Part 7 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#24: Nashville Predators
Top Fws: Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat, Mike Fisher
Top Ds: Shea Weber, Kevin Klein
Top G: Pekka Rinne
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Colin Wilson (22)
2. F Craig Smith (22)
3. D Ryan Ellis (21)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Austin Watson (20)
2. F Pontus Aberg (18)
3. F Michael Latta (21)
4. F Zach Budish (21)
5. F Taylor Beck (21)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: D
Character oozes out of their players in droves. While they may be lacking in overall talent, Nashville possesses a ton of character forwards and depth up front. While none of them are a threat to crack 70 points anytime soon the Preds can roll 4 lines at opposing teams with impunity. Pekka Rinne is one of today's top goaltenders and the team uses a workmanlike team system to take advantage of Rinne's talents.
The Preds, due to having their forward corps filled with team players, lack high end talent. The ones that do currently exist in the organization (Kostitsyn, Radulov, Legwand) are all enigmatic in their own ways. The defense could potentially be manned by 3 players under the age of 23 (Ellis, Blum, Josi) and that inexperience could potentially be exploited and beyond Ellis, Blum and Shea Weber the defense lacks high-end offensive skill.
Just like their NHL team, the Preds prospects pools are chalk full of two-way forwards and grit. Austin Watson, Michael Latta and Chase Balisy may not be top end talents but they're the kind of players that turn into unsung heroes at the NHL level. Zach Budish has recovered from a serious injury that took out his entire sophomore season and the organization has some depth at the goaltending position.
Also just like their NHL team, the prospect pool lacks a high quality offensive player. The years of drafting character players has resulted in a pool full of good, but not great, prospects, and skill forwards like Zach Stepan are a few years away from competing at even the AHL level. There is little depth on defense after Ellis and Co. advanced to the NHL team; Charles Olivier-Roussel looks like the only player of note at that position at this time.
Nashville's team is the embodiment of blue-collar; while they may not have a big name on their team with the exception of Rinne and Weber (more on him later) they find ways to win games through team play and reliance on special teams. They've also been augmented by the additions of young talented prospects such as Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. With a top goalie in Rinne behind a still-young core, the team has found some degree of success post-lockout.
Behind the scenes, however, is a different story. The ongoing contract talks with all-world defender Shea Weber have been fruitless to this point, and the loss of fellow All-Star Ryan Suter has left a potentially gaping hole in the Preds defense. Should the Predators lose both players, the team would almost surely tumble down the standings; even with a hardworking group, talent is needed and Rinne alone is not enough to keep the Preds a playoff team.
They will retain Weber for at least the next season, which will keep Nashville among the teams fighting for a playoff spot. Depending on what happens over the course of the season however, Nashville may come down to Earth in the near future.