2012-13 NHL Season: Why the Nashville Predators Are Still a Playoff Team

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2012-13 NHL Season: Why the Nashville Predators Are Still a Playoff Team
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Let's face it, the Nashville Predators have had a rough offseason, to say the least. The losses of Ryan Suter, Alexander Radulov, Jordin Tootoo, Anders Lindback, and Andrei Kostitsyn are leaving many fans to believe that last year's fourth seed in the West will be cellar-dwellers in 2013.

Yes, Ryan Suter is gone, and Nashville has not signed a defenseman of any kind to replace him. Will Suter's loss hurt them? Of course it will. But will it hurt them as much as some people are saying it will?

No.

Ryan Suter is a great defenseman, probably top 25 in the league. However, I believe that his reputation as an elite defenseman has been skewed because, well, his defense partner was only the best defenseman in hockey: Shea Weber.

Weber, of course, is still on the team and will remain with them for 14 years after Nashville matched an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Any team with Shea Weber is a threat when on the power play. He's the idea power play quarterback, giving Nashville a reputation of being one of the league's top teams with a man advantage.

Not to mention, his size and strength cause him to be one of the most physically intimidating players in the league.

Other than Weber, the Predators still have Pekka Rinne, easily one of the league's top five goalies, between the pipes. With Rinne in net and Weber as a top defenseman, the Predators should once again not have any problems with preventing goals.

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One issue for the Predators, though, is the offense. Alexander Radulov proved to be an ineffective rental at the end of least season, but Jordin Tootoo was a feared enforcer and Andrei Kostitsyn was part of a very dangerous line with his brother, Sergei, and David Legwand.

Sure, the offense will take a slight step back, but it is still led by Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, Paul Gaustad, Martin Erat, David Legwand, and Sergei Kostitsyn. That's still not a horrible offense by any means.

Not to mention, young forwards like Gabriel Bourque and Colin Wilson should be able to improve and become solid forwards to the team.

Take a look back to the 2007 offseason. The Predators finished as a fourth seed in 2007 and went on to lose Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, and Tomas Vokoun in what was statistically a much, much worse offseason than this one.

Yes, the team took a step back in 2008, but finished as the eighth seed and gave the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings a very tough time in the first round.

In 2009, they missed the playoffs for the only time since before 2004, but they returned to the playoffs in 2010 and gave the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks a run for their money, and went on to slowly become one of the league's better teams in 2011 and solidified their identity in 2012.

If this team can overcome that kind of offseason that easily, they should certainly be able to overcome this offseason even more easily.

Barry Trotz knows what he's doing behind the bench, the team plays in one of the loudest stadiums in the NHL, and there is still a lot of talent around the entire roster.

The Predators should be fine in 2013, and even though the Western Conference is ridiculously deep, this team should be right in the thick of everything. I'm guessing about a seventh or eighth seed this year, and they will once again become one of the league's top teams in the years to come.

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