With most of the major waves of offseason free agency now behind us, it’s time to start speculating on where to put the Nashville Predators within the Central Division.
The power rankings gurus are going to have a tricky time on where to put the Nashville Predators after getting past the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. Much like years past, some will think the Predators can be a surprise team, while others will have them as a non-playoff team and in rebuild mode.
Predators Roster Has Flipped, but Can Still Make Noise in the Division
After the addition of Ryan O’Reilly, among other depth pieces, the Predators have signaled that they’re looking to quickly return to the postseason after missing for the first time since 2014, coincidently Barry Trotz’s last season as head coach of the Predators.
O’Reilly in his recent media availability, his first since joining the Nashville Predators, told reporters “Why can’t we contend?”.
Add the returning youth core that was so vital to keeping the Predators in the playoff race until Game No.80 and Juuse Saros still between the pipes as one of the best goalies in the NHL, and suddenly you have something special that can surprise some people in 2023-24.
Oh yeah, and there’s this guy who is the all-time goals leader for the franchise who is returning from an unfortunate head injury that ended his season prematurely and is looking to make a statement in 2023-24. That guy is Filip Forsberg.
Now that we’ve laid out the positives for the Nashville Predators as we figure out where to place them in the Central Division sitting here in the middle of July, let’s also list off some reasons to be skeptical.
The biggest issue for me on putting the Predators too high in the Central Division is just that newness to this team. It’s going to take some trail and error, and getting off to a slow start is very likely. Things may not click right away, and falling behind quickly in the standings could easily end up happening.
Another qualm I have about putting the Predators, say in the top-three of the division, is the rest of the division looks to have gotten better aside from the Blues and Jets. Even the Arizona Coyotes could take a jump up in 2022-23.
Although I think the Nashville Predators will remain playoff competitive like years past and will not be a team to just step over for opponents, it’s going to be a crowded division race as it usually is.
Nashville Predators Come in At 3rd in the Central Division off,
This is such a tough call, but I’m settling on putting the Nashville Predators at No.3 in my offseason Central Division power rankings. Bold, I know. But this isn’t a homer pick, and is more about not being impressed by other teams in the division behind Dallas and Colorado.
It remains the division ruled by the Stars and Avalanche. Those two have refueled their rivalry and I’m not sure it’s even close who the third place team is. The Minnesota Wild are an easy choice for third, but once again, don’t sleep on the Coyotes. I think they’re going to be a much-improved team after not being a doormat team last season. They take a step forward.
The middle of this division behind the Stars and Avalanche is going to be mucked up, but my hot take of the century is taking a leap and putting the Predators this high. I’m banking on them making up for lost ground after a slow start and getting hot in the second half of the season as things start to click under new Head Coach Andrew Brunette.
This also means I’m lukewarm on my confidence in the Minnesota Wild. I put them at No.4, but with the Coyotes not far behind them.
The Wild have had a tricky offseason up against the salary cap and have had to part ways with some players they absolutely didn’t want to lose, including one that joined the Predators in Nyquist.
Waiting to see what happens with Connor Hellebuyck‘s possible exodus out of Winnipeg, but as of now I’m putting the Jets dead last in the offseason division rankings. Yes, I know, another bit of a hot take that I’m going to get some fans all riled up about. I just think they’re on the downturn in a bad way.
Blackhawks are slightly improved with the generational talent of Connor Bedard now officially signed, and having had a decent offseason by trading for Taylor Hall and acquiring Corey Perry. Maybe they stay out of the cellar and show some strides.
Again, I fully expect a wide range of rankings and disagreements with my extremely tentative offseason Central Division power rankings, but here’s the complete list.
Drop your rankings and comments below or reach out to me on Twitter @chad_minton