On Friday morning’s broadcast of A to Z Sports, hosts Austin Stanley and Zach Bingham posed the following question — was the Nashville Predators’ season a success or failure?
To briefly recap, the Preds won the President’s Trophy during the regular season, but completely dropped the puck in Game 7 at home to the Winnipeg Jets, losing in embarrassing fashion, 5-1. As a result, Austin, Zach, and the audience came to a consensus — the season was a failure.
This belief largely stems from the Preds’ Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final as the No. 8 seed last year, which created this season’s “championship or bust” mentality. While this mindset is understandable, perspective is needed, even if the wound from a devastating Game 7 loss is fresh.
Despite Nashville’s second-round exit after earning home ice throughout the playoffs, this season was a resounding success for a still maturing franchise.
“Stanley Cup or bust” makes no sense for Preds
Every fan wants their team to win a championship.
However, championship expectations should only belong to teams who’ve actually hoisted championship trophies. Since 2010, seven of the eight Stanley Cups have been won by three teams — Chicago, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.
Nashville was two wins away from winning Lord Stanley last June, but fell short of stunning a star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins team.
The President’s Trophy is irrelevant
The President’s Trophy came into existence during the 1985-1986 season.
Since then, only eight of its 32 recipients have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. As competition level has increased, the rarity of a team winning both has only increased. Since 2003, only two President’s Trophy winners have finished the deal when it mattered.
Given the unpredictability of the NHL playoffs, it should come as no surprise that Nashville winning the President’s Trophy held zero relevance once the playoffs started.
Where it does have relevance is that it proves the Preds were no one-hit wonder. They have solid foundations across the board, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players.
Nashville faced a stronger opponent
It was repeated multiple times throughout the series on social media, but the Winnipeg Jets were simply a better hockey team. There’s no question the Jets feature a high-octane offense, but what often got lost was their underrated defensive play and the fact their goalie — Connor Hellebuyck — was comparable to Pekka Rinne.
Winnipeg finished with 114 points during the regular season, meaning a single victory and overtime loss was all that separated them and the Preds in the standings. The Jets did, however, have an edge in goal differential (+59 to +56).
Even with home ice, Winnipeg had too much star power on every level. The fact that Nashville took them to a Game 7 is a testament to the franchises growth over the past two seasons.
The Preds lack of Offensive Superstars
In sports, superstars win championships.
Nashville has superstars. Unfortunately, they’re on the wrong side of the ice.
As great as P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne can be, Nashville’s platoon approach on offense was a double-edged sword. Having multiple lines that can play effective hockey is an ideal situation for any team, but having a collection of very good centers and forwards is inherently a disadvantage against a team like Winnipeg, who has a collection of stars/potential superstars on offense.
During the regular season, no player scored more than 64 points. In fact, the Preds relied heavily on defensemen for scoring and assisting.
This is a potential roster concern for Nashville heading into the offseason. Do they stick with what they have and continue growing, or do they make moves to add more firepower?
Whatever general manager David Poile decides to do, he — as well as the fans — should feel confident.
The Preds aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com