For nearly all of their 15-year existence, the Nashville Predators have lacked a star forward. While brief stints from Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya provided glimpses into what it might look like to employ one, both were closer to the ends of their careers while in Nashville… and neither stayed for very long.
In light of that, it’s interesting to learn some within Preds organization believe a star forward — actually, two star forwards — is the only thing keeping them from competing with the NHL’s elite.
“What is the difference between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks?” assistant GM Paul Fenton asked, per The Tennessean. “To me it’s two players: it’s the first overall pick in Patrick Kane and the third overall pick in Jonathan Toews.”
Fenton is referring to Chicago’s consecutive drafts — Toews in 2006, Kane in 2007 — that reversed the club’s fortunes. Since then, Chicago has won a pair of Stanley Cups and the dynamic duo has emerged as one of the NHL’s best, capturing more championships than Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin), Anaheim (Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry) and Detroit (Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk*).
Fenton did acknowledge that, in certain instances, teams had to be pretty bad to become very good. Chicago suffered through some lean years before scoring high enough picks — in the right drafts, no less — and Pittsburgh did much of the same. Nashville’s biggest “problem” is that it hasn’t been bad enough to draft high; the club has just two top-five selections in franchise history and the most recent one, No. 4 overall in 2013, was used to select defenseman Seth Jones.
“If you match up our lineups [with Chicago] from [Kane and Toews] on out, it’s pretty even,” Fenton said. “Sometimes you have to be really bad to get them.”
This year, the Preds once again weren’t bad enough to secure a high pick — they’ll go 11th overall at the ’14 NHL Entry Draft. But given that GM David Poile recently said the club needs to add a “big-time forward,” don’t be surprised if the Preds try to target one in Philly — either with their pick, or via trade.
* Datsyuk has two Stanley Cups, but won his first prior to Zetterberg’s arrival.