If Rinne can stay healthy, could the Preds surprise?


Hockey teams that don’t score a ton of goals can’t afford to get below-average goaltending.

Unfortunately for the Nashville Predators, that’s been the case the past two seasons, as their star netminder, Pekka Rinne, has battled hip issues that have either kept him out of the lineup or adversely affected his play.

Hence, the relief in Music City that Rinne’s hip “feels great” heading into 2014-15.

“I had a good summer,” the 31-year-old said yesterday, per The Tennessean. “I worked hard and stayed healthy. I’m just really excited for this upcoming season. I feel like I’m ready to go.”

In 2013-14, the Preds’ team save percentage finished at .902, the fifth lowest in the NHL. The season before, the number was even lower, at .900. Both times Nashville missed the playoffs.

The Preds would love to see their team save percentage back to around the levels it was in 2010-11 (.924) and 2011-12 (.919), both playoff seasons.

But despite Rinne’s excitement, expectations for the Preds are generally low, as evidenced by online sportsbook Bovada recently setting their 2014-15 point total at just 76.5. (Only Calgary, Florida, and Buffalo had lower totals.)

This is a team that has the potential to surprise, however. It has a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie in Rinne and a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman in Shea Weber. It has promising youngsters in Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg. And to help new coach Peter Laviolette with the offense, it’s added a proven sniper in James Neal, as well as veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen.

While the Mike Fisher injury does hurt, it’s worth noting that the Preds did manage to win 36 games in regulation or overtime last season. That’s the same number as the Dallas Stars, one more than the Minnesota Wild, and two more than the Detroit Red Wings — all three of those teams being playoff teams. A 2-9 record in the shootout was a big issue for Nashville, but there’s reason to believe that could be different in 2014-15.

Neal betting on Roy having a big season


The Nashville Predators quest to bolster their offense led to the acquisition of James Neal, but they weren’t able to sign or trade for a top-tier center to play alongside him. Instead, the Predators tried to nab a diamond in the rough by inking Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, and Derek Roy.

When it comes to Roy, Neal has already gotten very familiar with him. Although the two have never played on the same team, Roy joined Neal during his training sessions with Gary Roberts over the summer.

“[Derek] came in and trained with us; he looks great,” Neal said, per NHL.com. “He had a great summer training. I worked out with him every day; he was good in the gym and he looked great on the ice, so we expect a big year out of him.”

At his height, Roy had 32 goals and 81 points in 78 games with Buffalo in 2007-08. He’s had endured some rough seasons more recently, but at 31 he’s still young enough to bounce back.

Meanwhile, Neal is looking forward to starting the next chapter of his career with Nashville. He excelled with Pittsburgh, averaging close to a point-per-game during his tenure with them and recorded 40 goals in 2011-12. He gelled with Evgeni Malkin, but now he’ll have to prove that he’s capable of performing at that level without one of the league’s top centers playing alongside him.

Oddsmaker: Preds, Flames, Sabres and Panthers biggest Stanley Cup longshots


Online oddsmaker Bovada has released its latest list of favorites — and longshots — for the 2015 Stanley Cup. While Chicago retained its spot at the top of the list (at 13/2, slightly shorter odds than the 7/1 it had back in July), we thought it’d be interesting to spotlight teams with the longest odds, at 75/1:

Calgary, Buffalo, Florida and Nashville.

It’s interesting to note that Nashville joined the longshot group after getting 66/1 odds two months ago. This drop coincided with the club replacing the services of arguably their top center (Mike Fisher) with veteran middle men Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro.

Do keep in mind the increase in odds isn’t purely reflective of what Nashville has done in terms of player transactions; odds are often raised and/or dropped depending on how much action the team gets at a particular number. Of course, this is based on the premise people actually make Stanley Cup futures bets on the Predators.

Here is the full list of Cup contenders, per Bovada:

                                                Odds on 7/9/14             Current Odds   

Chicago Blackhawks                             7/1                    13/2

Los Angeles Kings                                9/1                    9/1

Boston Bruins                                       10/1                  10/1

Anaheim Ducks                                     12/1                  12/1

Pittsburgh Penguins                              12/1                  12/1

St. Louis Blues                                      12/1                  12/1

San Jose Sharks                                   14/1                  14/1

Minnesota Wild                                     18/1                  16/1

New York Rangers                                 16/1                  16/1

Tampa Bay Lightning                             18/1                  16/1

Colorado Avalanche                              18/1                  18/1

Montreal Canadiens                               20/1                  18/1

Dallas Stars                                         18/1                  20/1

Detroit Red Wings                                 22/1                  22/1

Philadelphia Flyers                                28/1                  28/1

Columbus Blue Jackets                         33/1                  33/1

Toronto Maple Leafs                             33/1                  40/1

Vancouver Canucks                               28/1                  40/1

Washington Capitals                              40/1                  40/1

Edmonton Oilers                                   50/1                  50/1

New Jersey Devils                                 50/1                  50/1

Carolina Hurricanes                                66/1                  66/1

New York Islanders                                50/1                  66/1

Ottawa Senators                                    50/1                  66/1

Arizona Coyotes                                    50/1                  66/1

Winnipeg Jets                                       50/1                  66/1

Buffalo Sabres                                      75/1                  75/1

Calgary Flames                                     75/1                  75/1

Florida Panthers                                    75/1                  75/1

Nashville Predators                               66/1                  75/1

Trotz will still cheer for Preds ‘like crazy’


Barry Trotz will try to steer the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship, but he hasn’t turned a blind eye to the Nashville Predators in the process. He continued to follow the team he coached for 15 years after they fired him in May and naturally has opinions on the moves they’ve made — he’s just not sharing them.

What he is willing to make clear though is that the Predators are still important to him even as he makes a point to keep some distance between him and the team’s personnel.

“(Predators GM David Poile) and the people who are there will always be friends. But I think there needs to be some separation right now so everybody can come in there and be comfortable,” Trotz told the Tennessean. “I’ll be cheering like crazy for them because I want them to be successful.”

New Predators head coach Peter Laviolette will be tasked with bolstering the team’s offense after they averaged 2.61 goals per game in 2013-14. To help him do that, Poile acquired James Neal and signed Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen. Meanwhile, Trotz will try to prove that he’s more than just a defensive-minded coach and he’s capable of getting the most out of Alex Ovechkin.

Fisher on target for late-November return

Versatile Nashville center Mike Fisher likely won’t return from his torn Achilles tendon until late November, GM David Poile said on Wednesday.

“He’s working out on a regular basis here,” Poile explained, per The Tennessean. “Everything is tracking to date, but the bottom line is still a four- to six-month injury. Optimistically, Thanksgiving and end of November. That’s an optimistic target.”

Fisher tore his Achilles in early July and underwent corrective surgery on July 3. The 34-year-old has served as the Preds’ alternate captain since 2011 and had a solid campaign last season, scoring 20 goals and 49 points in 75 games. Fisher also averaged 19:45 TOI — the second-highest total of his career — while finishing second on the team in faceoffs, with 1146.

At the time of his injury, Nashville looked to be decimated at center as it was left with just Olli Jokinen, Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson. The Preds have since added veterans Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy, though, and now have fairly decent depth at the position.