As we get geared up for the 2022-23 NHL season which is about two months away, the question is how much have the Nashville Predators improved and are the next team in the division behind the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche?
There’s no doubt that the Avalanche are the cream of the crop and have the loaded roster that can challenge for a repeat. They’re hands down the team to beat not only in the Central Division, but the Western Conference and the entire NHL.
However, the Central Division doesn’t look nearly as daunting as it has in the past. If anything, it looks rather top heavy with the Avs at the top, and then a handful of teams in the middle. The Predators are firmly in that mix of teams in the middle.
Are the Nashville Predators the 2nd-best team in Central Division?
After making moves to add Ryan McDonagh and Nino Niederreiter, while retaining Filip Forsberg and returning Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender Juuse Saros, the Nashville Predators are definintely a team that can be next in line behind the Avalanche in the Central Division.
Paul Bissonnette, Podcast host of Spittin’ Chiclets and on-air personality for NHL on TNT, thinks that the Nashville Predators are a team to keep on your radar this coming season:
First off, I don’t know whether to be happy or cry about the fact that the Predators have the sixth-best winning perentage in all of the NHL since 2010, but yet have very little playoff success to show for it.
With that sad fact in mind, the Predators are once again are set up to have a successful regular season and return to the postseason. It will be their ninth consecutive playoff appearance, and their 12th over the past 14 seasons if they can pull it off.
"“Impressed with what Poile continues to do year over year making that Nashville team relevant. I see them making the playoffs again.” Paul Bissonnette, NHL on TNT and Spittin’ Chiclets"
However, it’s fair to say that the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild remain better than the Predators and bigger threats to taking out the Avalanche.
It will be a close race between these three teams, but I give the Predators a decent chance to finish in the top-three assuming no major plague of injuries happen to their core talent.
Trenin’s arbitration ruling is expected before the weekend as it has dragged on an extra day waiting for a ruling. He’s an important part to this team in many ways, including depth scoring which is so vital to competing with the top teams.
The Blues will continue to be a thorn in our side
The Blues are the team that remain the biggest threat to the Avalanche, although I still think the Avalanche win the division somewhat comfortably. The Predators come in close behind, while the Wild will be right there as well.
The Wild are a hard team to trust. They have plenty of talent and strong goaltending, but always seem to fall short when it really counts. Plus the Predators had a lot of success head-to-head with Minnesota going 3-0-1 and outscoring them 21-11 last season.
The Wild didn’t get any better this offseason, and if anything took a step back. They traded Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings, and didn’t make any major acquisitions.
The Blues have stayed intact and are the Achilles heel to the Predators. That’s going to be a key head-to-head matchup next season that the Predators need to prove they belong.
We can’t forget about the Dallas Stars, who always seem to be lurking. I have the Predators better than Dallas at this point, but it’s always a battle between these two teams and will be once again in 2022-23. However, Dallas is a team that just doesn’t have enough pieces for me to think they’re anything more than another wildcard team at most.
Winnipeg, Chicago and Arizona should be trailing in the back of the Central Division pack. The Predators have no excuses to not be significantly better than these three teams.
And lets not forget that the Predators could still pull off one more impactful move for their roster, including the possibility of pursuing Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi as a trade piece.
If an addition like that were to happen, depending on the trade package in return, then the Predators could propel even further up and surpass the Blues for the next best team behind the Avalanche. Puljujarvi would make the Predators younger and give them more scoring depth that they need more of to be considered in the upper tier of NHL teams.
With the dust of the offseason moves mostly settled, it’s totally conceivable to have the Predators as a second place team as their ceiling, but more realistically can at least attain third place finish and avoid a wildcard.
As for the biggest threat to Colorado, I’ll slightly give the edge to the Blues just because the roster is deeper than Nashville’s and they’ve proven they can go toe-to-toe with Colorado much better than what Nashville has shown.
Here’s my current Central Division rankings as our next step is training camp and the preseason which will begin in September.
- Colorado Avalanche
- St. Louis Blues
- Nashville Predators
- Minnesota Wild
- Dallas Stars
- Winnipeg Jets
- Arizona Coyotes
- Chicago Blackhawks