The Nashville Predators were favourites to go all the way to the 2019 Stanley Cup final, but surprised everyone by falling to the Dallas Stars in round one. Hoping to avoid a repeat this season, some big personnel changes have been made. Let’s preview what the Preds 2019-20 should look like:
First Key Game: Minnesota Wild – October 3rd
Odds to win the division
17:4 (t-3rd overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
The Preds are deep and a legitimate contender, but the Central division is absolutely loaded and is arguably the best division in hockey. You have the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, the Jets (with whom they’ve quickly formed a nice little rivalry), the reloaded Stars, the young, exciting, and bettor’s favourite Avalanche. Even the Blackhawks can’t be counted out. It’s not going out on a limb, but far from a sure thing.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Can the Preds new look offence muster enough to get the job done? The Preds are stacked on the blueline, so much so they could part with All-Star P.K. Subban in order to sign free agent Matt Duchene…and his guitar. They’ve consistently been a contender for several years (losing to Pittsburgh in the 2017 final) but have been so relying on Vezina trophy winner Pekka Rinne (At least until important playoff games) and their star studded defensive core led by captain Roman Josi.
The Preds lost in 6 games to the Stars in the first round last year and mustered only 12 goals. 2 goals per game isn’t going to get it done in today’s NHL so the acquisition of Duchene was meant to bolster their second line and add some depth scoring to push them over the top. If they can find some chemistry, and Rinne can be the Rinne of the regular season, the Preds may finally get the job done.
Player to watch
Kyle Turris: Turris is coming off a down season (23 pts. in 55 games) and is likely headed for a demotion as Matt Duchene, the guy he was essentially, kinda, sorta traded for in Ottawa, will take over second line centre duty behind Ryan Johansson. Whether head coach Peter Laviolette moves him to the wing, maintaining a top six role, or the third line, he’ll have to adjust.
Depending on how quickly he finds his stride will play a big factor in any chance the Preds have to make legitimate cup run. Turris has proven he can contribute in the postseason (was a key cog in the Sens’ 2016 playoff run) and the Preds as a team are often starving for offence, so a bounce back season would help them live up to their moniker.
Depth scoring: The Preds will have to get goals from guys outside their top six, or top pair, if they’ve got a championship in them. They tried to find some last year, adding Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle before the trade deadline, but to no avail as they were bounced in the first round by Dallas.
GM David Poile has never been shy about making moves, and it’s likely he goes out and acquires more pieces at or before the deadline again. However, in an ideal world guys like Colton Sissons, Craig Smith, and Calle Jarnkrok step up and take the pressure off Forsberg, Arvedson and co. If they can, the Stanley Cup may see a party the likes it which it won’t soon forget.
If the Nashville Predators were an animal, what would they be?
A Lobster: A tough character whose defensive shell is difficult to crack. Fittingly its best offence is often derived from its large claws, generally used for defence.