ShareThis Page
NHL

Predators out to stay atop Western Conference

| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 6:33 p.m.
Predators center Frederick Gaudreau (32) celebrates a goal against the Penguins in the third period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on Monday May 29, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Predators center Frederick Gaudreau (32) celebrates a goal against the Penguins in the third period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on Monday May 29, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) celebrates a goal by Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) against the Penguins in the second period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on Monday May 29, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) celebrates a goal by Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) against the Penguins in the second period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on Monday May 29, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
P.K. Subban helped Nashville reach the first Stanley Cup final in team history last season.
P.K. Subban helped Nashville reach the first Stanley Cup final in team history last season.

Updated 5 hours ago

The Nashville Predators are proof anything is possible in the NHL playoffs. History suggests they are up against quite a challenge.

Nashville made it into the last postseason as the eighth-seeded team in the Western Conference and ended up becoming just the third team seeded last to reach the Stanley Cup Final since 1994.

The Predators couldn't stop the Penguins from repeating, and they're about to find out how hard it is to defend a championship in their stacked conference. The Western Conference has not had a repeat champion since the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the feat in 2008 and 2009, hosting a Stanley Cup and then losing a Game 7 against the Penguins.

Nashville's appearance in the playoffs, though, was not a fluke. The franchise was in the postseason for the third consecutive year and the 10th time in 13 seasons. And, the city should be prepared to have a good time again next spring, catfish and all.

“This year, our expectation is to be in the playoffs, but our expectation is also to give ourselves the best opportunity to win hockey games and to play in our building as much as we can because our fans were so great, especially through the run,” defenseman P. K. Subban said. “It was a huge edge for us in the playoffs being at home. We went most of the playoffs without losing at home. That's what we're going to need. We're going to need our team to realize how important it is for us to win at home.”

The Predators seem set up for more success.

Mike Fisher retired and was effectively replaced on the ice by Penguins center Nick Bonino. General manager David Poile has goaltender Pekka Rinne under contract for two more seasons to go with top-line forwards Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, along with defenseman Subban for at least five years.

“We all know it was a lot of fun, and it was a tremendous experience going through all that,” Johansen said. “At the end of the day like 29 other teams, we didn't reach our goal.”

Logjam ahead

The Colorado Avalanche, easily the NHL's worst team last season, might be the only team in the Central Division without a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. The division was so tough last year that Nashville finished a relatively distant fourth behind Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis. Each of those teams figures to be just as good this season and will have to compete with Dallas, which seemed to lead the league in major moves .

Don't sleep on Winnipeg, either. The Jets made the playoffs only once in the last decade, but they could break through this season. Mark Scheifele, a 24-year-old center, quietly ranked among league leaders with 82 points last season. He leads a team with rising stars Patrik Laine, a 19-year-old winger who was taken No. 2 behind Auston Matthews, and 21-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers.

Cautios Connor

The Pacific Division is so stacked the 20-year-old, reigning NHL MVP with a $100 million contract is far from cocky about his team's chances.

“It's so competitive,” said Edmonton's Connor McDavid, who was given an eight-year extension last summer. “It is a grind. And the Pacific, especially, I think you see a lot of teams that are right around that 100-point mark, 95-point mark.”

WELCOME BACK

Chicago raised some eyebrows by trading Artemi Panarin one season after he was rookie of the year to Columbus for Brandon Saad. The move likely saves the Blackhawks some money as they manage the salary cap in future years. Saad's return may bring the best out of Jonathan Toews , coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Ryan Getzlaf, who shows no sign of slipping at the age of 32, is back to lead the five-time defending Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks. Coming off their second trip to the conference finals in three years, they're desperately seeking their first trip to the Cup final since winning it in 2007. The San Jose Sharks are without Patrick Marleau for the first time in two-plus decades after he left in free agency for Toronto, and the Los Angeles Kings are hoping to re-open their championship-contending window with coach John Stevens replacing Darryl Sutter.

VETERANS IN VEGAS

The Vegas Golden Knights are betting a few veterans making at least $5 million this season to make help them be relatively competitive in their debut season: goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forwards James Neal and Reilly Smith. The franchise's path to potential success won't be with castaways from other teams, but by drafting and developing talent. The Knights had three of the top 15 picks in the draft, including center Cody Glass sixth overall, but they don't plan to rush any of them to the big show on the Strip. Prospect Alex Tuch, a 21-year-old forward, was acquired from Minnesota and the 2014 first-round pick may get a chance to play a lot.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.