The Nashville Predators are certainly at the top of many lists in terms of Stanley Cup contenders, especially considering their acquisition of defenceman P.K. Subban. Their off-season plan has so far been sufficient have Sports Illustrated consider them as the Golden State Warriors of the National Hockey League.
And indeed, there are many reasons to believe this isn’t mere hyperbole.
The Predators boast a deep lineup and they play an exciting brand of hockey with Peter Laviolette’s system. He’s already been activating the defencemen, but with Subban in the fold he should have an even more lethal attack to play with.
And there is an argument to be made, as it is in the SI piece, that Shea Weber was actually holding the Predators back in terms of Laviolette’s plan. The Predators clearly received a statistical upgrade in swapping their former captain for Subban, but there are less apparent variables to play with as well. Weber’s slow exit from the defensive zone will be replaced by Subban’s thrilling rushes, which will in turn only add to their attack setup.
Throw Roman Josi in the mix alongside the new arrival and you’re looking at a deadly attack from the Nashville zone.
The Predators won’t just thrill from the blueline, either.
Consider a top line of James Neal, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.
The 28-year-old Neal had 58 points in 82 games last season and brings a top-tier shot to the Predators. He’s a sizable player and he plays an average of 19:04 a game, with a knack for mucking it up in the corners.
The 23-year-old Johansen had 60 points in 80 games and is a big, strong pivot. Like Neal, he has a top-tier shot. And he also has great size, which helps in positioning.
And then there’s Forsberg, who had 64 points in 82 games last season. The 21-year-old owns a solid shot with a quick release and can play a two-way game that means he’s seldom out of position. He had eight power play goals last season and can play either wing, giving Laviolette plenty of flexibility up front.
In case things go wrong, the Predators could do a lot worse than to rely on netminder Pekka Rinne to pick up the pieces. The 33-year-old Finnish goalie had an iffy season in 2015-2016, posting a goals against average of 2.48 with a save percentage of .908. But Rinne can play a lot better and he should, especially given the way this team seems positioned out of the box.
So yes, bet on the Predators this season. They’ll be putting up a lot of points and winning a lot of games, which should account for some sweet tunes coming out of Music City.