Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Have the Nashville Predators closed the gap between them and the Central Division in 2024-25?

By meerna Jul10,2024
Have the Nashville Predators closed the gap between them and the Central Division in 2024-25?

The Central Division is always a close contest and last year was no different, with the top three teams finishing with six points each, while the Nashville Predators finished eight points behind third-place Colorado.

The Predators shocked the NHL on the first day of free agency by signing Steven Stamkos, Jonthan Marchessault, Brady Skjei and Scott Wedgewood, while also making a few huge re-signings with Juuse Saros and Alexandre Carrier.

Look at the other top teams in the Central Division, and they’ll do very little to improve. Honestly, teams like Dallas and Colorado haven’t had to do much because their cores are already Stanley Cup-caliber. But the question is, how much have the Predators closed the gap between themselves and the top teams in the division?

Now I am fully aware that the Stanley Cup and division are not won on paper, and it is likely that the Predators will go through another losing streak where they stumble early in the regular season in October.

JFresh recently released his much-hyped free agency predictions for the first wave of roster picks and has the Predators in fifth place with 96 points. Needless to say, that would be a huge disappointment if that were to come true.

At least it’s predicted to be a close race, with Nashville just six points out of second place and Dallas at 110. What’s really surprising is that Colorado is so low in his predictions, at 99 points, and Minnesota is so much higher at 102 points.

When comparing rosters and top talent, the Predators now have to be placed in the same ballpark as the Avalanche and Stars. And yes, the Jets have something to say about that, having surprisingly finished second in the division but been eliminated without much of a fight in the first round by Colorado.

It’s safe to say that this is still Dallas’ division in 2024-25. While they didn’t do anything in free agency to improve, and their fans were a bit disappointed, their core is one of the best in the NHL. Their window for a Stanley Cup is still very much open.

I’m actually more worried as a Predators fan about what Colorado has in store for us in 2024-25. I think they’ll wake up and get going next season. They also did almost nothing in free agency, other than keeping one of their own in Jonathan Drouin and adding some strength to their blue line with Calvin de Haan.

But again, like Dallas, Colorado didn’t have to do much with the starting lineup it already had.

Given what the Predators did in free agency, they should be at least in the thick of the division title race by the end of the season. This will almost certainly be another photo finish for the division title, and I definitely put the Predators in that mix.

The main reason the Predators should be considered at least against Dallas and Colorado is that they have a legit top-six forward group that can match up with anyone. Stamkos and Marchessault should pay immediate dividends for a Predators power play that has been spotty at best but flat many times when it counted most.

Adding Skjei to the blue line and possibly a top pair with Roman Josi is hard to beat. I’ll put this top pair for Nashville against Colorado’s top pair of Cale Makar and Devon Toews or Dallas’ top pair of Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harly.

When it comes to goaltending, you would think that Winnipeg still has a top option in Connor Hellebuyck, while Colorado’s situation with Alexander Georgiev is much less believable and is actually their biggest weakness on an already very strong roster.

Jake Oettinger, like Saros, can be unstable at times, but when focused, he is Vezina Trophy caliber. If Saros decides to go beast mode this year and make his case for his first Vezina Trophy, the Predators should be destined for 100+ points and a shot at the division crown.

Dallas and Colorado have the advantage of having players who have been playing together for some time, while Nashville will have to deal with some difficulties, which could mean they fall into a hole in the standings from which they will have to gradually climb out.

Based solely on preseason expectations and what you see on paper, it’s completely fair to put the Nashville Predators in third. I’d put Winnipeg right up there with Nashville, while Dallas and Colorado are still the two teams everyone should be chasing.

But of course we know that the types of players Nashville just signed, Stamkos and Marchessault, are not just destined for regular-season success, but also playoff success. A franchise that hasn’t been past the first round since 2018 absolutely needs to prove it can win in the postseason. It’s been too long.

By meerna

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