Nashville is poised to make franchise history this season. Never before have the Predators won a division title or the President’s Trophy for that matter and yet they are in a great position to do both. Ever since the midway mark on January 6 Nashville has gone 24-3-4 showing combined strength on overall offense and overall defense and combined strength with their offensive and defensive special teams. In their 19th season of existence Nashville has finally become the team they were meant to be when the puck was first dropped in front of them in 1998.
Led by Pekka Rinne (a top contender for the Vezina Trophy) and ably assisted by blue-liners Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban, Nashville is determined to atone for last season’s Stanley Cup finals loss to Pittsburgh in six games. If they can secure the President’s Trophy then they will have home ice advantage for the entire playoff run (a key factor in Nashville’s loss to Pittsburgh was the fact that Pittsburgh held the home-ice advantage).
Amazingly, even though Nashville ranks 7th in overall offense the team has no one single dominant goal scorer but scores goals via committee with Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, and Craig Smith lighting the lamps while Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen, and P.K. Subban set the table.
The Predators have become a reflection of their head coach Peter Laviolette who has totally revamped Nashville’s tactical approach to hockey. Whereas during the Barry Trotz era Nashville won games with goal-tending, defense, on-ice discipline, and fundamentals now the Predators now win games with a broader array of weapons. They now have an offense that play on equal or superior terms with any NHL team. They also play meaner hockey now too (a classic Peter Laviolette trademark) with Austin Watson and P.K. Subban supplying the muscle when muscle is needed. Another Laviolette trademark is Nashville’s ability to score in penalty-killing situations with Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson adding the offensive salt to their opponent’s wounds.
Peter Laviolette is poised to surpass his personal best as a coach when he led Carolina to the 2005/06 Stanley Cup title with 52 wins and in the eyes of my rating system (as propounded in my first book Bench Bosses: the NHL’s Coaching Elite) he stands to add at least 10 points to his coaching value and move up three steps in rank from 26th to 23rd on the all-time. If he can lead Nashville to the finals then he will crack the top 20 ranks. If Nashville wins the Stanley Cup (a distinct possibility) then Peter Laviolette will crack the top 15 ranks.
For Predators general manager David Poile (who, like a fine wine, gets better and better with age) he, too, is poised to advance rapidly through the top 50 ranks. According to my rating system propounded in my new book release The Art of the Dealers: the NHL’s Greatest General Managers David Poile will add 17 points to his career value and move 7 steps in rank from 26th to 19th. If Nashville reaches the finals then he will advance another step to 18th and if Nashville wins the Cup then Poile will rank 16th on the all-time list.
The path won’t be easy. Nashville faces stern competition in the Western Conference from the Winnipeg Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights. Even eighth-seeded Los Angeles may give Nashville a run for the money but now Nashville has the combined weaponry needed to win Stanley Cups and they are hungry. Having come two wins short in 2016/17 the Predators know they need to make that extra push to win it all and they have the coach who knows how to will it and they have the players to make that will into reality.