Tuesday, August 22, 2006
THN has the Preds finishing second in the conference. Last season they finished with 104 points, third best in the conference. Seeded fourth in the playoffs behind the division winning Flames they were bounced quickly by the San Jose Sharks.
They, like the Wings, benefitted from playing in the Central Division. Indeed, Mudcrutch was one who felt that this team was overrated from the start, iirc. (And actually talks about them in his latest post).And while they did pull away from the pack a little bit, just two more losses to each of those divisional weak sisters would have left them tied with Vancouver and likely on the outside looking in.
So, for the Preds, two issues. Can they pull ahead of the Wings, who finished 20 points ahead of them, thus guaranteeing a playoff spot and probably a # 1 or #2 seed?
Or, failing that, are they a good enough team (or is their division still weak enough) to not lose those ten points that would drop them to the magic 94 point plateau?
Sounds goofy? It sure is. If they can catch the Wings (and in a few days I will look at Detroit, who I think is about ready to slide after over a decade of having terrific teams) then they are likely a top seed. If they do not they could likely be right out of it.
Nashville added some size to a lineup that dearly needed some with big centres Jason Arnott (although to me the fact that Dallas would rather sign an aging Mike Modano coming off his worst season then extend Arnott last summer makes me wonder wtf) and Josef Vasicek. Gone - rentals Brendan Witt and Mike Sillinger as well as faceoff whiz and third leading scorer Yanic Perreault, ex-captain Greg Johnson, gritty Dman Danny Markov (on his fifth team now already?) and plugger Scott Walker, among others.
Nashville has one of the top keepers in the league in Tomas Vokoun although issues with blod clots sidelined him for the playoffs and probably make management pretty nervous.
Paul Kariya had a nice comeback year, like his old buddy Teemu. He and Steve Sullivan are two guys who made a lot of hay with the crackdown on obstruction.
The Preds have the potential to have a powerhouse D for the next few years with Timmonen and Zidlicky being the oldsters in a bunch that includes Lowetide's mancrush, who is 23, and two twenty one year olds, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
For the Preds there are two issues that will make or break their year. One is Vokoun's health. The other is whether or not their kiddie corps D can take the next step. If they can then this team could win the division and earn one of those top two seeds. If not and their divisional foes improve enough to take some points off of them, they could take a step back right out of the playoffs.
Like Anaheim (and likely nearly every team in the league, I'm beginning to think) it comes back to the kids. I think they do well enough and Arnott and Vasicek add enough up front that they get in - not sure if they catch the Wings yet though.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:07 AM