Saturday, August 22, 2009

Preseason Preview: Nashville Predators

It's time for another Preseason Preview. This is where we check out the teams going into the season.

Now, the Nashville Predators.

Team M.O.: Denfensive-minded and industrious, the team has been lead by G.M. David Poile and Coach Barry Trotz since their inception. They've battled ownership issues but have usually been able to compile a competitive squad on a limited amount of funds. They're in the Central Division though, so a limited budget is hurting a whole lot more than it used to.

Last Season: They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last season. They did respectably well but were in such a deep division in the league that the four other teams in the division were the ones who made it to the playoffs because it's seldom, if ever, when all five teams in one division to make the playoffs.

Offense: Well, they aren't too deep as far as NHL-proven top-six forwards go, so they'll probably have to rely on their younger talent to round out the roster spots left open by various departures. Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Martin Erat are legitimate top-six forwards, but I don't think they scare anyone as a first-line option. With David Legwand centering the second line, they'll need Ryan Jones to step up his game for that role while praying that Steve Sullivan remains injury free. Going deeper into the depth chart, we see industrious players like Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson, premiere agitator Jordin Tootoo, and utility enforcer Wade Belak get an excellent compliment with the newly acquired Ben Guite and Marcel Goc. Patric Hornqvist has probably graduated to the team by default, so the team may do well to invite a bottom-six forward to training camp to compete with some of the younger guys for that last spot. I'd sign another top-six forward if I were the team, but I don't think they have the option to do that.

Defense: The Preds have an excellent top-pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, both of whom are excellent in all aspects of the defense position (Weber gets the slight not because he has more of mean streak.) However, they need to get a second-pairing defenseman to pair with Dan Hamhuis and a third pairing defender to pair with Kevin Klein. This is even considerate of having Alexander Sulzer graduate to the big club this season. That said, they should look for guys like Mathieu Dandenault and Dennis Seindenberg, both of whom could be had for an affordable price, to help round out the wholes in the defense. I think they may wait to see who hits the waivers until they round it out entirely. Who knows, Andy Delmore may return to Nashville via waivers from Detroit this season.

Goaltending: Pekka Rinne did what every Nashville goalie has done before him and that's take the starting job away from the incumbent. Dan Ellis had a great season two years ago, but someone figured out that he struggles with long shots, which is probably the biggest reason he had a pedestrian season last year. These guys are good as the team's goatenders though, and if anything, should look for a veteran minor goalie to shore up with Mark Dekanich.

Expectations: This team has a heart of gold, but there's too many holes in the team overall that will allow them to withstand injury without it becoming a major issue for the club's success. Unless they get better fortified by camp, I don't expect them to make the playoffs this season.

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