If you wanted to blame Nashville’s failure to make the playoffs in 2013-14 on a single aspect of the game, the skills competition would be a good candidate.
The Predators had more regulation plus overtime wins of any other non-playoff team (36), but they were just 2-9 in shootouts. It’s not hard to figure out why that was. They had a severe lack of skilled forwards last season and their shootout struggles were a reflection of that.
How bad was it? Well, defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis accounted for five of their nine shootout goals. None of their forwards netted more than one goal in the skills competition.
The silver lining is that help is on the way. Although he’s coming off a rough season, Mike Ribeiro is traditionally effective in the skills competition (22 goals on 63 chances), and fellow newcomers Olli Jokinen (21 for 59), James Neal (14 for 38), and Derek Roy (11 for 33) are solid options as well.
If Pekka Rinne stays healthy, then that will help too. He has a 23-23 record in shootouts with a .709 save percentage.
None of that is likely to make the Predators a dominant shootout team, but if they are even able to hold their own in that category, then that could add three or four points to their final record. That has the potential to be a big difference in their battle to squeeze into the playoffs in the tough Central Division.