Nashville Predators: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!) 

Last Season: 47-25-10, 104 points, second in the Central Division. 

2014-15 Season, In One Tweet

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Photo screen shot via Twitter
Photo screen shot via Twitter

Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

Better.

The Nashville Predators didn’t make any real roster improvements this summer, but they still should nudge upwards next season.

Nashville’s young players are for real and they’re only going to push their collective ceilings higher. Filip Forsberg notched 26 goals and 63 points as a rookie. He stepped up big time in the playoffs with four goals in the Preds’  hotly contested six-game first-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Seth Jones is just 20 and he’s going into a restricted free agent contract year. After a so-so sophomore season – playing mostly third-pairing minutes down from the second pair a year before – he should take a major step forward in his development.

Defenseman Roman Josi, 25, had an all-around breakout year with 55 points and 15 goals. Expect him to equal if not better those numbers in a Norris-worthy season. 

There’s still goaltender Pekka Rinne -- dubbed the 'human eraser' by fans -- to clean up any mistakes. Captain Shea Weber dropped off a bit last year, but you can expect at least 15 goals and 40-50 points from him.

The Preds are weak at center with a one-two punch of Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher – both 35 years old – but they have enough firepower in other areas to limit this issue during the regular season.

James Neal and Craig Smith are both locks for 20-plus goals on the wing, regardless of who’s feeding them the puck. 

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Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Filip Forsberg, F

Any time Forsberg does anything offensively brilliant, Washington Capitals fans groan. This is because the Predators heisted the Swede from the Caps for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in 2013. Erat didn't last long in DC and is without a new contract this summer. Latta is more a pugilist than a scorer. Forsberg has more long-term offensive potential with the Predators than any player they’ve ever employed in their history. He has a tremendous wrist shot, and he proved in the playoffs that he can up his game when needed.

2. Roman Josi, D

When the Predators lost Ryan Suter to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2012, they trumped Josi as Suter’s replacement. At the time, it seemed a little far-fetched, but an argument can be made that Josi is more prolific at age 25 than Suter ever was with Nashville. Suter’s highest point total with the Preds was 46. Josi notched 55 last season. Josi also makes just $4 million per-year and is signed for the next five seasons. He may have the best contract in the NHL. 

3. Seth Jones, D

It’s time for the 2013 first-round draft pick to take a step forward. The Predators put Jones on the third defense pairing last season with Anton Volchenkov in hopes he could develop with less pressure. At times he looked like a future All-Star, and at times he looked a little lost. This is a big year for Jones, since he’s going to hit restricted free agency status next summer. 

4. Shea Weber, D

Weber’s always a lightning rod in Nashville based off his offer sheet situation with Philadelphia from 2012. Last season he didn’t look quite up to snuff and saw his numbers tumble from 23 goals and 56 points in 2013-14 to 15 goals and 45 points in 2014-15. He suffered a subluxed kneecap in the playoffs, so there’s some wonder on how he’ll bounce back this upcoming season at age 30. 

5. Pekka Rinne, G

Rinne is one of the league's true elite netminders. He’s hitting Henrik Lundqvist territory for his overall excellence and respect from his peers. Last season, Rinne bounced back from two-straight injury-plagued campaigns with a 2.18 goals against average and .923 save percentage. He commands an incredible amount of admiration in the Nashville locker room. When the team wins, Rinne almost always gets credit from his teammates as the reason why. 

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

They have a high amount of balance and speed from defense to forward. From Weber to Josi to Forsberg to Neal to Smith and potentially super rookie Kevin Fiala, Nashville has as much skill and depth as any team in the NHL. 

Coach Peter Laviolette accentuates this strength perfectly by using an attacking system to put his players in the right spots.  

Rinne used to have to steal almost every game for the Predators. This is no longer the case. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

They’re weak at center from a skill perspective. Fisher and Ribeiro are in their mid-30s. While both have fought off decline for most of their careers, it’s bound to happen at some point. 

Even if it doesn’t, both aren’t nearly as good as the centers for some of the elite teams in the Western Conference.

Nashville signed Cody Hodgson in the summer in hopes he could resurrect his career with the Predators as a third-line middleman. Last season he had just 13 points with the Buffalo Sabres in 78 games.

To come out of the Western Conference, you need to be strong down the middle. Nashville isn’t. 

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

Forsberg, Smith and Josi. All are fast, creative – and Josi has a rifle of a slap shot. 

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

One. General manager David Poile hardly fires coaches and Laviolette is sitting pretty after Nashville’s rebirth season in 2014-15.

The GM puts a ton of faith in Laviolette’s system and trusts the coach's ability to get the most out of his players. It would take the worst season in Nashville history for Lavy to get canned.

Awkward Old School Video Break

Anders Lindback's first year in the NHL was so wild. 

Their Best Case Scenario Is …

Forsberg keeps improving and Jones becomes the monster puck-moving, smooth-skating blueliner we all envisioned at the 2013 NHL Draft.

Weber bounces back with 20 goals and Josi proves he’s a consistent 50-plus point defenseman.

Rinne stays healthy for most of the season and Nashville is able to make a trade for a first-line center at some point in the year to take the heat off Ribeiro and Fisher.

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

Weber continues his drop-off. Fisher and Ribeiro can’t match up to the top centers in the Western Conference and Poile proves too hesitant to make a deal. 

Jones doesn’t take the next step in his development and Hodgson proves a bust.  

Rinne becomes brittle once again and Nashville loses him for a significant period of time. 

Prediction

The Predators stay in the hunt for the Central Division most of the year. Poile is able to make a trade for a first-line center and they finish in second place, behind St. Louis, and win two playoff rounds for the first time in team history 

Nashville loses in the Western Conference Final in six games.

The Predators finally win a major award between either Weber and Josi (Norris) or Rinne (Vezina).  

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils

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