The Nashville Predators were only three points shy of a playoff berth last season, which is pretty impressive when you consider that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne missed most of the campaign due to a hip injury.
The fact that he’s back and had all summer to prepare for his comeback campaign alone makes the Predators a significantly better team. On top of that, they arguably took a significant step forward offensively. Nashville added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen over the summer, which will give head coach Peter Laviolette some interesting players to work with as he tries to craft the Predators into a more offensively-minded squad.
Nashville also has one of the best blueliners in the game in Shea Weber and a maturing supporting cast of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, along with newcomer Anton Volchenkov. That’s not a bad group.
At the same time, Nashville would need to finish with a better record than at least one of the Central Division’s Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars. Considering that all of those teams are looking pretty formidable after strong offseasons, is it really realistic to think that the Predators are ready to surpass at least one of them while simultaneously staying ahead of the Winnipeg Jets?