Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010-2011 Nashville Predators Preview

The Nashville Predators
Michael Jackson's Favorite Team
I hear ya knocking but ya can't come in.
Last Year's Results

47 wins, 29 losses, 6 OTL, 100 points, 8th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Nashville Predators are the very model for success as an expansion team as the Predators are a team that thrive in a non-traditional hockey market with a modest internal budget through moneypuck decisions and one of the most competent management groups in the league. Despite being a perennial playoff team making the post-season five out of the last six years this team has never been out of the first round. The Predators have reached a level of respect in this league but needs a franchise defining post season run to take hockey in Tennessee to the next level. The question for the Predators is will they be able to go deep in the post-season? 

The Predators are led up front by the last pick of the 2005 draft Patric Hornqvist who's blossomed into one of the finest crease crashing forwards in the league. The 23-year old Hornqvist who played his first full season last year exploded with 30 goals and displayed one of the most unique playing styles I've seen in the NHL. The young Swede promises to be among league leaders in goals and shots on goal this season. Likely playing on the opposite wing is venerable veteran Steve Sullivan who had a very nice complete 82 game bounce back campaign after six years of frustrating injury plagued seasons. Sullivan is one of the more competitive players in the league but is beginning to get long in the tooth and still has injury concerns based on his history. Look for Sullivan to have another great year in a complimentary scoring role if he can stay healthy. General manager David Polie's biggest moneypuck acquisition this off-season was speedy center Matt Lombardi who will have the greatest production opportunity of his career in Nashville. Lombardi has never been confused with an elite offensive player but displays a solid two-way acumen and has a game that'll fit the Predators like a glove. Look for Lombardi to have a career year with the Predators.

Predators' fans are very excited about 20-year old Colin Wilson who's a former seventh overall pick. Wilson will get a full time role on the NHL roster as the Predators will rely upon him to produce in the top six. The Predators broke the young winger in with 35 games and expect him to be a 20 goal 15 minutes a night guy. Wilson is a strong candidate to be a breakout player much like Hornqvist last season. David Legwand has never lived up to his second overall draftee tag but will suppliment offensive production as the other top six pivot for the Predators. Legwand is another player that's struggled with injury concerns but managed a complete season and a great post-season last year. The 30-year old American is a player that can be relied upon for a point every other game. Another late round gem for the Predators, Martin Erat has developed into one of the better complimentary scorers in the game. The Czech winger has a gift for creativity in the offensive zone and has found decent shot in recent years. Erat will likely eclipse 20 goals and 50 points this season. 

JP Dumont has been one of the more consistent scorers in the NHL since the lockout but is finding himself gradually being pushed down the depth chart in Nashville. Dumont is another player who will likely break the 50 point ceiling but speculatively remains a likely candidate to wind up on a different team before the season ends. Another moneypuck acquisition by Nashville was German center Marcel Goc who was largely on his way out of the league before finding a home as the Predators' third line center. Goc had a career year last season and displays a competent two-way acumen and work ethic. Likely rounding out the third line will be the fiesty Jordin Tootoo who's garnered the reputation has one of the most agitating players in the league. Tootoo is exactly what you want in a grinder as he has a solid work ethic and defensive game but limited offensive upside. Likely to bounce between the second and third line this season is another moneypuck player in Joel Ward. Another stereotypical Predators player, Ward is hard-working player with a two-way acumen who's found a home in Nashville after bouncing around collegiate and minor league teams. 

Rounding out the forward group for Nashville is gritty defensive center Jerred Smithson. Heavyweight enforcer and arguably the heavyweight champ right now Wade Belak. Jonas Andersson who was a 2nd round pick in this franchise's second ever draft has returned from several years in european leagues and will look to factor into the Predators' lineup. Stereotypical eastern european winger Sergei Kostitsyn will look to factor into the Predators' in a scoring role this season but has character issues he's going to have to overcome to survive and thrive in Nashville's system. Likely to be the first call-up from the AHL this season will be playmaking center Cal O'Reily who absolutely blew up the AHL last season and could find himself getting a permanent role on this team in the not to distant future.

