As NHL teams are eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, theScore NHL freelance writer Katie Brown looks back at the highs and lows of their seasons, along with the biggest questions ahead of 2018-19. The 27th edition focuses on the Nashville Predators.
A record-breaking season. The Predators won a division title and claimed the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in their history a year after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. They also recorded 53 wins, a franchise record. Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne could become the first player in Predators history to win the award, which would be the first of his career after three previous top-three finishes.
Sensational Subban. P.K. Subban was named a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time after putting together his third 82-game season and recording 59 points. The veteran was the only Nashville player to appear in every game. Though he was one point off his career-best 60-point season in 2014-15, this year’s outing was his best statistically. He finished the season ranked eighth in the league in points by defensemen, while his 16 goals were tied for second.
The JOFA line. The Predators’ top unit of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson was dangerous all year. The line ranked among the league's top five statistically during the season and added an incredible 10 goals in 148 minutes at even strength in the playoffs.
Inconsistent goaltending. Rinne might have had a Vezina-worthy regular season, but his playoffs were ... not the best. He was pulled three times, all at home, during the Predators’ series against the Winnipeg Jets. In Game 7, he gave up two goals on seven shots and was yanked within the first 11 minutes. Rinne did have a few good moments, including a 34-save shutout in Game 6, but his save percentage ended up a dismal .900 for the series. During the regular season, his stat line was impressive: 42-13-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
Depth didn't deliver. Against the Jets, the Predators scored 19 goals - and 13 of them came from their top line and Subban. Basically, no one beyond the top line made much of an impact on the scoresheet. Nashville addressed its forward depth during the offseason by adding players like Nick Bonino, Kyle Turris, Ryan Hartman, and Mike Fisher to play with a healthy Kevin Fiala, but none of them scored more than two points in the series.
The defense underperformed. The Predators’ formidable defense has become one of their trademarks. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi, and Ryan Ellis form one of the best top-four groups in the league. But they ran into a buzzsaw in the Jets. Winnipeg’s relentless attack, skill, and ability to pressure in the zone gave Nashville’s blue-liners a really tough time. There were stretches where the Predators held their own, but Winnipeg was just that much better.
What does Ryan Ellis' next contract look like? Ellis has one year left until he’s a UFA, but he wants to stay in Nashville, and the two parties can start discussing an extension July 1. His current four-year contract, signed in 2014, pays him a reasonable $2.5 million a year, but he could command around $6 million annually on his next deal. Ellis missed part of the season because of knee surgery and played just 44 games but still managed 32 points, which equates roughly to a 60-point pace over 82 games.
How much does Rinne have left? Rinne's said he'll play the one year left on his contract, but hasn't thought further than that. So he’ll be Nashville’s starter for at least one more season, but even he can recognize that he’ll eventually be overtaken by backup Juuse Saros (as long as the 23-year-old continues to progress).
What else needs to change? Probably not much. With the exception of UFAs Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin, the Predators will ice mostly the same team in the fall. General manager David Poile could make a splash if he wants to, but don’t expect him to be one of John Tavares' suitors. Adding another forward or two to boost scoring depth might be prudent considering Nashville's offense looked top-heavy in the playoffs.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)