Nashville Predators Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

5 Things: Predators Season Recap

Recapping the Nashville Predators 2013-2014 season, here are the biggest surprises, disappointments, needs and more going forward.
1.  What was the biggest surprise for the Predators?
     The most shocking event this season for the Nashville Predators had two parts. First, their starting goaltender (and backbone of the team) Pekka Rinne was forced out of the lineup with a hip infection. The Finnish netminder first underwent surgery in the offseason and a complication from that procedure gave him an E. coli infection that flared up in the first month of this season. Ultimately, Rinne would miss 51 games this campaign, a blow that would cost the Predators a trip to the playoffs for the second-straight year. Out of these unfortunate events came the second-part of the most surprising thing this season, however. Rookie goalie Carter Hutton had only one previous game of NHL experience before this season, but was signed to a one-year deal to back up Rinne. But when the primary guy in the crease exited the lineup, Hutton was thrust into the spotlight. Shaky at first, Hutton ended up winning 20 games this season and guided the Predators to within three points of the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. This performance will likely earn Hutton a second stint with Nashville and should give the Predators one or their better goaltending tandems in recent memory next season.
2.  What was the biggest disappointment?
     Besides the injury to Rinne that left a gaping hole in the Predators defense, Nashville’s biggest disappointment this season was their performance in the shootout. Finishing in the ninth slot in the West, technically even just two more shootout wins (one against the Dallas Stars) would have reversed their fortunes this campaign. The Predators went 2-9 in the skills competition and were unable to claim the second point in too many games. The lack of flashy stickhandling and offensive skill in the Predators forward group cost them when they were one-on-one with their opponent’s netminder, and in the end, it cost former head coach Barry Trotz his job.
3.  What is the biggest need going forward?
     As they have for the last eight years, the Predators need some aid in primary scoring. Not since the club had forwards like Paul Kariya or Peter Forsberg has the team had go-to scorers and Nashville has consistently finished in the bottom portion of the NHL in scoring. Two bright spots in this area are young Swedish forwards, Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg. Both players–but especially Jarnkrok–showed a lot of potential in their stints at the NHL level last year. The club is also hoping that their new head coach Peter Laviolette will be able to coax some goals out of the lineup, the bench boss has coached a team to the top 10 in scoring six times.
4. Who was your team’s MVP this season?
     Like most seasons, Predators captain Shea Weber was the team’s leader and most valuable player. The defenseman led the club in points, scored 23 goals and was recently named a Norris Trophy finalist. Weber has been dominant on the blue line for years, even after Wild defenseman Ryan Suter left Nashville two years ago. In fact, the argument could be made that Weber has elevated his level of play the last couple years (Suter was Weber’s long-time defensive partner). The 28-year-old’s booming shot is the feature on Nashville’s power play and he consistently logs the toughest minutes against an opponent’s best forwards. It’s a rare gift when you can have a player that shuts down forwards like the Blackhawks Jonathan Toews or the Capitals Alexander Ovechkin, and then puts the puck in the net himself. But that’s what Weber does for Nashville night after night.
5. What #hashtag would you use to describe your team’s season or state of the team?
     The most accurate hashtag for the current state of the Predators is probably something like #timesareachangin’. With the franchise’s only coach now gone (15 seasons) and a more vocal commitment to offense coming from general manager David Poile, things feel a little different in Nashville. Honorable mention: A marketing email was sent to fans earlier this season that closed by saying “Go Perds!” The typo is now jokingly used by fans when they are particularly frustrated at the club’s play. In a move of brilliance, the team owned their mistake and generated some laughs of their own by claiming the “new” name. Here’s Deadspin’s take.

(I was asked by the team over at SenShot to recap the Predator season, these were my answers)

What do you think, do you agree with my responses? What would you change?

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