The Predators tend to move around their offensive weapons and shuffle lines relatively often. Due to this, only Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist even eclipsed the 50 point plateau. This lack of star-power should in no way be a knock on the team as coach Barry Trotz managed to get everything he could out of a hard-working team, making the playoffs during a strong year for the Western Conference.
Nine different forwards scored more than ten goals, which helped the team finish 17th in scoring and finishing ahead of only four playoff teams– the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Phoenix Coyotes.
This team plays a rugged and hard-working style as previously mentioned which does not allow for its players to rely solely on their skill set. The only player to hit 30 was Hornqvist, which comes as a bit of a dark horse, since the young Swede never scored more than 23 goals in any league over his career.
In other words, this team cannot be relied on to produce scoring forwards. Hornqvist and Sullivan at best are depth forwards on any fantasy team which surely will scare away owners. Newly acquired center Matthew Lombardi would have led the team in points and tied with Sullivan in assists last season if he played for the Preds. That fact right there may actually ensure him fantasy value going into next season.
Nashville has not always been a fantasy black hole when it comes to forwards, but the last players to break 70 were Jason Arnott and JP Dumont two years ago and have since declined. The team needs to continue to rebuild their forward core who still suffer from the loss of Alexander Radulov.
Shea Weber leads the troops in this category and for good reason. His blistering shot and tough play on the blue line ensure him as one of the best defensemen in the game. The soon-to-be 25-year-old scored double digits in goals in three of his past four seasons and figures to continue playing his style for years to come. Team Canada even took notice and named him to their Olympic team and benefited from it as they took home the gold.
Ryan Suter has been his defensive stalwart and essentially pushed now-Canuck dman Dan Hamhuis off the team. With Weber ingrained in that number one slot, Suter solidified the number two role for years to come. Offensively, his numbers were down but his defensive game improved which also showed during the Olympics.
After the big two, the team still boasts a few weapons. Cody Franson looks primed to break out if he sees some substantial minutes. Last season he managed 6 goals and 20 points playing in only 75 percent of the season. Likewise, Alexander Sulzer could be an offensive weapon if he gets any time with the big club. Sulzer registered 20 points in 36 games last season with the Milwaukee Admirals but only played two games up in Nashville.
After those two, the roster will likely be filled out with Ryan Parent, Francois Bouillon and Kevin Klein. None of these players have shown at the NHL level they can produce offensively although Klein had a decent year in Milwaukee back in 2005-2006. All three will be relied on to play steadily in their end of the ice.
Pekka Rinne could be a top ten netminder after this past season as Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy recently wrote. His point is hard to argue as it led to the exodus of former starting netminder Dan Ellis, who left for sunnier days in Tampa Bay. Rinne carried the team to a 12-4 record after the Olympic break and really established himself as the number one goalie.
The Predators did not sign an established backup goalie yet, which could lead to Chet Pickard or Jeremy Smith seeing time with the big club. If past history is any indication, these prospects could do what Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason, Ellis and Rinne did before and take over the starting role with their solid play.
On the Bench:
Barry Trotz has manned the bench since the franchise inception back in the 1998-1999 season. Although he holds a losing record and never won a playoff series the team’s management would be foolish to let him go. Trotz has grown with the team after having no NHL experience and truly gets the most out of his team every year.
The Bottom Line:
This team always seems to perform above expectations and expecting them to do less would be less than intelligent. Expect this team to once again be a fringe playoff team come next season and continue to grow their promising young core. Players like Colin Wilson and Jon Blum figure to add to this team’s core in the near future which should hopefully help this team reach another level.