The Nashville Predators added some decent mid-level scoring with Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg, players who should offset the trading of Martin Erat late last season.
Their defense should be adept at moving the puck with Ryan Ellis learning from new assistant coach Phil Housley and elite prospects Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm also in development.
But there is plenty of work to do. Last season Nashville tied with Florida for dead last in the NHL in scoring, at 2.27 goals per game.
Barry Trotz no longer enjoys Coach for Life standing after last season’s struggle. Housley looms as a potential replacement.
The fate of the Predators – and Trotz -- may well depend on whether their young scoring forwards develop. Here is the rundown:
Filip Forsberg, W/C: Last season he broke out for 15 goals and 18 assists in 38 games for Leksands IF in the Swedish Elite League. That is notable production in that circuit, especially for an 18-year-old.
But can he make the quick adjustment to North American Hockey? He got a taste last spring when he played five games for the Predators, earning one assist while suffering a minus-5 rating.
The Predators are famously deliberate with player development. Normally a player like Forsberg would spend most of his first full North American season playing for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League.
The team would like him to skip that step if it is at all possible. The franchise needs him to become the impact scorer Alexander Radulov should have become . . . had he not been such a terrible teammate.
“Filip had the skill, size and humbleness … and a quiet confidence in him,” Trotz told NHL.com. “Sometimes other players don't cheer for the young guy because he may be full of himself, but our players cheered for Fillip Forsberg. They know he will be a contributing factor for a number of years.”
Colin Wilson, W/C: He offers more upside than his 103 points in 205 NHL games would indicate. Last season he scored 19 points in 24 games before suffering a shoulder injury. Two years ago he scored 35 points with a plus-5 rating in 68 games.
During his last year at Boston College, he scored 55 points in 43 games. He scored 21 goals in 49 games with the U.S. National Developmental Team. So Wilson is accustomed to taking a lead offensive role, whether it’s at center on the wing.
Craig Smith, W: His failure last season was a large contributing factor to Nashville’s inability to score. After scoring 36 points in 72 games as a rookie, he slumped to just 12 points in 44 games and earned a remedial stint in Milwaukee. He suffered a minus-11 rating and his puck possession metrics were terrible.
This was quite a comedown for Smith, who had jumped straight from the University of Wisconsin (where he scored (43 points in 41 games during his last season there) to the NHL.
Smith rebounded for Team USA at the World Championships, scoring 14 points in 11 games while playing with Avalanche center Paul Stastny. That earned Smith an invitation to Team USA’s Olympic evaluate camp.
That underscored his potential to score. But can the Predators translate potential into production?