Looking at the Competition in the Central Division

ST. PAUL, MN - AUGUST 22: Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild, listens as Bill Guerin answers questions from the media as the new general manager for the team at a press conference at Xcel Energy Center on August 22, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - AUGUST 22: Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild, listens as Bill Guerin answers questions from the media as the new general manager for the team at a press conference at Xcel Energy Center on August 22, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Nashville Predators

NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 25: Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) is shown after the NHL preseason game between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, held on September 25, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 25: Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) is shown after the NHL preseason game between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, held on September 25, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Since the Preds won the division again, will they raise another banner for it- despite getting bounced in the first round? Anyways, Smashville is most of the NHL talking heads pick to win the Central again, which isn’t shocking. This team is impressive; for whatever reason, they haven’t gotten it done in the postseason. Since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2016-2017 season, they have yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs. But this roster seems to get better and better every year.

Biggest Strength: Being a Well Rounded Team

The Predators are a well-composed team, top to bottom. They have incredible depth offensively, elite defensive top four, and a top ten goaltender combined with a more than capable backup.

Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen man a top line that seems to create highlight reel passes every night. Putting Filip Forsberg with Canada’s Country Kid Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund (who Paul Fenton essentially gave away, but it’s fine I’m not STILL upset) is practically cheating. I believe Matt Duchene is going to thrive in Nashville because of the role he’ll be put in. He isn’t exactly your top-line center, but he is too good to be your second-line center. Having Granlund who is a top-five passer in the league could help create huge seasons for Forsberg and Duchene. For the Preds, the second line will provide a nice juxtaposition to the top line. Grimaldi-Sissons-Smith is rated as the fifth-best third line in the league. Obviously, that won’t be the determining factor in their season success, but the Preds will hardly be caught complaining about their forward depth.

A top four of Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm-Dante Fabbro is a spectacular top four. Combined, they could play fifty minutes a night and not have to worry about the bottom pairing at all.

Pekka Rinne is a weird goaltender. It seems he will go on weeklong heaters where he will get a pad, stick, helmet, and/or body part that will swallow the puck. Yet, he’ll also have stretches where he can’t track the puck well and the poise isn’t there to make the big save. These typically last for only a game or two. Juuse Saros is a more than capable goaltender and could easily be in line for the starting position when Rinne (36yrs old) retires.

Biggest Weakness: Championship Pedigree

The Predators do not have anyone who has had extensive success in postseason play in a meaningful role. Sure, Nick Bonino has two cups (2015 and 2016 with the Pens), but he isn’t the reason why he has two cups. None of their additions have been culture-altering moves like Phil Kessel could be in Arizona. He has a poise and clutch factor that will put the puck in the net when it matters most. Matt Duchene has yet to prove he can be that leader and he has had ample opportunity with Colorado and with Ottawa. I expect them to contend for the division, but I believe they’re stuck in the mid-2010’s Capitals cycle: elite regular seasons; can’t finish in the playoffs.