Since joining the league in the 1998-1999 season, Nashville missed the playoffs the first five years in a row, and have lost in the first round the last four.
It’s time they take a step forward, but it appears they may be taking a step back instead.
Forwards: Jason Arnott is a model of consistency when it comes to on-ice scoring. He has scored at least 21 goals in each of his last nine seasons, and is able to play a defensive role as well.
J.P. Dumont signed big contract to play in Nashville, and he responded in a big way. He broke his personal best record for points in a season twice since signing with the Predators, and recorded a season high in goals last year with 29.
You also have to feel bad for Steve Sullivan. Sullivan hasn’t played a game since February, 2007 because of a serious back injury, and he’s not supposed to be back anytime soon. It looks more and more likely that he’ll never be able to play an NHL game again.
Defence: The team is solid on the back end. They can punish opposing players, and aren’t afraid of other teams.
Shea Weber fought injuries last year, but should be good to go for the full season.
Ryan Suter has improved each season he has been in the league. Look for him to continue that this season.
Greg de Vries is a mix of offensive and defensive. He can do either one the team needs him to do, and is also durable, playing every game of the season four of the last six seasons.
Goaltending: Dan Ellis was given the starting job last season, and performed great. As a second-year player this year, look for him to get more starts than the 37 he had last year. His goals against and save percentage were both superb, and the Preds need that from him again this year to have a shot.
Pool picks: Martin Erat is your dark horse pick from Nashville. He has quietly amassed 57 points in each of his last two seasons, which is his career high. Another year like that would be a great late round pickup in a hockey pool. Stay away from: David Legwand. He has only scored more than 50 points once in his eight-year career.
Miscellaneous: There has been a lot of speculation the last few years about the Predators being for sale. They blew up their team a couple of years back, letting the higher-price talent such as Paul Kariya go. Then the team was sold, but there were conditions on the sale, and the team might still move. Something like that has to play with the mind of anyone who works for the organization, whether on the ice or off.
Expected finish: Third in the Central division, 12th in the Western conference.
Overall: Nashville is in need of a strong playoff push, or else jobs could start being lost. And that may also be the only way to keep the Predators in Nashville, as the community would rally around a team that got to the third round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, both outcomes look dim for this team.