Nashville Predators season preview: A team on the rise

Mike Fisher can help establish depth down the middle for the Nashville Predators.  

Christopher Hanewinckel/Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Plus: The Predators took a huge step forward last season, finishing second in the Central with 104 points. They return much of last season’s team, including leading scorer Filip Forsberg, star defenseman Shea Weber, and Vezina-worthy goaltender Pekka Rinne. They only started to struggle in the second half when injuries started to bog down the team, so if Nashville can stay healthy, it looks like a strong contender in the Central.

Minus: Nashville has a lot of young players with important roles. Last season was Forsberg’s first full year in the NHL, and Seth Jones, one of the team’s best defensemen, turns 21 years old days before the season starts. Youth can be a huge benefit, but it can also create a large risk for a team because young players lack experience under the NHL spotlight. The Predators have to hope their youngsters will continue to thrive under pressure.

X-Factor: Mike Fisher

The 35-year-old center is the key to establishing depth among Nashville’s forward lines, and if his age starts to get the best of him, Nashville suddenly is not as stable down the middle. Fisher is also an important part of the team’s power-play, and he led the Preds with seven power-play goals last year. He needs to stay consistent this season to keep Nashville in contention.

Prediction: The Predators are a great team, but the Central Division is an outstanding division and Nashville does not quite match up to some of the other teams in terms of the number of true stars on the roster. Still, Nashville should once again be among the best teams in the Central, and it looks like the Predators could fight for the No. 3 spot with Dallas and make a playoff bid.