My thoughts on the Nashville Predators bowing out in the early rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs once again.
Every year NHL experts in sarcasm make jokes about how the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks will choke in the playoffs. And every year they’re proven right. But no one ever makes jokes about the Nashville Predators and their inability to make it past the second round in the playoffs. I’m here to change that.
I have nothing against the Predators. Barry Trotz is a great head coach, Pekka Rinne is a great goaltender, and Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are two of the best defensemen in the league, but when are we going to stop believing in them when the playoffs start? Since the 03-04 season, the Preds have made the playoffs every season except for one and yet they’ve never been able to win more than six games. In three of those seasons, the Preds had home ice in the first round and in those same three seasons, they finished with more points than one of the top three seeds but were stuck at #4 due to a tough central division.
How come no one ever mentions the Predators as playoff choke artists? Maybe it’s because their biggest offensive star in Carrie Underwood, but whatever the reason, there’s no excuse not to lump them in with the Sharks, Capitals, or even the Vancouver Canucks. It’s not like the Predators haven’t “gone for it” at the deadline in hopes of putting their team over the top. Remember when they traded for Peter Forsberg? They lost in the first round to Sharks in five games. How about this year when they dealt for Paul Guastad, Andrei Kostitsyn, Hal Gill, and convinced Alexander Radulov to come back from the KHL? The Peds were all in this year and they lost to a Phoenix Coyotes team that finished 7 points behind them in the regular season.
I’m convinced that Barry Trotz could coach an AHL team to the playoffs, but now I’m convinced that the team would get swept in the first round.
Take nothing away from the Coyotes, but it’s not like they’re a superstar team either. In fact, they’re just like the Predators in the sense that they rely heavily on a great goaltender, a good defensive system, and scoring by committee. It’s amazing what the Coyotes have been able to do this season, but I have to put a lot of blame on the Predators inability to get anything done in the second round.
In ten playoff games; Mike Fisher had four points and was a -4, Sergei Kostitsyn and Paul Guastad had 2 points, Kevin Klein had more points than Weber and equaled Suter, and David Legwand led the team with six whole points. Again, I get that the Predators are a scoring by committee team, but someone needs to step up when the pressure is on.
Maybe that’s why no one gives the Predators a hard time when it comes to lack of playoff success. People don’t expect the Fisher’s and the Legwand’s to put up Crosby-like numbers, so when they don’t, no one is surprised. So how about instead of singling out one player, like we do with Joe Thornton or Alex Ovechkin, I’ll just single out the whole team. If you’re going to be a scoring by committee team, and the committee isn’t getting it done, then I blame everyone. It’s nice to be a hard-working, blue collar team that fans can identify with, and I’m sure a lot of people in Nashville can identify with the Predators. Having been to Nashville a couple of times and hung out around the Bridgestone Arena/Sommet Center, it’s filled with nothing but musicians on the street trying to make a couple bucks and hoping for a big break. That’s essentially what the Predators are. They’re a low payroll team looking to make a splash in hoping for a big contract from the Predators or another team.
The Predators rolled the dice this year with their moves. They brought back Radulov, who failed to spark the offense but did spark Andrei Kostitsyn’s love for the nightlife. They gave up way too much for Guastad to play a third line role. And they brought in Gill, who they went 4-1 with against the Red Wings and 1-4 with against the Coyotes.
Now they face a lot of questions in the off-season as Suter is an unrestricted free agent and Weber is a restricted free agent. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Suter is going to leave, but it’s also possible that Weber could be dealt if they decide to retain Suter. Gaustad will be an unrestricted free agent, which doesn’t seem like a huge loss, but considering that they gave up a first round pick for him, that’s a steep price for a rental player. Rinne’s raise will also kick in, thus giving them less room for improvement since the Predators front office is notoriously cheap in the off-season.
I’m sure the Preds will be fine heading into next season. They’ll bring in a couple of veteran players to fill some holes, bring up some rookies who will surpass expectations, and continue to get outstanding goaltending from Rinne. They’ll probably end up making the playoffs, bringing a smile to the face of every teenage boy who watches Predators games just to see Mrs. Mike Fisher. And then those smiles will turn into frowns as the Predators get bounced before making the conference semifinals.
People dream big on the streets of Nashville. Those people have a better chance of becoming the next Taylor Swift or Blake Shelton than seeing the Predators raise the Stanley Cup.