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The Nashville Predators simply aren’t equipped at the moment to make a playoff run, but they are close. They have good young talent in their system, some solid line players hitting the ice, and a legitimate guy between the pipes in Pekka Rinne (when he’s healthy), but they are missing those few guys who bring it all together while putting up some big numbers. Think of players like Patrice Bergeron or Jonathan Toews or Dustin Brown or any other guy constantly lauded by NHL pundits for being the “total package”. The NHL Predators don’t have that guy, and since they seem consistently unable to get that guy (or guys) though free agency or trades, they will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs for a couple more years.
The Predators were one of only two teams from the NHL’s Central Division to miss the playoffs along with the Winnipeg Jets. While they finished the year with 88 points (only 3 points away from the Dallas Stars and the playoffs), their plus/minus of -26 left a lot to be desired and they were constantly hampered by their inability to score goals (they averaged just 2.61 goals per game). And while the team, its fans, and especially GM David Poile want to make the playoffs next year, another year of falling a few points shy seems to be in their future.
It’s not from lack of trying though. Poile recently traded for James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins who had 61 points last season. His goal scoring prowess and offensive abilities will provide a much needed boost to the sometimes anemic Nashville goal production. While Neal was certainly a great acquisition, it unfortunately isn’t quite a game changer on its own that has the potential to shake up the Central division.
Again, Poile tried to make that game changing move by filling a serious need in Nashville and acquiring former Ottawa Senators center and captain Jason Spezza. Spezza wanted out of Ottawa but he had a no-trade clause so he could have significant influence on his future home. When Poile made the push to trade for him, Spezza made it clear that he did not want to be a Predator and he refused to waive his no-trade clause, effectively stymying the move. Then, to add insult to injury, Spezza agreed to play for division rival the Dallas Stars and packed his bags for Texas. Spezza claims that he felt Dallas was more committed to winning, which essentially means that he just didn’t think Nashville was a good enough team, even with the addition of Neal.
Poile expressed his frustration with the events according to Yahoo! Sports: “I don’t get it. When you talk about winning and losing, I know you want to go to a team to win a Cup, but we’re as committed as anybody. Who knows, maybe we’re closer than anybody thinks.”
Poile’s frustration is certainly understandable, and nobody can doubt his and the team’s commitment to winning and getting better, but objectively Spezza was probably right in picking he Stars over the Predators. While the Predators may be close, they are unable to obtain those vital final few pieces at the moment, so they still need some time for their young talent to blossom into a competitive and cohesive team. It will happen eventually, just not next season.
But then again, who knows.
Journalism Intern: Noam Waksman is currently a senior at Connecticut College (go camels!) where he majors in English and Psychology. An unabashed Boston sports fan since birth, the Bruins have always held a special place in his heart. Noam resides in Wellesley, MA and can be reached on twitter @NoamWaksman or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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