Why the Preds Will Challenge for the Cup This Season

By Patrick Hoffman

I am not one that likes to make predictions because when it comes to sports, there are too many variables. Injuries, lineup changes, poor play, upsets, etc.

With that said, however, I am going to head and tell you folks that the Nashville Predators, much like they did last season, will be a contender in their division, their conference, and the entire league. Heck, they could even end up winning the Cup come June.

Last season, the Preds dominated the league. Here is just some of what they accomplished last year:

They were the league's best team

They won the Central Division, one of the best divisions in the league

They were the best team in the Western Conference, a conference that has many elite teams such as the Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Minnesota Wild

Their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, won his first Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder

Despite bowing out of the playoffs much earlier than expected last year when they lost to the Winnipeg Jets in the second round, this team is primed to make a Cup run this season.

It starts with Rinne. While he once again struggled when it mattered most last season, he was remarkable in the regular season as he was 42-13-4 with a 2.31 goals against average, a .927 save percentage, and eight shutouts.

When the team decides to give Rinne, 35, a rest, they have a more than trustworthy backup masked man in Juuse Saros. Saros, 23, was 11-5-7 with a 2.44 GAA, a .925 save percentage and three shutouts. Whenever Rinne hangs up the skates, Saros will be the main man between the pipes for the Preds.

Speaking of keeping the puck out of the net, the club's defense should be stingy once again. They are led by P.K. Subban, captain Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, and newcomer Dan Hamhuis.
This team also has a ton of offensive depth. The team was eighth in the league in goals scored and 14th in the league on the power play, which means they know how to put the pick in the net in all situations.

Guys like Filip Forsberg (64 points), Viktor Arvidsson (61 points), Ryan Johansen (54 points), Craig Smith (51 points), Kevin Fiala (48 points), and Kyle Turris (42 points) can all produce and come up big when needed. They will certainly need to do so again this season if they want another shot at winning hockey's Holy Grail.

Lastly, this team has great leadership from head coach Peter Laviolette to players like Josi, Subban, Ellis, Forsberg, and Nick Bonino. These players know what it takes to be contenders and will certainly be ready to get this team back to the Final, hopefully with a different result this time around.

I may not like making predictions, but it will be interesting to see if the Predators come through on my prediction for them to win the Cup.

Patrick currently covers the NHL here as well as for WTP Sports

Has previously covered the NHL for Sportsnet.caKukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35.