Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's Next 2011: Nashville Predators

It was a banner year for the Nashville Predators, going further than any previous Predators teams and then actually showing they could keep up with the top team in the NHL. However, the downfall of the team was something that could very well be fixed in the off-season for them.

When it comes to defensively, the Predators are definitely solid-- with Shea Weber leading the charge and getting him signs should be top priority, because if it gets to July 1st-- he will be offer-sheeted at 12:01 AM. That said, with Weber as the cornerstone-- the young core they have is stellar; Ryan Suter helps the offensive cause with Weber, Cody Franson is slowly developing into a solid two-way player, and Kevin Klein rebounded from last year nicely and honing his stay-at-home prowess. The defense is definitely the main point for the Preds game-plan and they've build it up very nicely.

In net, it seems that Pekka Rinne has really broken the curse of Tomas Vokoun leaving and has solidified himself as top-tier goalie-- especially with his Vezina Trophy nomination. Even so, Anders Lindback had a decent season as a back-up in his first season in North America; which could provide a solid 1-2 punch going forward-- but Rinne is going to be the guy for years to come, or so the Preds hope.

Offense is really the big thing that could be holding the Predators back. With only two guys hitting the (exactly) 50-point plateau and only two guys having more than 20 goals; it could be the reasoning they couldn't have beat the Canucks. That said, Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist are definitely guys who can reach for a big output if they're given the free reign, while Sergei Kostitsyn did a lot for getting paid a little-- which could turn out to give him a solid payday this summer. Also, Joel Ward's performance in the playoffs should get him a nice contract this summer as well. The addition of Mike Fisher should bring not only a veteran presence, but a solid forecheck for the defensive front.

In the end, the Preds did more than many expected and brought the city alive and into hockey, which many people doubt for the past........several years. They have a lot to build on and all the tools to make Nashville a hot spot for hockey in the next few years.

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