Part two in our “What If?” examines the whirlwind 2012 offseason that saw major changes in Nashville. Ryan Suter left town and signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild. Subsequently, Shea Weber signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, only to have the Predators match it (that’s a hypothetical scenario for another day).
But, what if Ryan Suter had decided to stay with the Predators? Things would certainly be much different.
In case you missed it, we analyzed what would be different if the Predators moved to the Eastern Conference here.
Zach Parise Would Be A Predator
This is almost a no-brainer. Parise and Suter were in communication throughout the entire process. They decided to sign together in Minnesota for family reasons. They were even introduced together in the same press conference. If Suter had told Parise he wanted to stay in Nashville, Parise probably would have joined him. Suter probably could have sold him on the merits of Nashville as well. Predators GM David Poile even alluded to this back in 2012.
Poile: I had reached out to Parise also about his interest in Nashville. Zach would have been more interested in NSH if I had Suter signed.
— Cellblock 303 (@Cellblock303) July 4, 2012
The Predators would have had their elusive top-six forward and half of their All-Star defensive pairing locked up for awhile. That’s certainly a scary team. It is impossible to say what other free agents would have been interested in Nashville at that point, but other forwards would have certainly wanted to sign with the Predators as well.
Shea Weber Wins a Norris Trophy
Captain Shea Weber most likely would have re-upped with the Predators as soon as he heard that Suter would
be back. He would have no reason to leave. If he had been able to keep playing with a linemate like Suter, he would have captured a Norris Trophy in either 2013 or 2014.
Simply playing with a fellow All-Strar like Suter would improve Weber’s play. As we all saw when they were together in Nashville, they had unbelievable chemistry and fed off each other. Also, the team would have certainly gotten more national exposure with Parise providing a little offensive flare. More national TV games would have only helped Weber’s chances at a Norris. The lack of national exposure and a playoff team hurt his chances in 2014 when he lost to Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks.
Barry Trotz Gets Fired After 2013 Season
With a revamped roster, the Predators would go into the lockout-shortened season with high expectations. They
would qualify for the playoffs, but get bounced pretty early. With all that talent on the roster, an early playoff exit would not cut it for David Poile. Barry Trotz would be out of a job a year before his actual firing.
It is nearly impossible to say with any certainty who Poile would have hired at that point, but it is likely he would have hired someone with a very different philosophy than Trotz, perhaps more offensive-minded. It couldn’t have been Laviolette, as he was still the coach in Philadelphia at the time. Dan Bylsma was still the coach in Pittsburgh as well. Perhaps they would have pursued Kevin Dineen, who was coaching the Florida Panthers at the time (Dineen was fired by the Panthers at the start of the 2013-14 season anyway).
Predators Make Conference Final in 2013-14
With a new coach and a wealth of talent (young and old) the Predators would have had a deep playoff run in 2014. With the way the West turned out this year, the Predators would have made it either as the third team from the Central or the top Wild Card team. They probably would have fallen to the Los Angeles Kings in the Conference Final (come on, they were almost unbeatable). This team would have been something very special, rallying the city behind them. Imagine the Smashville faithful roaring and yelling as the Predators took the ice with a shot at the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s nice to dream sometimes, isn’t it?