It was a disappointing season for the Nashville Predators all around. They missed the playoffs, fired the only coach they have ever had and finished 38-32-12 for 88 points, 19th in the NHL and 6th in the Central Division.
Adding top prospect Seth Jones to an already deep blue line, the Predators were poised to make the next step and get back into the playoffs.
- Jones made an immediate impact in his rookie NHL season, with 25 points (although his -23 rating leaves something to be desired)
- Shea Weber led all NHL blueliners with 23 goals, tying his career high
- All-Star goalie Pekka Rinne missed a majority of the season (51 games) with complications from hip surgery
- The Predators didn’t have a forward reach 25 goals or 60 points
- Missing the playoffs for the second straight year cost coach Barry Trotz his job after coaching all 1148 games in franchise history
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
With a healthy Rinne, a year under Jones’ belt and Peter Laviolette bringing a new perspective behind the bench, the Predators should be able to rebound somewhat. However, they still need a couple of elite offensive players for the Preds to get back in the realm of the elite teams in the West.
5 QUESTIONS WITH PREDLINES
We asked Thomas Willis, Editor of predlines.com, a few questions about the Nashville Predators’ past season and future promise. Here are his responses:
1. What was the biggest surprise for your team?
The most shocking event this season for the Nashville Predators was a two-part series of events. First, their starting goaltender (and backbone of the team) Pekka Rinne was forced out of the lineup with a hip infection. The Finnish netminder first underwent surgery in the offseason and a complication from that procedure gave him an E. coli infection that flared up in the first month of this season. Ultimately, Rinne would miss 51 games this campaign, a blow that would cost the Predators a trip to the playoffs for the second-straight year. Out of these unfortunate events came the second-part of the most surprising thing this season, however. Rookie goalie Carter Hutton had only one previous game of NHL experience before this season, but was signed to a one-year deal to back up Rinne. But when the primary guy in the crease exited the lineup, Hutton was thrust into the spotlight. Shaky at first, Hutton ended up winning 20 games this season and guided the Predators to within three points of the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. This performance will likely earn Hutton a second stint with Nashville and should give the Predators one or their better goaltending tandems in recent memory next season. (Here’s an article on this)
2. What was the biggest disappointment for your team?
Besides the injury to Rinne that left a gaping hole in the Predators defense, Nashville’s biggest disappointment this season was their performance in the shootout. Finishing in the 9th slot in the West, technically even just two more shootout wins (one against the Dallas Stars) would have reversed their fortunes this campaign. The Predators went 2-9 in the skills competition, however, and were unable to claim the second point in too many games. The lack of flashy stickhandling and offensive skill in the Predators forward group cost them when they were one-on-one with their opponent’s netminder and in the end it cost former head coach Barry Trotz his job.
3. What is the biggest need going forward?
As they have for the last eight years, the Predators need some aid in primary scoring. Not since the club had forwards like Paul Kariya or Peter Forsberg has the team had go-to scorers and Nashville has consistently finished in the bottom portion of the NHL in scoring. Two bright spots in this area are young Swedish forwards, Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg. Both players–but especially Jarnkrok–showed a lot of potential in their stints at the NHL level last year. The club is also hoping that their new head coach Peter Laviolette will be able to coax some goals out of the lineup, the bench boss has coached a team to the top 10 in scoring six times. (Here’s an article on the young forwards) (Here’s an article on Lavy and scoring)
4. Who was your team’s MVP this season?
Like most seasons, Predators captain Shea Weber was the team’s leader and most valuable player. The defensemen led the club in points, scored 23 goals and was recently named a Norris Trophy finalist. Weber has been dominant on the blue line for years, even after Wild defenseman Ryan Suter left Nashville two years ago. In fact, the argument could be made that Weber has elevated his level of play the last couple years (Suter was Weber’s long-time defensive partner). The 28-year-old’s booming shot is the feature on Nashville’s power play and he consistently logs the toughest minutes against an opponent’s best forwards. It’s a rare gift when you can have a player that shuts down forwards like the Blackhawks Jonathan Toews or the Capitals Alexander Ovechkin, and then puts the puck in the net himself. But that’s what Weber does for Nashville night after night. (Here’s an article on Weber and the Norris)
5. What #hashtag would you use to describe your team’s season or state of the team?
The most accurate hashtag for the current state of the Predators is probably something like #timesareachangin’. With the franchise’s only coach now gone (15 seasons) and a more vocal commitment to offense coming from general manager David Poile, things feel a little different in Nashville. Honorable mention: A marketing email was sent to fans earlier this season that closed by saying “Go Perds!” The typo is now jokingly used by fans when they are particularly frustrated at the club’s play. In a move of brilliance, the team owned their mistake and generated some laughs of their by claiming the “new” name. Here’s Deadspin’s take.
Thanks to Thomas for taking the time to answer our questions. Having Rinne healthy for a full season alone will go a long way to getting them back in the playoffs