After the Nashville Predators were dismantled for financial reasons, not many expected them to do well—let alone qualify for the playoffs. And really, can you blame them?
The team had lost superstar rental Peter Forsberg, first-line left winger Paul Kariya, number-one defenseman Kimmo Timonen, and starting goaltender Thomas Vokoun.
To replace these players, the Preds brought players up from their farm team, and made one signing that at the time seemed insignificant—getting goaltender Dan Ellis, who was expected to be their AHL starter.
To add insult to injury, the Predators looked to have lost their best defenseman and best forward going into the season, when Shea Weber dislocated his kneecap at the very start of the season and Steve Sullivan struggled with back spasms. Weber went on to play 54 regular-season games, but Sullivan didn't play a game all season.
With all this misfortune, Nashville seemed doomed to miss the playoffs only one year after being one of the favourites to win it all. Somehow, though, Barry Trotz led the team to a miraculous season—considering the situation. Dan Ellis also came up to the majors to play some inspired hockey, and led the league in save percentage.
Through a great team effort, Nashville made it to the playoffs. There, the miracle season ended in six games. They fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions Detroit Red Wings—but they pushed the series to the same length the Cup finalists Pittsburgh Penguins did.
Many felt that Barry Trotz should have won the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year—which instead went to Bruce Boudreau—and they have a good point considering how much he did with so little.
The Preds started the offseason by resigning goaltender Dan Ellis and trading Chris Mason and Darcy Hordichuk for draft picks. Then came the draft.
Nashville came in already in a good position, with the ninth and 15th overall picks in the first round. A couple of trades changed things around a little, and gave the team the 7th and 18th overall picks. The Predators drafted highly-touted forward Colin Wilson and goalie Chet Pickard.
They went on to have a very solid draft and came out winners. While this draft should make them better down the road, the Predators look like they could already improve on the special season they just had.
The Predators didn't lose much, if anything, this season. Backup goalie Chris Mason was traded, but he will most likely be replaced by Pekka Rinne. The key cogs are still there‚especially after Shea Weber was resigned for $4.5 million a year for three years
Most players will be back for the 2008-09 season. Most notably, the Predators will count on David Legwand, Jason Arnott, Martin Erat, J-P Dumont, a healthy Steve Sullivan, Alexander Radulov, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Marek Zidlicky, and Dan Hamhuis to get them some "Ws."
Assuming they keep their current RFAs, the Predators' only significant loss will be veteran left winger Martin Gelinas. With the likes of Patric Hornqvist and Cody Franson already knocking on the door, the Predators are ready to have another successful season.
Considering all this, you can expect Nashville to be back for an encore when the games that really matter start—next year, in the playoffs.