The lockout-shortened season of 2013 contained little worth remembering for the Nashville Predators and their fans. If defense was a challenge, offense was the Predators’ Mount Everest.
One hundred eleven goals represented the lowest total in the NHL and 2.3 goals per game was ranked 29th.
As much as offense was lacking in 2013, defense wasn’t far behind.
Twentieth in goals against and the 29th (75.7%) ranked penalty kill helped to pile on the losses.
16-23-9, 41 points. Shutout a league-high nine times.
A terrible season. An embarrassing season. A season that lacked all of the “Predator elements” we’re used to seeing.
Since the team skated to a final 3-1 loss to Columbus on April 27th, a plethora of excuses have been made by general manager David Poile, head coach Barry Trotz, the players and the fans. Too many injuries. Pekka Rinne wasn’t 100 percent. The shortened season and training camp didn’t give the Preds enough time to implement their system.
Excuses? Sure, there’s no debating that—but the better question is if they’re valid or misplaced. Was the 2013 season really a fluke for the Nashville Predators or was it a prediction of future outcomes?
Let’s take a look at the three main excuses in order.
Injuries: If a team says they’re struggling because of injuries, it’s probably an excuse. They do affect every single team, after all.
The Predators lost 125 man games due to injury in a 48-game season. Sounds like a lot, but that total doesn’t even crack the top ten, putting the Preds in the 15 spot. Six of the 14 teams with more injuries than Nashville still managed to make the playoffs. And you can’t even argue this was a surprisingly bad year for Nashville when it comes to injuries. In 2010-2011, the team lost 346 games (8th). A year in which they not only made the playoffs, but advanced to the second round. In 2013, the Predators did play a large number of games without the services of Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist and Gabriel Bourque, but teams survive without some of their top six forwards all the time.
I’m not buying this one.
Pekka’s hip: We’ve been told Pekka Rinne’s save percentage, GAA and overall performance were down because he wasn’t playing at 100 percent. Rinne played most of the season with inflammation and pain in his left hip, something that certainly could have hindered his ability to control rebounds, stretch from post to post or held him back mentally. But is that enough to blame a bad season on? He did play in 43 of 48 games after all.
Frankly, I can’t really sit here and argue whether Rinne’s injury was severe or not; only he can truly speak to how much he was held back by it. The Finnish goalie did have arthroscopic surgery in early May to repair the hip and his recovery time is set at four months. It is worth nothing that Minnesota Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom and Tim Thomas both underwent the same type of procedure and bounced back to have better years the next season. (Thomas even won the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup the season after his surgery).
I would normally call this one a push, but since the chances are pretty high Rinne will feel and perform better due to his surgical maintenance; I’ll allow this one to be labeled as valid.
System Implementation: The compacted schedule not only made for a short training camp to begin the year; it also led to less practice time during the season.
So, what’s the big deal you say? It’s just practice. Allen Iverson agrees with you; Barry Trotz does not.
Trotz told the Nashville City Paper: “One thing that this season did, is not allow you to practice, I think we’re a team that needs to practice. That’s the way we’re made up. Our DNA is we like to practice and we get to work on things. I think we have to have a lot of reps.”
For a lot of other teams, this would go down as an excuse. Not so for Nashville. For a team whose recipe for success is a mixture of hard work, grit and most importantly—responsibility, not having the proper time to implement the organization’s system is a huge issue. The Preds can rarely (if ever) win a game based on talent. What they can do is out-work, out-defend and out-hustle their opponent and—with some Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne sprinkled in—get the W.
I’ve been watching Preds hockey for a lot of years now and I’ve got to say this excuse passes the eye-test for me. I could see the lack of positioning and determination that are usually present. It’s likely less practice time played some kind of role in the Predators terrible season.
That puts our total at one unfounded excuse and two valid ones.
If Rinne’s recovery continues to progress and if the new players on the roster are able to grasp and execute Trotz’s system, I think we can safely file last season’s campaign as a fluke. In a game of fluke or future, I’m calling fluke.