NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Nashville Predators.
[Predators 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Can Matt Duchene elevate the offense?
The 28-year-old center should continue to be productive after signing a seven-year, $56 million contract (average annual value $8 million) with the Predators on July 1. He had 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 73 games for the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets last season.
Forwards Filip Forsberg, 25, and Viktor Arvidsson, 26, are Nashville's most dangerous goal-scoring wings. Forsberg had 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists) in 64 games last season, and Arvidsson had 48 points (34 goals, 14 assists) in 58 games. They played primarily with Ryan Johansen in each of the past three seasons, but one of them may skate with Duchene at times to give the Predators a more balanced attack.
"As a centerman, your responsibility is to get your wingers the puck and it's to make guys around you better," Duchene said, "because you're the only player that truly plays basically 200 feet of the ice every single shift. My mentality is, whoever I'm playing with, I'm playing with a really good goal-scorer and I'm looking to get them the puck, because they'll finish."
Video: 31 in 31: Nashville Predators 2019-20 season preview
2. Can Dante Fabbro replace P.K. Subban?
That will be no small task. In Subban's three seasons, the Predators went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016-17, won the Presidents' Trophy in 2017-18 and the Central Division in 2018-19.
Fabbro, 21, is expected to compete for a top-four role at defenseman paired with either Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm. With Josi, Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Fabbro, the Predators have a talented group.
Fabbro acquitted himself well in four regular-season games and six Stanley Cup Playoff games last season but played primarily on the third pair with Dan Hamhuis. A move to the top four will mean more minutes against tougher competition.
Video: CHI@NSH: Fabbro picks the corner for first NHL goal
3. Will Dan Lambert fix the power play?
The Predators hired Lambert as an assistant coach to help run a power play that was last in the NHL (12.9 percent).
Nashville's talent at defenseman sometimes made it rely too heavily on the shot from the point. Lambert, who coached Spokane of the Western Hockey League the past two seasons, will try to find ways to generate higher quality scoring chances from closer to the net.
"We had a lot of good things going for us last year that I felt were equal, if not better, than a lot of the top teams in the League," Predators general manager David Poile said. "The one outlier was the amount of goals scored on our power play (33, tied for 29th with the New York Islanders). If we've improved on that, I think we're heading in the right direction."