Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nashville Predators 2011-12 Preview

Can the Predators repeat last season’s successes and earn home ice advantage for the playoffs?

Nashville enjoyed its most successful season ever last year. Qualifying for the playoffs at the highest seed in franchise history, the Preds dispatched the Anaheim Ducks in six games, and pressed the Vancouver Canucks to six games before bowing out.

The season was a boon for their fan base, and that taste of modest success will only encourage expectations to rise this year.

Led by Shea Weber, the Predators’ strength is defense. Weber and Suter form one of the NHL’s best pairings on the back end. Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne and an embarrassment of riches on defense give the Predators a chance to compete in any game.

Their offense lacks a dynamic, game-breaking scorer, but possesses many solid two-way players capable of netting a timely goal.

Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand, Colin Wilson, Martin Erat and Patrick Hornqvist lead the attack up front.

The Predators will challenge the Red Wings for second place in the Central division and should qualify for the playoffs as the 5th or 6th seed, battling with Los Angeles and Detroit.

Nashville possesses depth but no dynamic scorers. Younger forwards would be the best bet, as they will have potential for more.

Sergei Kostitsyn
The talented brother of Andrei and former Hab notched an 11-game point streak last season and was very effective in Nashville. 50 points seems very realistic for this skilled winger. If he finds chemistry with a playmaker, he could approach 60.

Martin Erat
Erat has been one of Nashville’s most pleasant surprises and more consistent scorers over the past few years. At times he appears as if he’ll break through, but it hasn’t happened yet. 45-50 points will probably be as high as he goes.

Colin Wilson
Wilson possesses the size and skill to be a very good scorer in the NHL. In a few years, he may be Nashville’s leading scorer. That year most likely will not be this year, but he’s not too far away from breaking out. Expect 45-50 points

Mike Fisher
Fisher is an instant fan favourite in Nashville due to his wife, but he’s a pretty good hockey player that deserves attention for his play. A solid two-way center, Fisher can pot 20-25 goals and play in all situations. Without a lot of offensive support, surpassing 45 points will be difficult though.

David Legwand
The former first rounder has never really lived up to expectations, but has rounded into a solid performer at both ends of the ice. Epitomizing Nashville hockey, he is a speedy, responsible player who can pot some timely goals.

Patrick Hornqvist
The talented Finn can be fairly streaky. Potent at some periods and dormant in others, consistency would go a long way in pushing Hornqvist to the next step. With so many similarly skilled players on the team, expecting anyone to exceed the 50 point barrier would be asking too much.

Nicklas Bergfors
Originally the key to the Kovalchuk deal between Atlanta and New Jersey, Bergfors took a step back last season and found himself traded to Florida and then Nashville. 40-50 points are possible, but he’ll need to prove himself to obtain the ice time to warrant that production.

Shea Weber

The best beard in hockey had a bit of an off year last season, but still recorded 48 points. Weber is one of the best in the game and possesses one of the hardest shots. As Nashville’s roster matures, Weber will be even better. He’s only 26. He could hit 20 goals and 55 points this year.

Ryan Suter
Playing second fiddle to Shea Weber, Suter flies under the radar but is a very capable and dangerous defender. No slouch with 39 points last year, Suter would surpass 40 this time around.

Jonathan Blum
Blum joined the team later in the season and played so well that he was regularly playing 20+ minutes during the playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks. Poised beyond his years, he’ll be a power play threat in no time,

Pekka Rinne

Rinne was arguably the best goaltender in the Western Conference last year and a very pleasant surprise for Nashville. He plays an exciting style frustrates opposing shooters. His goaltending could steal many games for the Preds this year.

Prediction - 36 Wins

Anders Lindback
When the Preds gave Rinne the night off, 6’6” Lindback stepped in admirably. Two shutouts and an 11-5 record will instill confidence in any coach. He may not see much action, but he’ll be steady.

Prediction - 10 wins

Sergei Kostitsyn

There are many options on Nashville that would qualify as sleepers. Buried in a non-traditional hockey market, few Preds get the attention they deserve. Sergei Kostitsyn shows flashes of being a premier talent, but the inconsistency of youth plagued him at times last season.

3 points in his first 19 games conceal the 47 in his last 56. 60 points are well within reach this season.

D– Jonathan Blum

The former Vancouver Giant looked right at home during the NHL playoffs, and in his brief stint during the regular season. By the time the year ended, he was produces at the 30+ point season clip, and logging about 20 minutes a night. There’s a lot of depth on Nashville’s blueine, but Blum should be a mainstay this year.

Potential Breakout Player
Colin Wilson

Wilson is poised to break out. Solid with the puck and demonstrating good size, he simply needs to iron out the defensive side of his game.

He was not used extensively during stretches of the playoffs, but has the potential to be a top-6 forward in Nashville this year. They like his size and strength and could use his offensive skill.

If you are in the market for a young Predator forward, Colin Wilson is your best bet for offense. Bergfors is a risky pick, but Wilson has the confidence of many fantasy hockey experts and should be on your radar this season.

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