There is no doubting expectations are high for the Nashville Predators. Certainly, the roster can win it all, but the season should not hinge on Cup alone.
Expectations. We all have them and use them daily. We get up and expect our coffee to jumpstart our day. Or, living in Nashville, we expect traffic on I-24 to be standing still. The expectations for movies drives our desire to see them opening night. Yet, often enough, our expectations fall short of reality. We may be making the same mistake with the Nashville Predators.
Prior to the 2016-17 season, no one was talking about the Predators as Stanley Cup contenders. They were barely in the discussion for a top three spot in the Central Division. Sure, they made the playoffs in years prior, but only surpassed the first round three times. During the season, Nashville won 41 games, the same as the year before. They squeaked into the playoffs and faced the Western Conference’s top team – and their rival. The Chicago Blackhawks.
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Since that moment, reality flipped for both teams. The Blackhawks were swept out of the playoffs and dropped to the basement of the Central Division last season. For the Nashville Predators, they fought all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. They followed this up with winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season.
This season, the Predators quickly moved to the top of the Central Division and Western Conference. Expectations are extremely high for the team. Fans, including myself, watch games with the expectation for the team winning. Sadly, going 82-0-0 is unrealistic. But, through 11 games, the Predators are 8-3-0. Anything is possible from here on out.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves
Facts are facts. Each year, only one team wins the Stanley Cup. Two teams make the Final. That means 29 others are playing golf and watching from their couch. Fourteen teams have not won The Cup in over 20 years. Toronto hasn’t won The Cup in 50 years. Twelve teams have yet to win the Cup in their history, including the Nashville Predators. St. Louis made the Finals three times, but not since 1970.
Getting the Conference Final is difficult enough. The last four seasons witnessed 7 different teams in the Western Conference Final. The previous four seasons, only four teams made it that far.
The main concern I have regarding the Predators making it to the Stanley Cup Final is simple. There are too many good teams in the Central Division and Western Conference. Right now, five teams sit within two points of each other in the Central. All but two teams in the conference have 10 or more points. Of course, some teams have played more games than others, which does not help the cause.
Yes. The Predators’ roster is deep. What if another injury occurs? Pekka Rinne is still on Injured Reserve with no news on his return. He did participate in the morning skate today. Juuse Saros is a great backup, but he is still young and learning. The defensemen were playing better early in the season, but Dan Hamhuis is out with an injury now.
And, let’s not discuss the special teams.
The true concern with the high expectations is simply this: the Predators have not won a Stanley Cup. The list of teams that can have a “Stanley Cup or Bust” expectation is extremely small. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Blackhawks have three Cups each in the last 9 seasons. They may be the only two teams who’s fanbases can think “Cup or Bust.”
Make no mistake. I want the Nashville Predators to win The Cup. This roster can win it all, and I will be on Broadway to celebrate with everyone. Certainly, the least we should expect is the Predators to go to Game 7 in the second round. Anything less would be disappointing. But, losing out on the Stanley Cup is not mean failure.