Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2014-15 Outlook: Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette (1st Season in NSH)
Arena: Bridgestone Arena (Capacity: 17,113)
2013-14 Record: 38-32-12 (6th in Central Division)
Record vs MIN in 2013-14: 2-3-0
2013-14 Corsi For %: 49.4% (18th in NHL)
Top Scorer: Shea Weber (56 points, 0.93 P/60)
Top Goaltender: Carter Hutton (20-11-4, 2.62 GAA, .910 SV%)

2013-14 Recap: For as bad as the 2013-14 season went for Nashville, they managed to finish just three points outside of a playoff spot. Their number one goaltender Pekka Rinne missed nearly two-thirds of the season after having hip surgery. The defensively minded Preds suffered as backup Carter Hutton was not nearly as effective as Rinne was. Rinne did end up returning late in the season, but the damage had already been done. Nashville hovered around the final playoff spot before a late surge by Dallas put them out of the postseason for the second consecutive year.

Possession Numbers:

Courtesy of Progressive Hockey

Player Deployment:

Courtesy of War on Ice

Offseason Additions-HC Peter Laviolette, LW James Neal, C Olli Jokinen, C Mike Ribero, C Derek Roy, D Anton Volchenkov: Nashville made several big moves this offseason. The first big move was bringing in former Carolina and Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette to be the new bench boss. Laviolette has come in and has vowed to make the Preds more offensively minded, which is a major change from the Barry Trotz philosophy. The second big move of the summer came on draft day when Nashville acquired James Neal from Pittsburgh. Neal is a former 40 goal scorer and should give a boost in offense that Nashville needs to compete with the other teams in the division. Nashville also gave their center position some depth by adding Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribero, and Derek Roy.

Offseason Losses-HC Barry Trotz, RW Patric Hornqvist, C Nick Spaling, D Michael Del Zotto: For the first time in franchise history, the Predators made a coaching change. Barry Trotz had been the bench boss since the team's first season in 1998-99. But after consecutive seasons of not making the postseason, the front office felt it was time to make a change. Going to Pittsburgh in exchange for Neal was Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Hornqvist was the team's top line center and the Preds tried to compensate for his absence by bringing in Ribero and Jokinen. Problem is, both are more suited to be second line center.

Top Prospects: Perhaps the two best prospects the Preds have, were acquired via trade. Filip Forsberg was acquired from the Washington Capitals in the Martin Erat trade, and Calle Jarnkrok was brought in as part of the David Legwand trade. Both are centers and both can pack a punch offensively. Forsberg looks to be a lock to make the squad out of camp as a winger, while Jarnkrok is a bubble player to make the roster. The Preds may be lacking at center right now, but with these two guys in the fold, that depth can quickly improve.

Projected Lines:

Collin Wilson-Mike Ribero-James Neal
Matt Cullen-Olli Jokinen-Filip Forsberg
Gabriel Bourque-Calle Jarnkrok-Craig Smith
Viktor Stalberg-Paul Gaustad-Eric Nystrom

Roman Josi-Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm-Seth Jones
Anton Volchenkov-Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Carter Hutton

(Projected lines courtesy of

Scouting Report: If Laviolette does indeed change the philosophy of this team, then their aggressiveness offensively will improve from the incredibly conservative system they previously played under. The Preds played back when they did not have the puck and waited for the opposition to make a mistake then capitalizing off of it (sort of like the Jacques Lemaire system). With a few more skilled forwards up front, the Preds should see a nice increase in goal production despite not having a top line center on the team. The strength of this team is in their defense and goaltending. Shea Weber is one of the better defensemen in the league, and Seth Jones projects to be right up there in skill alongside Weber. Rinne, when healthy, is one of the league's best goaltenders and as we saw last year, is a major crutch for this team. When he was out, the Preds were very weak in goal and it cost them a playoff spot. If Rinne can stay healthy this year look for them to be back in the postseason.

Check back on Saturday to see where Nashville finishes in the division.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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