You can never read too much into offseason rankings and lists, but the Nashville Predators enter next season with high expectations once again.
To get people talking over this offseason, everyone likes to come up with ranking lists. Usually, they mean absolutely nothing and are nowhere close to what actually ends up happening. However, it can still be fun to have a lively debate about where the Nashville Predators end up with some of these lists.
With that in mind, NHL.com has released their offseason power rankings and it’s very interesting to see how they sorted out the league’s hierarchy post-free agency.
I’m not one to ever get worked up or over-dramatic about offseason rankings, but I’m quite surprised that the Nashville Predators come in at No.4 on this list. It’s been a hectic offseason for the Predators and they’ve gone through a lot of changes. With the exit of P.K. Subban and the arrival of Matt Duchene, it leaves me somewhat unsure about how great the Predators will be.
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There’s no doubt the Predators will be a playoff team once again and should be good enough to get past the first round. How elite they can be after that is up for debate. In regards to them being ranked at No.4, I can’t be that optimistic at this juncture. They’re certainly top-ten in my book, but top-five seems generous. There are too many question marks for me to put them ahead of every team in the NHL except three.
To compile this list, NHL.com does a point system among 12 staff members to rank the top sixteen. I want to dive deeper into these rankings and reveal where I agree and disagree.
Where the Predators should be ranked
The Predators come in behind Tampa Bay, the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins. No issue with those three being ahead of the Predators. However, I’ve come to not have much faith in lofty expectations for Tampa Bay after seeing them come up short so many times.
As a put on my objective hat here, I unfortunately can’t put the Predators ahead of the Stars, who come in at No.7. It’s been a very productive offseason for the Stars that includes signing Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Those two signings to go along with solid goaltending with Ben Bishop and a top line that’s just as good as anyone’s in the league makes me think they’re better than No.7. Until the Predators exact some revenge on the Stars, I can’t put them ahead of the team that ousted them in six games.
Another team that’s ranked too far back, and consequentially should be ahead of the Predators, is the San Jose Sharks. I know I’m going to get a lot of blowback from this position, but again I have to be objective here. The Sharks have arguably the best defense in the NHL and plenty of talented scoring threats. Their goaltending is a little shaky, but I have them slightly ahead of the Predators at this point in the offseason.
Those are the only two teams I have ahead of the Predators without debate. Other teams in the top ten include Toronto at No.5, Calgary at No.8 and Colorado at No.10. The Western Conference will be stacked again, as usual, and I still have the Predators right in the thick of things. Getting Duchene has drastically changed my outlook and made me much more optimistic.
Early season prediction
It’s not where you start, but where you finish. Once these new line combinations for the Predators start to gel, they’re going to take off. Around the All-Star break we should know what this team is capable of once they reach the playoffs. Duchene is going to transform this offense, leaving me with the only concern being how the bottom-six is going to be sorted out. There’s a lot of moving parts to sort out with Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and others.
The Predators are going to knock on the door of 100 points again, which is nothing new. It won’t be much of a surprise if the Predators stumble out of the gate a bit, meaning they might have to play catch-up. However, I love the probability of this team catching fire at the right time and surging up the standings in February and March. Will they finish ahead of St.Louis or Dallas? They’ll be right there with them, but I can’t put them ahead in terms of preseason rankings. Not until I know the power play is fixed and the bottom-six is producing more. There’s also still some minor concern with defensive pairing after the departure of Subban.
I have the Predators finishing third in the division behind St.Louis and Dallas. With the talent on this roster, they can certainly make a deep run in the playoffs. We see it happen almost every year. A team sneaks into the playoffs and then goes on a tear. Another division crown is something we shouldn’t be focused on or worry about. My way-too-early prediction for the Predators in the playoffs is a Western Conference Finals berth. They’re going to catch fire at the right time and their talent will take over.