Welcome (Back) to Your Hockey Team, Nashville & Surrounding Area!
A quick refresher guide for the casual fan. They exist. And without articles like this, they join the enemy hordes.
We here at OtF know that the Nashville Predators Hockey Club has more than its share of casual fans. This number is growing with the reach of the NHL, TV contracts, and the fact that competitive college and professional football for most area teams is likely over as of this upcoming weekend. We welcome you with open arms, friends. And you picked a good time. We've been told that hockey might be fun again this year.
The Predators made the playoffs last year, and are expected to make them again this year.
Yes. And yes. Some would even dare to say that this team should be better. Not everyone agrees, but that's life. The team does have plenty of players entering their prime or getting closer to their apex, with only a few players that are on the decline. Plus, the team still have some prospects we could see later this year make an impact.
The Predators still have Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Mike Fisher, and friends.
Again, Weber is the most complete defenseman in the league (arguably the best in the world), Mike Fisher is still a tough, handsome Canadian, and Pekka Rinne is one of the best in the league when healthy. That's unchanged from last year.
Also, David Poile didn't trade Weber when he could have, and has kept building around him while general managers and pundits were all calling for him to do so. So those guys that you've come to know and love over the years? They're still here. And Shea is now a dad. Fisher is a dad. Pekka is not a dad.
The Predators no longer have Erat, Legwand, Sullivan, Dumont, Arnott, Hamhuis, or Nick Spaling.
That's for the one person who hasn't visited the site since 2009.
The Predators still have Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, James Neal, and Mike Ribeiro, Craig Smith, and Colin Wilson on their roster.
All of the players mentioned in the previous list have moved on or been traded. Nashville is banking on a combination of youth on the wings and age down the middle to carry them this season. James Neal is the oldest winger in Nashville, and he's 28. Forsberg had a great year, and will likely be in the fan favorite category for a long time. Jarnkrok has had some struggles, but the coaches love him. Ribeiro had himself a bounce-back season on the ice, but settled a lawsuit out of court that makes us feel a bit grossed out (and angry at the GM). Colin Wilson and Craig Smith signed new deals, so they're part of the plans going forward as well.
With the exception of Jarnkrok, we expect all of those players to tally 40 points or more. And that's a good thing.
The Predators' best prospects are guys who were drafted to score goals (and a goaltender).
This sounds very sad, but in the previous years Nashville was drafting players who at best were good defensive forwards. Kevin Fiala, Jimmy Vesey, Vladislav Kamenev and Yakov Trenin lead a class of players being groomed to enter the lineup in the future. Vesey is currently gearing up for a run at the NCAA Frozen Four with Harvard, so he's likely a way's away from entering the lineup. Fiala and Kamenev could make appearances later this year depending on depth, trades, and injuries.
The Predators are still coached by Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette is not Barry Trotz. They don't even look or sound alike. You'll really embarrass yourself if you talk about Trotz as if he's still coaching the team.
The Predators played a very fast, up-tempo style of hockey last year.
Even the TV ratings were up. The Preds played a much more possession friendly style, and that's only going to improve this year with another season in this system. Plus...
The Predators' defense could be the best in franchise history.
We're not kidding. They should be very good. All three pairs of defensemen can move the puck, defend, and score.
The Predators no longer have Derek Roy, Anton Volchenkov, Olli Jokinen, or Matt Cullen.
They were all really old anyways.
The Predators added Barret Jackman and Cody Hodgson.
Jackman is a traditional, stay-at-home defense. Basically, his job is to allow his partner to roam more and watch his partner's back. The great news is that Jackman's partner is going to be prodigy Seth Jones. Much like how Weber watches Josi's back, and Ekholm covers for Ellis, Jackman will be the security Jones needs to ruin lives. And no, Jackman was not that bad alien guy from Prometheus. Don't bother seeing Prometheus, either.
Hodgson is the epitome of a Predators free agency signing. He's cheap, he's looking to bounce back and get his career on the right track, and needed a change of scenery. And unlike last year when Nashville brought in Ribeiro (that worked) Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, and Anton Volchenkov... Hodgson is still young. He's got time and he'll likely get to play beside some talented wingers. Plus Hodgson looks like a young Liev Schreiber. And that's great by me.
The Predators' defense could be the best in franchise history.
The Predators' division is brutal. Again.
It is every year. St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, and Colorado all spend to the cap each year (or at least close to it), so expect this. Now, they don't always make wise decisions. Many are expecting Colorado to still be bad, while Dallas could be better than last year. Heck, they should be better. But we can always pull for them to have another craptacular year. That's cool.
The Predators made more changes to the arena and your game night experience.
They installed new LED lights, so the ice glows and the arena is cooler. Plus, the lower bowl seats have been changed and the food has been upgraded. Also, metal detectors have been installed. So leave the machete.
Q: Shea Weber got hurt last year in the playoffs. Is he okay enough to start the year?
A: Yes indeed.
Q: Is Shea Weber still the baddest man in the NHL?
A: See below.
Q: How many goals are we expecting from this so-called "goal scorer" James Neal this year?
A: Given that he'll be playing with Ribeiro and Forsberg this year, and assuming the power play isn't rotting garbage (again), 30 is a good number for him to aim for. He did miss some time last year, so hopefully he stays healthy enough to hit that number.
Q: What about that Forsberg kid? How many goals/assists should he get this year?
A: He's going to be counted on for a bigger workload this year. Expect him to land somewhere around 25-30 goals and 30-40 assists. He's going to need to play beside Neal, mostly because everyone in the league now knows who he is.
It's a good thing he's been preparing for this.
Det gäller att ligga i, även i ösregn! Let's go Predators! pic.twitter.com/hVUXNEGJKD— Patrik Forsberg (@forsberg67) June 14, 2015
Q: My significant other/partner wants a new jersey. What should he/she get?
A: This is the best question you could ask. Here's what we said last year:
For a man:
-Is he cocky, good looking, and likes the nightlife? James Neal.
-Is he charming, handsome, and a natural leader of men? Filip Forsberg.
-Is he beautiful, understated, and has more fun than his friends? Roman Josi.
For a woman:
-Is she pretty, and has a smile that could bring a plant out of the ground in December? Calle Jarnkrok.
-Is she soft spoken, tall, and very talented? Seth Jones.
-Is she big, sassy, and has an American flag boob tattoo? Colin Wi-... um... Carter Hutton.
-Is she your dream girl? Craig Smith.
Assuming either one of you already has a Weber, Rinne, or Fisher jersey, we have a few more options for this year.
For a man:
-Is he a rugged athlete that's great with kids? Mattias Ekholm
-Is he a country song in human form? Austin Watson
For a woman:
-Is she a short stack of dynamite, and known for being a boss? Ryan Ellis
-Is she a former model who suddenly became a crossfit trainer? Kevin Fiala
Q: Lastly, what should we expect this team to do?
A: Play hockey, score goals, and win more than they lose... same as last year. The biggest thing I take away from last year was how much fun this team was. We had years of boring hockey here, and those days are done. Judging from our perspective: this team is young, they trust the management, and they all like being here. That's a far cry from previous years. I do expect them to at least make it to the second round of the playoffs, no matter who their first round matchup is. I expect to see Pekka Rinne have the best postseason of his career, because we haven't been able to say that since 2011.