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(Page 10 of 15)'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Revamped Predators hope for playoff return

Monday, 08.12.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

On the first day of NHL free agency last month, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile admitted he had never been so eager to upgrade his roster.

Failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four seasons while equaling the lowest goals per game average (2.27) in the NHL can do that to someone holding his team to a much higher standard.

The Predators' transition game suffered a major blow with the loss of defenseman Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild via free agency in the summer of 2012, and the highest goal-scorer on the roster was forward David Legwand with 12 in 48 games.

30 in 30: Wilson's health X-factor for Predators

Monday, 08.12.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

All systems were go for Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson on his way to a breakout season before sustaining an injury in March.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound left-handed shot was leading the Predators with 19 points, including seven goals, through the opening 24 games before a shoulder injury ended his run March 9, one day after striking for two goals and four points and being named the game's first star in a 6-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers.

Wilson exited a game against the Minnesota Wild early in the second period after being checked hard into the end boards in the opposing zone by defenseman Justin Falk. Wilson had stabilization surgery on each shoulder within a span of a few weeks in April and began his core and lower-body offseason workout program in June.

30 in 30: Young defense among Predators' questions

Monday, 08.12.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

The Nashville Predators finished with the fourth-worst record in the NHL in 2012-13, but general manager David Poile is confident there are better times ahead.

That is if coach Barry Trotz can find a way to motivate his team to put the puck in the net. The Predators have long been a group that has thrived on scoring by committee, but they failed miserably last season when they connected for two or fewer goals in 27 of 48 games and had a 3-17-7 mark in those contests en route to finishing 14th in the Western Conference.

Naturally, one of several big questions surrounding the team entering 2013-14 is the state of the offense; no player had more than 12 goals and three finished in double digits.

"We have world-class players here like [captain] Shea Weber and [goalie] Pekka Rinne, who are both in the prime of their careers, and the goal is to capitalize and build around them in order to win with them," Poile said. "It's my job to identify the right pieces to complement them and give us the best chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. That remains our goal, and returning to the playoffs is step one."

Here are six questions the Predators face heading into the 2013-14 season:

30 in 30: Jones leads pool of Predators' prospects

Monday, 08.12.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

There's plenty to get excited about when the topic turns to the young talent close to making an impact in the NHL for the Nashville Predators.

"Yes, definitely," Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty told "Looking at it, there's some good depth and high-end talent in the system."

Even before the Predators hit the jackpot by selecting defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks with the No. 4 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, their system seemed to be filled with talented prospects at every position.

The selection of Jones immediately gave the Predators depth along the blue line for the 2013-14 season. Kealty said the hope is for Jones to step right into training camp, make an impression and earn a spot in the NHL lineup.

30 in 30: Predators lineup restocked with forwards

Monday, 08.12.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs seven times in the previous eight years, the departure of Ryan Suter and injuries to other key players played a large role in it becoming seven times in nine seasons for the Nashville Predators.

General manager David Poile was busy once free agency began. He signed forwards Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks to multiyear contracts worth a combined $36.4 million. None of those four are likely to revive a stagnant offense on his own, but each could be a slight upgrade over the players who held down their roles in 2012-13.

Landing defenseman Seth Jones with the No. 4 pick was a well-publicized coup at the 2013 NHL Draft, and expect him to see important minutes right away in Nashville. A step forward from Ryan Ellis and a solid rookie campaign by Jones could help replace the offense from the blue line lost when Suter left for the Minnesota Wild.

30 in 30: Wild questions include Backstrom, Granlund

Sunday, 08.11.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Minnesota Wild qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2008, but their return lasted five games, quickly ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. With much of the roster returning this season, the Wild will aim to build off what they accomplished in 2012-13.

Coach Mike Yeo, who celebrated his 40th birthday July 31, returns for a third season after guiding the team to a second-place finish (26-19-3) in the Northwest Division. Chuck Fletcher has been the general manager since May 2009 and replenished the prospect pool while the Wild endured their four-year playoff drought.

This season will be a pivotal one for the Wild front office. After spending nearly $200 million on forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in July 2012, positive results are expected.

30 in 30: Core in place, Wild look for playoff run

Sunday, 08.11.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth straight season in 2011-12, the Minnesota Wild were willing to do whatever it took to end the frustrating drought.

Owner Craig Leipold spent nearly $200 million to land the two biggest prizes on the free-agent market that summer: left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.

Suter averaged 27:16 of ice time per game (tops in the League) and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy in 2012-13. Parise led the Wild with 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. Each played a pivotal role in helping the Wild clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2008.

30 in 30: Dumba tops list of Wild prospects

Sunday, 08.11.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

It's difficult to search for positives when a team misses the Stanley Cup Playoffs four years in a row, but the Minnesota Wild were at least able to stock their prospect pool during those frustrating times.

Led by general manager Chuck Fletcher, the Wild, who ended their postseason drought in April, have collected a group of talented, young players who will be expected to have an impact in the NHL in the near future.

Some of Minnesota's young talent already enjoys life in the NHL. Defenseman Jonas Brodin, the Wild's first-round pick (No. 10) at the 2011 NHL Draft, had 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 45 games last season and led NHL rookies by averaging 23:12 of ice time per game. He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.

30 in 30: Coyle, at center or wing, Wild X-factor

Sunday, 08.11.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

It's all but a certainty Charlie Coyle will start this season with the Minnesota Wild. Where he'll play is still to be determined.

Coyle was selected in the first round (No. 28) of the 2010 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks, but he was traded a year later, along with right wing Devin Setoguchi and a first-round pick in 2011 (center Zack Phillips), to the Wild in exchange for defenseman-turned-forward Brent Burns.

Coyle made a huge impression with Wild brass last season after being promoted from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. The 21-year-old was so impressive he found himself playing right wing on Minnesota's top line alongside center Mikko Koivu and left wing Zach Parise. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of East Weymouth, Mass., had eight goals and six assists in 37 games in his first taste of NHL hockey.

30 in 30: Wild youth becoming factor in lineup

Sunday, 08.11.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The rebuild by the Edmonton Oilers has earned more attention because of that franchise's luck in the NHL Draft lottery, but the Minnesota Wild also have amassed one of the best collections of young talent in the past few seasons.

Despite not picking higher than seventh in the NHL Draft since 2005, the Wild have one of the deepest groups of young, potential impact players in the League.

Minnesota's crew was aided by a huge splash in free agency before last season, and the Wild are coming off a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A couple of those prospects were traded to the Buffalo Sabres to add Jason Pominville before the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline, and a few more could join Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin as full-time members of the Wild this season.

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