The Nashville Predators have a young core of players but some of their veteran stars are nearing the end of their chance for a Stanley Cup in Smashville.
The Nashville Predators youth movement is in full swing as 17 of their 27 players listed on the roster are 26 years old or younger. If the news that Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom will not be on the team next season and are replaced by younger players comes true it could be even more.
There are a number of players in Milwaukee that should be Nashville Predators soon. Players like Kevin Fiala, Vladimir Kamenev, and Juuse Saros are not far off from the NHL. Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg are early in their careers and the future of this team.
There are, however, some players that have been starring for this Predators team that are nearing the end of their time that they will have a chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Nashville Predators.
The big three that are in that boat are Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, and Mike Fisher. They have played a combined 27 years for the Preds. All are at least 30 and Fisher will be 36 in a few days. It would be great to see them holding the Stanley Cup over their heads at the Bridgestone arena.
All three had pros and cons at some time during the season. That is to be expected when you get to a certain age. It could be even more prevalent moving forward. There are other players currently on the roster like Barret Jackman but these three are still players that the team revolves around. Let’s take a look at them.
Going into last season there were some questions about Weber dropping off some. He answered those questions with an exclamation mark. The Captain had his third-most goals in a season with 20 and added 51 points which was also his third best year. He made the All-Star team and fired another 108 mph slap shot.
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As well as he played offensively, for the first time he may have been overshadowed a bit by his defensive partner, Roman Josi. He has made his partners look good in the past too.
played alongside Weber and won a huge Free Agent contract from it.
There were times this season when Weber might have looked just a half step slower on defense. It has been well chronicled how he wasn’t at his best in the Game 7 against San Jose in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Weber will be 31 this August.
Although Weber is a big defenseman, it takes a toll on you when you throw your body around as much as he does too. It tends to wear down after age 30.
That being said, it appears that Shea Weber still has the stuff to be a top 20 defenseman in this league for another year or two at least. But as has been said in previous articles, just like in “The Lion King“, there is a circle of life in the NHL and Weber is closer to the end than the beginning.
It was certainly an interesting year for Pekka Rinne. There were questions about him most of the season as he certainly didn’t have his best year. A .908 Save Pct. and 2.48 Goals against Avg. were well below his career averages of .917 and 2.37. And even further below his previous year of .923 and 2.18.
Most of the analysis wondered if he continues to play too many games. His past two seasons he played 64 and 66. Only Jonathan Quick and Braden Holtby have played more in the past two seasons. There were worries that he would be tired for the playoffs too. From the Predators Website:
"“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Rinne said. “I wanted to be better during the regular season. I always have high expectations for myself. I thought that it was hard to get consistency going on throughout the season. I feel like I had a lot of good games, but it would follow an average game. It was frustrating at times. My goal is to raise my level of my game to where I need it to be, and where I want it to be.”"
Pekka Rinne was more back to himself in the playoffs. Although his playoff stats may not show it, there were times when he was simply brilliant and held the Predators into many games. He was the Im-Pekka-ble goalie that we’ve come to know and love.
There are some details to the Nashville Predators goaltending situation that need to be answered. Carter Hutton is a free agent and may or may not be signed. Marek Mazanec played last season and Milwaukee and appears ready for a backup role. Juuse Saros was spectacular in his first season for Milwaukee but needs at least another year of seasoning there.
Pekka will be 34 in November and there are a number of statistics that show dramatic dropoffs in goaltender numbers around this time. For some, it’s a bit sooner, for some a bit later. The window for Pekka Rinne is shortening quickly.
The old guard of our trio is Mike Fisher. He has become a fan favorite in the six years he has been a Pred. He is known for both his hard work ethic and his beautiful Country Superstar wife, Carrie Underwood.
Fisher will be 36 years old in two weeks and in the final year of a two-year contract. You have to wonder if this will be his last year with the Nashville Predators.
He’s averaged 60 games a season the past four years and he’s also averaged over 15 goals a season while only playing, in essence, an average of three-quarters of a season. His banging, relentless, chase-into-the-corners style doesn’t lend itself to injury free seasons.
If there was any doubt that he has something left in the tank, it was dispelled in this season’s playoffs where he had five goals and seven points in 14 games and centered the Preds top scoring line.
This season, Fisher only had 13 goals in 70 games. That is a bit of a dropoff from where he has been. He moved down the list a big when Ryan Johansen joined the team to a line where he was a better fit but probably has less goal scoring pressure.
As mentioned, this could be the final season that Mike Fisher has to help bring a Stanley Cup to Nashville. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see him skating around the ice, holding it high over his head?
So while the future looks bright for the Nashville Predators, these three extremely popular players are nearing the time when they have to leave it to the younger guys. It would sure be wonderful to see them be a part of something that thy had an awful lot to do with in Nashville.
As wonderful as it is to have talented young players, there is no substitute for veteran leadership and experience. Hopefully, these players will be able to share that and build this team to something truly special.