2014 Nashville Predators Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/1/2014
Last year the Nashville Predators weren't likely to be any good even if everything went their way. Their only real hope of success was if Pekka Rinne, a truly elite goalie, could get hot enough to keep the team at least somewhat on track. But then disaster struck. Three weeks into the season Rinne was hurt and lost until March. When he returned he wasn't any good, either.
In his absence they were forced to turn to Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec. On paper it didn't look like they were up to the challenge, and the paper was right in this case. Goaltending was an ongoing issue, and it was the final straw for the team - though it is tough to envision them as a playoff team even if they were allowed to build a brick wall in the crease at the start of each period.
The frustrating season led to a monumental change. Barry Trotz was the only coach that the organization had ever had, but after 15 years it was time to make a change. There was still plenty of respect for Trotz in Nashville and around the league - he was unemployed for only six weeks before being hired to coach the Capitals. In his place the team turned to Peter Laviolette, who won a remarkable Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He had most recently coached the Flyers but was fired just three games into last season. A change is going to be rough for any team after that much time, but there is enough youth, and a lot of new players, that Laviolette shouldn't face too much resistance. The guy can coach, too, so that will help.
Nashville Predators Offseason Moves
It was an active offseason for the team besides the coaching change. The biggest splash was a trade during the first round of the NHL Draft that saw James Neal, a winger with tremendous offensive potential, come over from Pittsburgh. The cost was, not surprisingly, high. They lost useful depth center Nick Spaling, but the real risk was giving up Patric Hornqvist. He was one of only four guys on the team to eclipse 20 goals - a barrier he has surpassed four times for the Predators - and at 27 he has a real chance to bloom beside one of Pittsburgh's elite centers and become extremely productive. Neal, though, should be able to more than make up for that absence providing he finds chemistry.
With Spaling gone and Mike Fisher out for a while with an Achilles injury, there was a need for center depth, and the team was aggressive in acquiring some veteran help - they brought in Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen, and Derek Roy. They also added Anton Volchenkov to bring some veteran experience to a defensive corps that is, beyond Shea Weber, extremely young.
The Predators took Kevin Fiala, a Swiss center, with the 11th pick in the NHL Draft this year. He has been very impressive in camp, and at the very least could get a look for a few games in the regular season before the team makes any decisions. Along with 20-year-old Filip Forsberg, who is likely to get a full-time spot on this team after playing 18 games over the last two years, and others, there is a lot of young talent to look forward to.
Nashville Predators NHL Outlook
There are a whole lot of things to like about this team in the long term. Neal is excellent. Forsberg, Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok are young guys with a lot of upside. Shea Weber is a rock on defense, Seth Jones is one of the top defensive prospects in the league, and Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are youngsters with huge upside as well - and Ellis has a fat new five-year contract thanks to his work so far. Pekka Rinne is back and healthy as well. The problem with it all, though, is that too many of the key parts are raw and inexperienced.
They are on a good path - and will continue to have the good coaching they have always enjoyed - but this is a long-term project. In the short term it will be crucial that the team can find pleasure in small victories, because there will be a shortage of big ones for long stretches of time.
Nashville Predators Schedule
The first eight games of the season are going to be very telling about the fate of this team. Unless the team is more ready than we think they are going to really struggle to win four of them - two against Chicago, and one each against Dallas and Pittsburgh. The other four are more manageable - Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and Arizona. The Predators need to take advantage of the easier opportunities and hope for the best in the rest. If they come out of that stretch with a decent record then there could be some hope. An early struggle could set a rough tone for the rest of the year, though.
Nashville Predators NHL Futures Odds (from Sportsbook.ag)
Oddsmakers are not excited about this team - at +8000 to win the Stanley Cup they are given a better chance than just four teams. They are +4000 to win the Western Conference, which is better than only Winnipeg and Calgary. They are second last in odds to win the brutally-tough Central Division, but the gap between them and the Top 5 teams - which are all serious playoff contenders - is huge. They sit at +7500, and the Avalanche are fifth at +1000.
2014-15 Nashville Predators Predictions
There are some fat prices available, but they just aren't fat enough to be attractive at this point. This team is in the worst possible division for a young team trying to find some form. Most of their divisional games are just brutal, and the rest of the conference is no gift, either. This team is too young to be ready. Long term they are on the right track, but this will be a rough season.
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