There’s lofty expectations for the Nashville Predators this season. They’ll have to work significantly harder to finish above the century mark in points.
Quickly after an exciting Stanley Cup run, the Nashville Predators cruised through the regular season to win themselves a Presidents’ Trophy. At times they made the regular season look too easy, and we as fans were just salivating for another deep playoff run. We all know how that sadly ended, and now the Predators are looking to stay near the top of the NHL.
You can’t draw any hasty conclusions through just three games. The Predators are 2-1 after dropping their home-opener to the Flames. There was a cool banner ceremony as Bridgestone Arena is finally getting some accolades for the rafters. As fun as those things are, the Predators are now an elite franchise that can’t live off of regular season accomplishments alone.
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The Predators tallied 117 points last season, the most in franchise history. Now that fans have had the taste of the highest form of regular season success, this franchise has to get it done in the postseason when it counts. The window won’t stay open for long.
Where they stand in the Western Conference
The Predators have some elite company in the Western Conference to deal with. Let’s start with the team that knocked them out in the second round of the playoffs, the Jets. They’re a matchup nightmare for the Predators as they have great goaltending, stacked scoring threats and a respectable defense. Their fans have every right to expect a Stanley Cup in the near future just like Predators fans. They’re the biggest obstacle until further notice. Conveniently enough, the Jets are next on the schedule.
You have the Golden Knights, the defending conference champions. I see them taking a small step back. It doesn’t mean they’re not among some of the best, but this season isn’t going to be as magical for them as their inaugural year. They’re not as talented in the key positions as some other teams around them, including the Predators.
The Sharks had a monumental offseason that has them firmly in the conversation to be the new team to beat. They’ve made some great moves over the past year to acquire stars Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson. The only thing that gives me some pause over them is can the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell hold up in net.
There are a handful of other formidable Western Conference teams that can rise up and take the league by storm. Most of them are Central Division foes of the Predators that will do their part in making the division race a heated one. Have fun sorting out all of those teams, but as of now the Predators on paper are better than most of them. We’ll see if that translates to another division title.
Predicting where the Predators will finish
More important than raising another regular season banner is for the Predators to give themselves the easiest path through the playoffs. That obviously means home-ice advantage. It’s not going to come as easy as it did last season. In fact, the Predators will be in a dog fight with all of the other previously mentioned teams to stay out of the wildcard spot. This doesn’t mean I think the Predators are a bad team. It means the competition is stiffer, and the parity in the Western Conference is ridiculous.
Heading into the season I had the Predators behind the Jets in the Central Division power rankings. My opinion hasn’t changed on that. We’ll see how the Predators handle them in their next game as they try to bounce back from a lackluster loss to the Flames. When you have a top line of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen you’re always in good hands. I’m still intrigued by how the juggling act will occur between Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros on who will start when.
The Predators are going to win a lot of games they’re supposed to win simply because they’re vastly more talented than a majority of teams. However, there’s going to be a lot more adversity that could force them to come well short of the 117 points they racked up last season. That’s a fair assessment to make as 117 points is a mammoth number. I see the Predators hovering right around the 100-point mark, which could very well be enough to finish second in the division.
What keeps me from unfortunately putting them as a lock to win the division is the uncertainty on the third and fourth lines. Factors like the Austin Watson suspension, Eeli Tolvanen‘s development and a lot of pressure being put on the top two lines has me a bit concerned to place them at the top of the best division in the NHL. This will all change if the Predators end up proving that they’re even better than the best two teams they’ve had in franchise history from the previous two seasons. That’s what it will take to finish ahead of my 104-point prediction.
Luckily, you don’t win Stanley Cups in the regular season. By the time March and April roll around, this team should be rounding out into their best form of hockey. Some of the uncertainty will be put to rest. With their group of elite defenseman, the JoFA line, and a proven head coach they’ll be in prime position to win their coveted first Stanley Cup.
Chad’s season point prediction: 104; 2nd place in Central