. “But the fact is, a lot of people think we have a good club and I believe our players think that, I know our coaches do, and we'll do our best to fulfill our expectations."
Many Predators players feel their effort, hard work, and focus, among other things, is what makes them one of the best in the league.
“There’s hype for a reason,” center Ryan Johansen said after Fridays 3-2 win over the Blackhawks. “We feel like we've got a great group of players in our room that come to work every day and put their best efforts forward. I think its been recognized in the league. Last year we had a little success in the playoffs so its all about building off that.”
Added defenseman P.K. Subban: “It’s a special group. I think if we’re focused, and the focus is on our team and not just on crap off the ice, I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
With quite possibly the most talented roster the team has ever had, there is a buzz surrounding the team like never before. In the last year, David Poile traded both Shea Weber and Seth Jones and somehow improved his defense. Ryan Johansen gives the team the No. 1 center they have desired since joining the league. Filip Forsberg and James Neal are both coming off 30-goal seasons. The Predators are loaded with potential, which according to goaltender Pekka Rinne, is the best word to describe the team.
“I think the potential is just, you know, if you want to describe it with one word,” Rinne said. “There’s so much talent in this locker room. Any given night there’s guys that can step up and be the guy.”