With the NHL regular season right around the corner, TSN.ca profiles each team leading up to puck drop. Next up are the Nashville Predators, looking at a new approach, with a new coach, for the first time since their inaugural season. 

Catch up on their summer moves and the issues they face this season, as well as Craig Button's analysis of their top prospect and an analytical breakdown by TSN's Scott Cullen.

Division: Central GM: David Poile Head Coach: Peter Laviolette 

2013-14: 38-32-12 (6th in Central) Playoffs: Did not qualify

Goals For: 216 (19th) Goals Against: 242 (23rd) Powerplay: 19.2% (12th) Penalty Kill: 80.2% (25th)

That Was Then:

The Predators 2013-14 season got off to a bad start when less than three weeks into the campaign goaltender Pekka Rinne was found to have an infection in his surgically repaired hip.

Pekka RinneThe infection forced Rinne to miss four months of the season leaving the Predators to turn to Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec between the pipes. Hutton and Mazanec were then given unenviable task of playing behind a defence that, though led by veteran Shea Weber, lacked experience.

That inexperienced defence core featured 23-year-olds Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and – after a mid-season trade – Michael Del Zotto all playing with 19-year-old first-round draft pick Seth Jones. 

Hutton posted a 20-11-4 record with a 2.62 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 40 games. While Mazanec fared worse, posting a 8-10-4 record with a 2.80 GAA and .902 save percentage.

The low point for the Predators came in November, when the team dropped consecutive games to the Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins and were outscored 17-2 in the process.

Rinne returned to the lineup in March, but he was unable to regain his usual form. He posted a career-worst .902 save percentage and 2.77 GAA. The Finnish netminder finished the season with a 10-10-3 record in 24 games.

The team was on the outside looking in for a playoff spot once Rinne returned and despite earning at least a point in 11 of their final 12 games, the Predators finished three points behind the Dallas Stars for the final wild card playoff spot.

Following the season, the Predators fired their lone coach in franchise history; Barry Trotz, who spent 15 seasons at the team’s helm. 

Scott Cullen's Analytics

Predators 2013-14 Stats by Quarter

1-20 2.45 3.15 6.2% .906 47.6% .500
21-41 2.57 2.95 6.8% .920 48.3% .500
42-62 2.52 3.14 7.6% .904 51.5% .500
63-82 3.45 2.60 11.3% .910 50.1% .600
NHL AVG 2.67 2.67 7.8 .922 50.0% .562

Key: GPG= goals per game, GAA= goals-against per game, SH%= even-strength shooting percentage, SV%= even-strength save percentage, SAF%= score-adjusted Fenwick percentage (differential of shot attempts faced vs. shot attempts, excluding blocked shots, adjusted for game score), PTS%= percentage of available points.


Games 1-20: A good power play helped Predators tread water despite below-average numbers across the board.

Games 21-41: Carter Hutton had a decent stretch in net, but Predators still struggling.

Games 42-62: Goaltending fell off, but possession improved notably, especially for D Seth Jones and RW Craig Smith.

Games 63-82: Line of Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist led late-season scoring surge.

Key 2014 Additions: C Olli Jokinen, RW James Neal, C Mike Ribeiro, C Derek Roy, D Anton Volchenkov 

Key 2014 Subtractions: D Michael Del Zotto, RW Patrick Eaves, RW Patric Hornqvist, C Nick Spaling

This Is Now: 

The Predators enter the 2014 season with plenty of new faces, starting behind the bench with head coach Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette is back in the league after being fired three games into the 2013-14 season as his Philadelphia Flyers started the year winless. He spent four seasons with the Flyers, missing the playoffs only once. Laviolette won the Stanley Cup as the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

Along with Laviolette, Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Anton Volchenkov and James Neal are all new to Music City.

Neal was acquired in the Predators biggest move of the off-season; a trade made during the first round of the NHL Draft which sent Neal to Nashville from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Hornqvist was one of four Predators to crack the 20-goal mark in 2013-14.

Mike RibeiroWith Neal comes the threat of a breakout scorer for the Predators, something that was sorely missing last season. Craig Smith led the Predators with 24 goals, while Weber was next-best with 23 from the blue line in 2013-14. Neal scored 27 goals in 59 games with the Penguins last season.

Ribeiro, Jokinen and Roy fight for centre duties with Predators, a position race which is wide open due to the injury to Mike Fisher. The 34-year-old Fisher will miss the at least the beginning of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, suffered in July.

The three free agent signees will fight for centre spots along with young guns Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg as well as the returning vet Paul Gaustad.  

Volchenkov adds experience to the still-developing majority of the Predators defence behind Weber and Roman Josi.

However, the return of Rinne - who enters this season in full health - may provide the biggest boost for the Predators as they attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.




Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Colin Wilson Mike Ribeiro James Neal
Matt Cullen Olli Jokinen Craig Smith
Gabriel Bourque Derek Roy Paul Gaustad
Eric Nystrom Calle Jarnkrok Viktor Stalberg
Filip Forsberg Austin Watson Richard Clune
Taylor Beck Mike Fisher Colton Sissons


     Left Right     
  Roman Josi Shea Weber  
  Mattias Ekholm Seth Jones  
  Anton Volchenkov Ryan Ellis  
  Victor Bartley Joe Piskula  
  Anthony Bitetto Johan Alm  


                                                                     Pekka Rinne
                                                                     Carter Hutton
                                                                     Marek Mazanec

Craig's List

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button's Top Prospect: Filip Forsberg

Filip has a combination of skill, power and intensity. The skill is evidenced with an excellent shot and release. He gets himself into scoring positions and challenges goaltenders. If the shot is closed down he can create a scoring chance with a very good sense of where other opportunities may be for his teammates. With quickness and agility in his skating, he is very difficult to defend. He utilizes his size to win battles for the puck and gain advantages along the boards and around the net. Filip has an undeniable determination in his game. From the tops of the circles down in the offensive zone he will not allow himself to be negated. He is determined to make a difference for his team and have a positive impact on winning.

Fantasy - Cullen's Player to Watch - James Neal

Over the past three seasons, only four players (Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry and Phil Kessel) have more goals than James Neal's 88, but a lot of that has come while riding shotgun on Evgeni Malkin's win in Pittsburgh. James Neal

Moving to Nashville, Neal is a marquee offensive acquisition for the Predators, but doesn't have a playmaking centre anywhere near Malkin's calibre feeding him the puck, so it's going to be difficult to generate as many scoring chances as he did with the Penguins. 

Given the change in circumstances, it's difficult to fathom Neal returning to the 40-goal pace that he's maintained over the past three seasons, but the question is how far will his numbers drop?

In a healthy season, it's possible that Neal could still score 30 goals and that's only happened four times in Nashville history, most recently in 2009-10 by Patric Hornqvist (who was part of the Neal trade this summer).