Over the next few days, all of the SB Nation hockey sites are getting to know some of their network counterparts and we asked a few questions to the Nashville Predators site, On The Forecheck, and managing editor Dirk Hoag to get a feel for the upcoming season for a team that is built and managed much like the Sabres.
What will it take to get the Predators finally out of the first round of the playoffs?
Well, they had a great shot against Chicago, but blew their chance with an epic collapse in Game 5. This time around, they need to carry that sting of disappointment with them and close out the opportunities they create for themselves. On the ice, they need to depend on depth up front, absent any single game-breaker. They may well have 3 lines which can compete at both ends, while not boasting the star power found in Chicago and Detroit.
Barry Trotz is currently the second longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. What has kept Trotz behind the bench for so long?
There's no question that Barry Trotz benefits from having a patient GM in David Poile, who also manages expectations to that just making the playoffs is generally seen as doing a good job to many observers. That said, Trotz is able to consistently get a solid effort out of his clubs, and doesn't appear to burn many guys out. You don't hear many tales from former players that he was a pain to deal with, for example. He's able to balance the apparent contradiction of being a player's coach, while also enforcing his way of doing things.
What is a player to watch for on the Predators that isn't well known to an Eastern Conference watcher?
The guy to keep an eye out for is Patric Hornqvist. He scored 30 goals last season and if anything, has potential to do much more, as it took almost until January before he became a primary focal point of the offense. He can do more than just screen goalies, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him among the NHL's top 5 in Shots On Goal this year.
The Hockey News doesn't have much faith in the Predators this year, projecting them to finish 10th in the Western Conference. Do you believe this is an accurate assessment of your team or is there a bias toward other teams in the Western Conference?
The Hockey News projection looked like a reprint of previous seasons, as apparently they still believe that Nashville is the first team in the history of professional sports to operate on a budget. While mentioning only the players leaving and arriving this summer, they ignored the development of young players like Hornqvist, Cody Franson, Colin Wilson, etc., and the fact that the one guy who most seemed to be on the decline, Jason Arnott, left for New Jersey.
What is the one player that needs to step up this season?
I'd say Pekka Rinne. He's shown dominant stretches at times, but as the #1 goaltender, he needs to play more consistently over the long haul. While he went 11-4-2 with 4 shutouts after the Olympics, he was underwhelming before then, with just a .902 save percentage and 3 shutouts in 40 games.
To check out the answers to some questions they had about the 2010-2011 season and the Sabres meet the Predators at HSBC Arena on March 20th.