Can you feel it? Do you wish they would flood a lacrosse field so you could watch a real sport? Do you notice cars that remind you of Zamboni’s? Is your idea of a great Halloween mask a face crushed against the glass?
If so, you have “hockeyitis”. But fear not, help is coming soon.
The leaves are already changing here in Oxford, Ohio. With the drop in temperature comes the promise of a new season. I am not referring to that sissy sport they can only play once a week. I’m talking about hockey- NHL style. For months the NHL fans have been in a collective hibernation: only to wake up momentarily for any Ilya Kovalchuk sightings.
Though I am five and a half hours away from the team I love, I can feel the anticipation every fan in Nashville has for the upcoming season. Master and commander David Poile has been uncharacteristically busy this offseason, adding and removing players to generate excitement and wins and fit in his small budget. Gone are Hamhuis, Arnott, and Dan Ellis. Enter Lombardi, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Parent. While these guys might not be big names, they certainly will have a chance to prove themselves in Music City USA.
While Nashville’s lineup won’t dazzle anyone[Rydburg Jeff] interested in high visibility high cost stars, there is enough talent and grit (not to mention heart) to get the job done. I don’t expect Nashville to light up opposing goaltenders, however, I do expect them to win a lot of 3-1, 2-1 hockey games this season. Let’s take a look at my projected roster for the season opener…
Here is my take on what the lineup will be opening day…
Belak (as necessary)
Like I said, that lineup isn’t exactly San Jose… but it certainly isn’t Toronto either. The Predators will have a hard time consistently scoring, but I think they will have just enough offense to punch to put in 225 goals this season, slightly above last years 217.
There will be big expectations for the Pred’s young players, especially for Colin Wilson who will assume the role as the team’s top center. Personally, I think Wilson is ready for the challenge. He is a physically gifted two-way forward who has good play making abilities. I am expecting a 45 point season for Wilson this year. People have grossly exaggerated Jason Arnott’s presence on this team. Wilson will be able to step in and do a fine job.
Patric Hornqvist will also have to live up to high expectations after scoring 30 goals last season and leading the team in total points (51). I expect Hornqvist to continue his net crashing this season and notch 50 points.
Cody Franson and Ryan Parent will have high expectations. Nashville fans have extremely high hopes for Cody Franson. The kid produced last season, tallying 21 points in 61 games played. I fully expect Franson to break 30 points this season.
Preds fans will remember Parent as part of the Fopa deal from the 06-07 season. Poile traded Dan Hamhuis’ rights for Parent in what turned out to be a great deal for Nashville due to Hamhuis not signing with Philly. While Parent certainly has some question marks and health concerns, he still has the potential to be a shutdown D man in the NHL.
There will also be a demand for veterans to step up and produce this year.
Steve Sullivan has been a staple for this team for years. While the ball of lightning is getting up there in years, Sullivan is still a crafty forward. Remember, old age and trickery always overcomes youth and skill. Sullivan will have a good year, probably in the neighborhood of 50 points.
David Legwand, love him or hate him, will always be David Legwand. While he has the potential to absolutely a monster offensively, his defensive game will always be his calling card. If Legwand is given the right linemates (not Marty Erat) I think he will post about 50 points this season.
Martin Erat will be Martin Erat. He is Mr. Consistency when it comes to his scoring ability in Nashville. He has consistently posted 50 point campaigns since he entered the league, and I don’t expect that to change.
JP Dumont had a rough season last year, only tallying 45 points after posting 72, 65, and 66 points in his prior years. JP was even demoted to third line duty midway through the year. JP redeemed himself in the playoffs, tallying 4 points in 6 games played. Dumont and Legwand really clicked together last season so I hope their chemistry continues.
Lastly, we get to goaltending where Pekka Rinne will be crowned the starter. I expect Pekka to play close to 70 games this season. While I have Lindback slotted for the back up position, there really isn’t a favorite for the back up position at this time.
The biggest concern for the Predators this season will be the abysmal power play that failed them in both the regular season and the playoffs. A pathetic 16.4% isn’t going to impress anyone. The Predators are hoping that newly added forwards Matthew Lombardi and Sergei Kostitsyn will help power play.
Yes the season is changing. The weather is cooling… but hockey is firing up! It starts today when the Predators have their first on ice practice.
The Predators are on the prowl.
About the Author
Written by Chris Rydburg
Chris currently attends my Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He hopes to one day be a high school teacher.