#1 Loss of James Neal
The number one reason for why the Predators will struggle in 2017-18 is because of the loss of James Neal. But more specifically, because the Predators did not replace Neal. Sure, Nashville has one of the best first lines in all of hockey, but after that there is no true scorer on the team. There are players who can become this, such as Fiala, Aberg, and even Smith, but as for now there is still no true scorer after the first line.
Nashville has brought in new players to the team, but they will likely not be able to match what Neal brought to the table. Nick Bonino is going to come and fill his role as a center, but I will be extremely shocked if he surpasses 20 goals or 40 points on the season. Scott Hartnell, on the other hand, definitely has the ability to replicate Neal’s numbers, the question is if his body can handle it. Hartnell’s age is not doing him any favors, and he will likely get his minutes limited to that of a third liner.
One thing that will help ease the blow of losing Neal is the amount of offense Nashville gets from its defense. Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, and Ryan Ellis will always be a threat to score. That is what makes this Nashville team so unique. Regardless, not having that solid scoring option past the first line will likely hurt Nashville at some point. If Nashville does not make a move before the season starts, I would fully expect Poile to be a buyer at the trade deadline.