Ladies and gentlemen, we are days away from meaningful hockey once again filling our lives with joy. The Central is poised to be home to some great teams, and as with every year, it’s truly a toss-up as to who will wear the division crown come April.
With the clock winding down towards a new season, let's get you back to that special hockey feeling by taking a quick look at each team in the division and what you can expect from their next 82 games. Here are your 2018-19 Nashville Predators.
How Did Last Year Go?
Last season, the Predators came out firing on all cylinders, led by a revitalized PK Subban and finally, undisputedly great Pekka Rinne. Even when serious, long-term injuries threatened their defensive core, Nashville was still skating too fast to be stopped. They set a franchise record for points (117) and began the playoffs as the number one overall seed. The Predators dispatched the scrappy Avalanche in 6 games, never truly worrying about their advancement to the next round, despite some sloppy play.
Then, they had the GALL to paint the logo of a fallen southern hockey friend on a plane that was clearly not a jet and it all went to hell. Okay, maybe I got carried away (not about the curse though, I FIRMLY believe in the curse) but the Predators did go to war with the Jets in an epic 7 game series which saw wild comebacks, overtime gems and the most demoralizing beginning to a game seven ever witnessed in the modern NHL. The Nashville Predators did not advance this time. They instead sat inside Bridgestone Arena, wondering what the hell happened?
What The Hell Happened?
It can’t be overstated how big an effect being only 2 games away from the Stanley Cup in the summer of 2017 had on the Nashville Predators. The Preds became the city’s number one team. “Smashville” became an internationally acknowledged hockey town. The franchise finally had some swagger, after playing second fiddle for almost two decades to the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. Simply put, they had arrived. The Preds carried that momentum throughout the 2017-18 season, winning game after game, finding fun new ways to show off their dynamic blueliners, their speedy forwards and talented netminders. They won their first division title and their first Presidents Trophy. Then it hit. The only thing that the depth, talent & charisma of this team couldn’t defend against. Expectations. For the first time in history, the Nashville Predators were expected to win.
Nashville’s menacing defense became porous, as blueliners overstretched themselves trying to generate some offense to compensate for increasingly quiet forward lines. Opposing teams in that playoff rush only hockey has, were able to lift their physical game to match the Predators, who appeared to not have an extra gear for the postseason. They were still fast and still dangerous, but imperiousness of their prior play was nowhere to be found. Despite this, the Predators could have advanced past the Jets, if it wasn’t for the first ten minutes of game seven.
Pekka Rinne has long been a very good netminder. Last season the man was legitimately great. Come playoff time, it’s a different story. Rinne was a disaster in the Stanley Cup Finals against Pittsburgh and he lived every athlete’s worst nightmare against the Jets in last year’s final game, botching two easy saves, sucking the air out of the most raucous arena in hockey and deflating his teammates like a discarded bouncy house. My heart broke for the guy. There was no coming back from that. Rinne went to the tunnel and his team went home soon after.
Did Anything Good Happen?
Damn, I got dark.
The short answer? YES! A bunch of awesome stuff happened. They created a monument to Smashville’s infamous instrument of crime. They brought Kyle Turris to the team in a 3-way trade with Colorado & Ottawa, furthering Ottawa’s decent into chaos. Their GM made it into the US Hockey Hall of Fame. The team only lost 18 games in regulation. Pekka Rinne won the Vezina. PK Subban should have won the Norris. Subban also created an awesome outreach program called Blueline Buddies and he continued to wear fantastic hats! Filip Forsberg, now the Governor of Colorado is now starring with The Rock in Jungle Cruise. Nashville won at least three games in a row eight times, including a ten-game streak stretching from February to March. Both goalies combined for eleven shutouts. Backup Juuse Saros scored three points for God’s sake! The Tennessee Titan’s offense desecrated a fish corpse.
Did They Get Any Worse?
Nope. Even though former captain Mike Fisher is out of comebacks and Alexi Emelin departed, this team should be fine.
Are There New Faces This year?
Zac Rinaldo is around so he can be a friggin’ dumbbell.
Rocco Grimaldi was brought in solely because of his name
Dan Hamhuis left big minutes in Dallas to play just enough hockey to look worth his contract without exploiting himself as a fraud.
Austin Watson. I’m not trying to be funny for once. After his 27 game suspension and public reckoning for domestic abuse allegations, he’ll be operating under an entirely different atmosphere than last year. He might as well be a new player.
What’s Going To Happen This Year?
This team is going to wreck a lot of fools. Pekka Rinne is looking for some redemption. If this ends up being the year time catches up with the veteran, Sarros seems ready to step into the sunshine. This defense remains very scary and will be looking to prove their playoff performance was a fluke. Kyle Turris will have a full year with the team and will blossom. The formidable wingers will continue to improve, including Eeli Tovannen, who will not spend a full season in Milwaukee. The Predators are going to use their speed to shorten the ice on defense and blow it wide open on offence. They have stupid amounts of depth and will challenge for a second Presidents Trophy.
“Clubber, What’s Your Prediction For The Fight?”
52-20-10 1st in the Central: Back to Back Central Division Champs. Nashville is a lock for the playoffs. There will not be a repeat of the President’s Trophy this season, but that’s not what the Predators are looking for this year, is it? They will feast on the bottom half of the division and worry even the most elite of teams. Their real season starts in April.
That’s it for our previews, folks. Now go out there and watch some hockey!!