The Nashville Predators made a franchise-altering trade last summer, sending defenseman Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman P.K. Subban, a younger model with more offensive upside.
The trade happened in the aftermath of a devastating Game 7 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Second Round that denied the Predators a chance at their first Western Conference Final.
General manager David Poile felt Subban, a Norris Trophy winner in 2013, would bring some much-needed offensive pizzazz. Come June, Poile's gamble on Subban not only will get the Predators to the conference final for the first time, it will help deliver the first Stanley Cup to the franchise.
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Subban essentially is the finishing move to a project that has been years in the making.
The Predators have made the playoffs six of the past eight seasons, using a team concept and an adherence to system play to grind out wins. Now that team concept is stronger than ever, as some players have matured in that system and others have been assimilated into it through shrewd trades and free-agent signings.
Throw a potential game-breaking superstar in Subban, who averages more than 24 minutes of ice time per game, into the mix and this becomes a team that can find that elusive goal that has derailed their championship drives in the past.
Subban is just one piece of perhaps the most talented, versatile group of top-three defenders in the League, joined by Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Each averages more than 0.50 points per game and plays more than 24 minutes per game. Mattias Ekholm is not a bad No. 4 either.
The Predators also have added an offensive element at the forward position. Viktor Arvidsson, 23, had a breakout season, scoring 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists). He's been an outstanding complement to Filip Forsberg, 22, who has topped 30 goals for the second straight season. Center Ryan Johansen, 24, also had 61 points (14 goals, 47 assists).
All three gained valuable experience from going through the tense, two-round playoff journey last season and are bolstered by productive veterans like Mike Fisher and James Neal.
Rookie forward Kevin Fiala, 20, had 11 goals goals and could be one of those surprising young players that are part of the puzzle for championship teams.
Few goalies in the League are as dependable as Pekka Rinne, who has played in more than 500 regular-season games. He has had an up-and-down season, but Rinne, 34, is more than capable of running hot for two months and understands he might not have many more postseason opportunities as a No. 1 goalie.
Coach Peter Laviolette puts all this talent in the proper positions to win. Few have done it better for longer than Laviolette, who coached in his 1,000th NHL game in March. Plus, Laviolette has won the Stanley Cup as a coach, one of only seven of the 16 coaches in the tournament to win the whole thing.
For those reasons the Stanley Cup will settle in Nashville in mid-June, kicking off a celebration for the Predators that will humble this party-mad city.