It has been a couple down years for the Nashville Predators. The good ol' days of playoffs and Smashville are but a fond memory, and last season may have been the nadir. I mean, they didn't get another top five pick, but they finished outside the playoffs, albeit just outside the playoffs, but their minus-26 goal differential belies any notion of even decent hockey playing. They had a nice run to end the year, and that salvaged the overall aesthetic of their record.
This was enough to lead to some major league changes. Barry Trotz, the only coach the Predators have ever known, is gone, replaced by noted retread Peter Laviolette. I was not enthused by this, but Laviolette is a solid head coach. He shouldn't hurt the team. The roster, meanwhile got a real makeover, arguably a needed one.
However, the biggest impact is going to be the return of a healthy Pekke Rinne. Last year, he was limited to 24 games due to injury, and they were 24 lousy games. In fact, the last two seasons have been bad for Rinne. Still, he has a career .918 save percentage, so there is reason to believe having him around healthy all season will be a move in a positive direction.
Shea Weber is still great, and Seth Jones definitely has promise. The team added Anton Volchenkov this offseason, but he doesn't do much these days. Roman Josi, though, and even Ryan Ellis, are good blueliners. This team used to make it's name on goal prevention. I think they will improve at that this year.
I also think they will really improve a goal scorers. The team exchanged Patric Hornqvist for James Neal, a real positive in my eyes. Hornqvist is good, but Neal is very good. The Preds also rolled the dice on Mike Ribeiro and Olli Jokinen. Jokinen is a gamble because he is old and hasn't been that good recently, while Ribeiro has the reputation of being a flake. They brought in Derek Roy too. This has less possible downside.
Mr. Predator David Legwand is still gone, and also I now realize referring to somebody as "Mr. Predator" can look bad out of context. The team has some decent vets, and also Filip Forsberg, who will, presumably, at some point finally make good on his promise. Calle Jarnkrok did a bit last year too.
Nashville should be better, at least in terms of performance. Now, will that lead to more points? Or a move up the standings? I am not so sure. The West is tough, and the eight teams that made the playoffs likely won't fall back too much. I feel like Nashville is, probably, the ninth best team in the Western Conference, but that's kind of an issue when, you know, only eight teams make the postseason.