In recent years, the Nashville Predators have been stuck in NHL purgatory in that the franchise is never good enough to be a serious contender in the playoffs but never bad enough to possibly draft that franchise-changing talent at the top of the first round. The Preds have qualified for the postseason in every year but one since 2004 but still haven’t won a playoff series.
Last year, the Preds finished with 100 points, which is the third time in the past five seasons they reached triple digits, and ended up third in the Central Division. Nashville did give the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks major headaches in last year’s first round, however. Don't forget that Nashville was less than 60 seconds from taking a 3-2 series lead on the Blackhawks but gave up a short-handed goal to Patrick Kane with 13.6 seconds left in Game Five and then an overtime winner to Marian Hossa. It was the closest the Hawks came to being in dire trouble in last season’s playoffs.
The 2010-11 Nashville Predators schedule opens at home against the Ducks.
Nashville Predators Offseason Moves
Budgetary concerns probably are always going to play a big role in how this small-market franchise operates. This offseason GM David Poile traded team captain Jason Arnott in a deal that brought him $4.5 million in cap space and as well as a young, inexpensive forward in Matt Halischuk. Poile used that cap room to sign Matthew Lombardi as Arnott's replacement. He also signed restricted free-agent defenseman Ryan Parent after acquiring him from the Flyers for defenseman Dan Hamhuis.
Poile also traded the rights to free agent goaltender Dan Ellis (now in Tampa) and restricted free agent forward Dustin Boyd to the Montreal Canadiens for the rights to restricted free agent Sergei Kostitsyn, a talented but inconsistent player. Ellis really isn’t much of a loss because Pekka Rinne emerged as the clear-cut starter in the latter part of last season.
Probably the biggest move was the Preds re-signing restricted free agent Patric Hornqvist to a three-year, $9.25 million extension. Hornqvist was the final overall pick in the 2005 draft but exploded with 30 goals last season.
Nashville Predators Predictions: Outlook
Nashville has two excellent defensemen in captain Shea Weber and Ryan Suter—that’s easily a top-five pairing in the NHL. And defense no doubt will again be the team’s calling card, although Hamhuis will be missed. Nashville was the only Western Conference playoff team that did not finish the 2009-10 regular season with a positive goal differential. But the Predators were an excellent 28-9-6 in one-goal games.
The offensively challenged club is banking on the 22-year-old Kostitsyn finally living up to his purported talent—he has just 24 goals in his 155 career games and never has had more than nine in a single season. Plus, he was known as a very high-maintenance player in Montreal (i.e. he had an attitude problem). The Predators also could use a bounce-back season from David Legwand, who slipped to 38 points last year. Martin Erat (whose giveaway led to the Kane goal in the playoffs), J.P. Dumont, Colin Wilson (15 points in 35 games as a rookie) and Steve Sullivan round out the top forwards on the club.
Nashville better hope that Rinne (32-16-5, 2.53 goals-against average and .911 save percentage last season) wasn’t a one-year wonder because there’s no experienced backup now. Rinne played in 58 games last year and probably will be counted on for at least 65 this season.
Nashville Predators NHL Odds
The Preds over/under for points is 89.5. They are +1000 to win the Central Division, which is third in the division with St. Louis. Nashville is 25/1 to win the West and 50/1 to hoist the Cup.
NHL Predictions for Nashville Predators
You know this team will be well-coached by Barry Trotz—the Preds were the least penalized team in the NHL, averaging just 8.7 minutes a night. And you know it will play plenty of close, low-scoring games. The best finish this team can probably hope for is third in the Central and sixth in the conference. Take the over 89.5 points but don’t expect that first playoff series win to come this season.