The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.


NHL Preview: Nashville Predators

For the third time this evening, I find myself starting a team preview. The NHL season is just three days away, you know, and I am just that devoted to you, my loyal reader(s). So sit back and enjoy this look at the Nashville Predators.

If I were to tell you that the Nashville Predators were an expansion franchise that played their first season in 1998-99 you might assume that they fall under the same category as their Southern expansion brethren in Georgia. You would, of course, be quite horribly wrong in that assumption. Unlike the Atlanta Thrashers, the Predators have now made the playoffs twice. Also unlike the Thrashers, they have existed mostly devoid of any big name stars.

Until last year, that is, when they made rather large waves in the free agency market by signing Paul Kariya, a player who immediately lent the team an air of legitimacy it had previously lacked. The move payed off, too. After having made the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference in the 2003-04 season, the Predators found themselves in the fourth seed in 2006 after racking up 49 wins and 106 standings points. Unfortunately for Tennesee hockey fans everywhere, they probably would have been better served to finish eight, as they had to face the red hot San Jose Sharks in the first round and were dispatched in five games.

A summer that has seen the addition of centers Jason Arnott and Josef Vasicek makes the Preds' 2006-07 outlook even rosier. Their newfound strength up the middle will make them especially dangerous on offense and should also result in another strong season for Paul Kariya. The defense is somewhat suspect, but with Tomas Vokoun in between the pipes, it might not really matter. Nashville is going to surprise alot of people by winning the always competitive Central division (you heard it hear first) but it probably won't amount to much in the postseason, as all the strength in the Western Conference is currently residing in the state of California. Look for another playoff exit at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, albeit this time in the second round.

Not much luck by way of Predators blogs. You can try your luck with Smashville, but it hasn't been updated since last April.

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