Good morning, Stars fans! Welcome to the weekend!
I thought it would be helpful if I were to do a brief overview of every Central Division team’s moves as a quick refresher and to expand on whether the team will be better or worse in regards to their moves. I will also stack them up against the Stars and show you how the Stars series against each team may end up panning out. Due to the success of the first two, this series will see it’s way to the end!
The newest edition below covers the Nashville Predators:
The Nashville Predators’ 2014 Offseason Moves:
The Predators entered their offseason early along with 13 other teams who shared a common defeat. After a disappointing 38-32-12 season and second straight year of missing the postseason, Nashville cut ties with head coach Barry Trotz, the franchise’s only head coach since its origin. With Peter Laviolette taking the reins, the Predators and their fans prepared for major change in the offseason.
The Predators re-signing phase began with signing back defensemen Joe Piskula, Anthony Bitetto, and Mattias Ekholm. These players, besides Ekholm who looks as though he will get the sixth D-man spot on the roster, will be used on the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators AHL affiliate.
They also signed on centers Olli Jokinen from Winnipeg, Derek Roy from St. Louis, and Mike Ribeiro from Arizona. All three of these players will find their spot on the roster and will look to help out the Predator’s struggling offensive scheme. Though these three all had below 50 point years, they have found a new home and hopefully a fresh start to their average careers. The Predators ended their year 19th in the league in the goals scored category and will need to improve in that category if they want to qualify for the playoffs, so the additions in the dot will definitely help out their presence on the offensive front. They also signed defenseman Anton Volchenkov from New Jersey, who will look to beef up the blue line that finished 24th in goals against last year.
But their biggest splash in the offseason, besides making a frenzy of trades with the San Jose Sharks regarding nothing but draft picks, was when they traded away wingers Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for superstar winger James Neal. Neal, who had an astounding 61 point year throughout just 59 games last season, will be looking to create a spark next season and lead a broken down Predators offensive arsenal. With the help of Ribeiro, Roy, and Jokinen as well, this offense could see a great makeover in store come next season.
The Predators, like all teams, had to say goodbye to a few faces. They lost goaltender Devan Dubnyk, an unrestricted free agent, who they acquired from a trade with Edmonton back in January. Dubnyk has struggled throughout his career and only played 2 games for the Predators, in which he posted an 0-1-1 record along with a .850 SV% and a 4.35 GAA. He is hopefully looking for a fresh start with the Arizona Coyotes come October. They also lost center Patrick Eaves to the Dallas Stars. The Preds acquired Eaves at the trade deadline this past year from Detroit, but Eaves was never able to get anything going, coming up empty-handed after just five games.
Better or worse?:
It’s rather simple to see that the Nashville Predators are going to be better from their offseason antics in regards to next season’s affairs. But improved enough to conquer the depths and skill of the Central division and qualify for the postseason? That may be stretching the truth too much, and the Predators new team may not be ready for a playoff berth this year. A wild-card would be the best they could snag, given their circumstances.
Losing Hornqvist and Spaling will be a pretty substantial hit to the depth at the forward positions, but James Neal will be able to salvage the loss. Along with the added depth and experience in the dot, the Predators may become a dark horse team next year that no average NHL-goer is going to notice until it’s too late. Nashville is no doubt a dangerous and threatening team now, but the leadership behind the bench is going to make all the difference, and the ability of the returning players to be able to adjust to the second bench manager of the Predators of all time.
How will the Stars fare?:
The Dallas Stars finished last season with a 3-2-0 advantage over the Nashville Predators with both teams going undefeated at home. This year, the Predators will hold the home-ice advantage on the Stars and will look to seek revenge on the team that ended their playoff hopes with a shootout win that included a tripped up Vernon Fiddler goal and a signature Tyler Seguin snipe.
The Stars begin their regular season bout with the Predators on just the fourth day of the regular season commencing. They will then wait a month until November 6th, and then wait until January 6th, eventually finishing with their end-of-year meetings on April 4th and 11th. The April 4th game will be the only one involving a back-to-back.
The Predators offense seems like it is ready to take the NHL by storm, and that would be a major problem for the Stars’ lacking defense. But the Stars offense will be able to turn the tables and exploit Nashville’s stuttering blue line with their very own high-powered offense. The exuberant goaltenders in each net, being Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne, will also find a way to make things deeply interesting. This may be the Stars most exciting matchup to watch next year in regards to the Central division.
Overall, I say that Nashville will take a 2-2-1 record, with the Stars pawning off the same result. But, for now, it’s too early to tell.
Comment below on how you feel about the Predator’s offseason and if you feel the Stars will be able to match their intensity come this season. Go Stars.