NHL 2014-15 team preview: Nashville Predators

NHL 2014-15 team preview: Nashville Predators
August 8, 2014, 2:30 pm
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(Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Western Conference’s Central Division.

Today: NASHVILLE PREDATORS

2013-14 record: 38-32-12, 88 points

Where they finished: 6th in the Central; 10th in the West; 19th in the NHL

Coach: Peter Laviolette (1st season)

Key additions: RW James Neal, C Mike Ribeiro, C Olli Jokinen, C Derek Roy, head coach Peter Laviolette

Key subtractions: RW Patric Hornqvist, C Nick Spaling, D Michael Del Zotto, RW Patrick Eaves, head coach Barry Trotz

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Matt Cullen – Olli Jokinen – James Neal

Gabriel Bourque/Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – Craig Smith

Viktor Stalberg – Derek Roy – Colin Wilson

Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad – Eric Nystrom

Extras: Mike Fisher (ruptured Achilles tendon, out until November or December), Viktor Arvidsson

Defense

Roman Josi – Shea Weber

Anton Volchenkov – Seth Jones

Victor Barley – Ryan Ellis

Extras: Mattias Ekholm

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne – Carter Hutton

Our take: After missing the playoffs for a second straight season, albeit by three points, Predators general manager David Poile knew it would take more than just a coaching change to turn things around in Music City.

So, after replacing no-nonsense head coach Barry Trotz with no-nonsense head coach Peter Laviolette, Poile went to work on a roster that finished tied for 19th in the NHL in goals for and 24th in goals allowed.

In fact, the Preds were one of just three NHL teams to have a defenseman (Shea Weber) lead them in scoring with 56 points. Defensemen Keith Yandle of the Coyotes and Erik Karlsson of the Senators also led their teams in scoring.

Scoring has been in such short supply in Nashville that you have to go back to the 2008-09 season to find a Predators player with more than 60 points in a season (J-P Dumont with 65).

With all that in mind, Poile went hard after offensive-minded players, acquiring James Neal (27 goals, 61 points) from the Penguins and signing free-agent centers Olli Jokinen (18 goals, 43 points), Mike Ribeiro (16 goals, 47 points) and Derek Roy (9 goals, 37 points).

Neal, 27, is entering the prime of his career while Jokinen, 35, Ribeiro, 34, and Roy, 31, are at a point where they are signing one-year deals.

The Preds will play a more up-tempo style under Laviolette and that alone should increase their goal scoring. It could also play into the strengths of forward prospect Filip Forsberg, who was taken by the Caps with the 11th pick of the 2012 NHL draft and sent to Nashville in the Marty Erat trade.

Having a healthy Pekka Rinne, who played in only 24 games due to hip surgery, should lower the Preds' goals against.

If both occur the Predators should get just enough points to get into the playoffs.

Offseason Grade: B-plus

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? It will be a dogfight, but yes.

[RELATED: NHL 2014-15 team preview: Dallas Stars]