Ten Bold Predictions for the Nashville Predators in 2012-13
The Nashville Predators have had one of the most interesting offseasons of any team this summer. By losing Ryan Suter, Alexander Radulov, Francis Bouillon, Jordin Tootoo, Anders Lindback, and Andrei Kostitsyn, many fans have been predicting that the Predators will fall very far from their fourth-seed second round performance in 2011-12.
However, this will not be the first time that the Preds will face this kind of adversity.
Nashville finished fourth in the conference in both 2006 and 2007, but in the summer of 2007, they lost Kimmo Timonen, Tomas Vokoun, Scott Hartnell, Peter Forsberg, and Paul Kariya.
Judging by players lost, the 2007 offseason seems to have been even more detrimental than this one, yet the Predators still managed to crack the playoffs in 2008 and gave the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings a run for their money in the first round.
The Predators may be a few players short of the fantastic team that they were in 2011-12, but with Barry Trotz behind the bench and most of the core still intact, the fans should not worry as much as some have been doing lately.
Shea Weber Will Win the Norris Trophy
Even without his former defensive partner Ryan Suter, Shea Weber is still the best defenseman in the NHL.
No other blueliner in hockey has the combination of effort, intimidation and talent that Weber has. He is the complete package for a defenseman since he can score, hit, play defense and lead a team.
As long as Erik Karlsson doesn't explode for another unheard-of offensive season, Weber should be considered the favorite to win the Norris Trophy.
Nashville Will Again Have the League's Best Powerplay
The Predators finished last season with the league's best powerplay unit, cashing in on the man advantage 21.6 percent of the time.
The powerplay was led by Shea Weber, the quintessential powerplay quarterback who netted twelve powerplay goals as a defenseman.
Nashville also plays Chicago and Columbus, two of the worst penalty-killing teams in hockey, six times a year; as well as Detroit, who could see a decline in penalty-kill statistics without Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart.
Roman Josi Will Step Up in the Place of Ryan Suter
Either Josi or Kevin Klein will likely be Shea Weber's new defensive partner.
Josi had a decent rookie season in 2011-12 and has a lot of potential in terms of talent. If he is paired with someone like Weber, his game will take off and Nashville fans won't miss Suter as much as they do right now.
The Predators Will Develop a Rivalry with the Phoenix Coyotes
This Spring, the Coyotes made quick work of the Predators in a series that was not nearly as close as many thought it would be.
The series proved to be fairly physical and both teams have a lot in common. For example, they both have physically intimidating yet decent scorers for captains (if Shane Doan remains with Phoenix), they both have terrific goalies in Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith, and they are two teams from non-traditional hockey markets that have been some of the best in the league in the past few seasons.
Barry Trotz Will Win the Jack Adams Award
Barry Trotz has been the Predators' head coach ever since their very first game back in 1998, being one of the longest tenured coaches in hockey.
He has also proven to be one of hockey's best coaches, as he always seems to find ways to compete amongst the league's elite without a star-studded roster.
If Trotz can have yet another good season with the Predators despite all the criticism that they have faced this offseason, he will be a favorite for the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year.
Colin Wilson Will Become One of the League's Better Forwards
The 22-year-old had a terrific season in 2011-12 and has nothing but upside. He was great on the powerplay and in clutch situations, finishing second on the team in game-winning goals.
Since he is only 22 years of age, Wilson will have more time to develop and will likely play a bigger role this season with Francis Bouillon, Andrea Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov, and Jordin Tootoo gone.
Wilson will become one of the top offensive leaders on the team.
The NHL Will Make a Rule Regarding Catfish
Predators fans have been throwing catfish on the ice for several years mocking the famous Octopus tradition of the Detroit Red Wings.
This year, the catfish throwing really picked up as the Predators played the Red Wings in the first round and beat them for the first time. People have now started throwing live catfish on the ice as well, as shown in this video.
Back in 2008, the NHL made a rule that Al Sobotka could not wave octopi over his head in Detroit if one was thrown onto the ice, since the slime from the octopus could get on the ice an be a hazard to players.
Since dead octopi are considered hazards by the NHL, I wouldn't be surprised if they came up with a rule involving live catfish, especially since the NHL seems to want to come up with a rule for everything.
Pekka Rinne Will Win the Vezina
The Predators are in the same division as St. Louis and Columbus; two teams that are not extremely gifted offensively.
Also, Rinne doesn't have Anders Lindback as a backup anymore, and even if that gives him and the team less protection, he could see more starts and therefore more wins.
If Rinne can put up incredible numbers yet again, even without one of his former top defensemen in Ryan Suter, he could be considered a favorite for the Vezina.
The Predators Will Make the Playoffs
Sure, the Predators lost some big pieces over the summer, but the same happened five years ago and they still managed to make the playoffs.
Also, they still have one of hockey's best defensemen, one of hockey's best goalies and one of hockey's best coaches, as well as one of the top powerplay units.
Nashville still has most of its core that went on to get fourth seed and beat the Red Wings in the first round. This team definitely has the talent needed to make the playoffs again for the eighth time in nine seasons.
They should be able to get either sixth or seventh seed.
The Predators Will Win a Playoff Series
Nashville has what it takes to beat any of these teams, and as the Kings showed us this spring, seeding doesn't exactly matter when it comes to playoff series.
The Predators will still be a team to watch for, even though they will be under the radar this season due to their heavy losses during the summer. Nevertheless, Nashville is still a good enough hockey team to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise in them.