The Nashville Predators have come a long way since their inaugural season in the NHL. They placed fourth in their conference this season five points behind division rivals the St. Louis Blues. It was a good enough season to give them home ice advantage in the first round of the postseason against another division rival, the Detroit Red Wings.
While they are favored to win their first round matchup, the Nashville Predators need to win the Stanley Cup for more than just team pride.
Over the years, Nashville’s playoff runs have been disappointing to say the least. Having only made it past the first round once, which was last year. While this year they are overall a much stronger team both offensively and defensively than they have been in past years. They will need to dig deep to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Nashville will have to make it past some tough teams to get to the Stanley Cup, but it would not be the first time an underdog team has done so. With Vancouver looking to ease breeze by LA and St. Louis facing San Jose, a team they should also defeat it will leave two of the top seeded teams in the West between the Predators and the Cup Finals.
Nashville is in a similar situation to many of the southern teams, they need victories to keep their fanbase. Like the other southern teams, their fanbase fluctuates each season. When they are doing well, as Nashville has been over the last few years, the numbers grow. When these teams have poor showing it affects their television ratings and as well as their attendance.
If you look at a few of the other teams in the south, this trend is extremely prevalent . Last year, Florida's team television ratings were lower than even those of children's shows and infomercials, and their attendance had also dropped significantly.
This season, Nashville's attendance is above most of the other southern teams, but is still only ranked 20th overall.
The major competition for fans in the south comes in the form of football, both at the professional and collegiate levels. If Nashville wants to hold on to their slowly increasing attendance, they need to have a big showing in the finals.
A Stanley Cup victory for the Predators would be the first for any Nashville professional sports teams. The only other professional team being the Tennessee Titans of the NFL who have only been to the Superbowl once but have also had lacklustre postseason performances since then.
On the collegiate level, Nashville is in the middle of the SEC (Southeastern Conference), a tough division that produces some great teams. The Predators will only be a blip on the radar of sports fans until they can make a Stanley Cup run.
With football being the largest sport in the south, it is far more important for the southern teams to make the postseason. As Nashville has done this for a number of years, they need to step up and perform well in the postseason this year.
Also like the other southern teams, Nashville has seen its share of financial instability. Before the 2007-08 season began, the financial woes in Nashville decimated the team, by either trade away or release into Free Agency.
During that summer there were also rumors of potential buyers for the team, two of whom wanted to relocate. The first was Canadian Jim Balsillie and the other, who would end up part owner of the Preds regardless was William “Boots” Del Biaggio. The later is a name that many Predator fans currently dislike as he was recently charged with fraud and lost his shares, placing uncertainty around the team ownership.
While the ownership may have settled over the last couple of seasons, it won't last long with lower attendance and failing to produce in the postseason.
For Nashville, the Stanley Cup is more than a prize at the end of the season, it could mean the longevity of their franchise. A Cup victory for southern teams has shown large growth in the fanbase and ticket sales. These factors would help raise the finances for the Predators group of owners, and would see an increase in television and merchandise revenue as well.
Unlike St. Louis, the Predators do not have the 30-year history to rely on when trying to appeal to fans. Nashville is still new, but has performed admirably in their short tenure in the NHL.
With the Predators consistently making the postseason as they have over the last three seasons, a Cup victory will cement them as the premier professional sports team in Tennessee.