The Predators have one of the finest defensive cores in the league and their back-end remains this team's biggest strength. Leading from the blueline is newly christened captain Shea Weber who's developed into a franchise defenseman and was a key component on Team Canada's gold winning team last year. Weber displays the grit and tenacity necessary to be a first tier defensive player while having one of the most explosive slapshots in the league. The scary thing is Weber is only 25-years old and will just continue to get better for the next few years. Weber's defensive partner will be 25-year old Ryan Suter who some day to day followers of the Predators claim is even better than Weber. Suter is a talented three zone defenseman who will put up a healthy amount of points and play a sound defensive game.  It's a strong likelihood that both Weber and Suter could have career years.

Last season saw the emergence of highly touted 23-year old Cody Franson as the newest graduate in the defenseman factory in Nashville. Franson is a big bodied defenseman who shows a special offensive flair and will likely develop into a point machine from the blueline. Also Franson will have expanded opportunity with the departure of Dan Hamhuis. Keep an eye on Franson this season as he's a likely candidate to break out. Likely to play with Franson is long time veteran defensive defenseman Francis Boulion who's been yet another smart moneypuck signing for the Predators. Bouillon is a safe minutes eater who can handle tough minutes but lack the size or intangibles to his game to be much more than a complimentary defenseman.

The Predators' defensive core is rounded out by another graduate of the Nashville defenseman factory 25-year old Kevin Klein who hasn't found the consistency indicative of his skills in the pro game yet. Former 18th overall 23-year old Ryan Parent will look to have his role expanded this year. Parent is a hard-nosed defensive defenseman who boasts size and poise in his game but has lacked the game to game performance to become a shutdown defenseman. Offensive defenseman Alexander Sulzer could see significant game time this year as the Predators' seventh defenseman.

The one weak link for the Predators I feel lies in goal. The Predators will be entering the season with their complete hopes relying upon Pekka Rinne to carry this team as it's number one. Rinne is a big positional goalie who has notched adequate numbers in his previous two seasons as the Predators' number one but lacks the track record of a proven commodity. Also Rinne is stuck as a middle of the pack goalie in the NHL and hasn't displayed game changing talent. Behind Rinne is largely a question mark at the time of this writing as the Predators don't have an established backup and will look to one of their prospects to take this role. The contest is largely between two prospects. 24-year old Mark Dekanich had an excellent year in the AHL last season and looks to have outgrown that league and be ready for the show. Dekanich is largely the favorite right now to take the backup role. Competing with Dekanich is huge 6-6 Swedish goaltender Anders Lindback who's been a standout so far in training camp. Lindback will likely begin the season in the AHL to get accustomed to North American hockey but remember this kid's name as he will factor into the Predators' long term plans.

Team Trending

The Predators are a strange team in that they always seem to play much better than what they look like on paper. Led by one of the finest head coaches in the game Barry Trotz this team seems to defy the odds each season making it to the post-season despite playing in arguably the toughest division in the entire league. The Predators will likely make the post season again and come in somewhere between 14th-18th in the league.

BVB's Projecting Opening Night Lineup




Player Projections


Steve Sullivan - 18 G/36 A 54 P
Matt Lombardi - 22 G/35 A 57 P
Patric Hornqvist - 37 G/31 A 68 P

Colin Wilson - 20 G/23 A 43 P
David Legwand - 17 G/31 A 48 P
Martin Erat - 23 G/29 A 52 P

JP Dumont - 16 G/31 A 47 P
Marcel Goc - 13 G/19 A 32 P
Joel Ward - 10 G/18 A 28 P

Jonas Andersson - 4 G/14 A 18 P
Jarred Smithson - 7 G/7 A 14 P
Jordin Tootoo - 4 G/10 A 14 P

Sergei Kostitsyn - 4 G/12 A 16 P


Shea Weber - 14 G/31 A 45 P
Ryan Suter - 6 G/35 A 41 P
Cody Franson - 7 G/22 A 29 P
Francis Bouillon - 2 G/10 A 12 P
Kevin Klein - 0 G/11 A 11 P
Ryan Parent - 0 G/7 A 7 P


Pekka Rinne -  33-23-5 | 2.66 GAA | .913 Sv%
Mark Dekannich - 9-10-2 | 2.91 GAA | .902 Sv%

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