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Disappointment Remains, But Preds Already Anticipating 2017-18 Season

Despite Falling Short of Ultimate Goal, Predators Say Future Remains Brighter Than Ever

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

It's perhaps the toughest day of the year for a professional hockey player.

The Nashville Predators, who came within two wins of their ultimate goal, gathered at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday for one last time as a team, the last time the 2016-17 group will be together as a whole.

And while the circumstances may have made it a bit more difficult to realize the accomplishment that came over the past nine months, many Preds players already have that itch to get back to Nashville in September to try and do it all over again.

"I think you look at our team, there's a bright future for our hockey club, and that's all it is, a bright future," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "You still have to put in the work to justify that… We have a short turnaround year in the offseason, and that's the only down part of playing in June is you don't have as much time to prepare. But that being said, I think our team is in a great position going forward."

Video: Subban discusses first season with the Predators

Goaltender Pekka Rinne will continue to play a monumental role in the success of the Predators in the coming seasons, and always one of the most candid players, Rinne reflected on the dream of winning the Stanley Cup. It's a dream that everyone in the organization has now had up close and something that won't escape them anytime soon.

"I think confidence-wise, it's a mindset throughout the organization," Rinne said. "If you truly believe that you can win, it's a very powerful mindset. I think that's something that we've been able to switch [in recent years] to come to try to create more of a winning culture. That's something that hopefully will be very meaningful."

For centerman Ryan Johansen, who was forced to miss his team's final eight games of the season due to injury, the desire to return next season is amplified. Johansen said he expects to begin skating in approximately two weeks as he continues rehabilitation from surgery due to acute compartment syndrome in his left thigh, and the restricted free agent hopes to get a deal done to return to the Preds "as soon as possible."

After a year-and-a-half spent in the Music City, Johansen continues to be amazed by his new town, and the run his team just completed doesn't make it any easier to describe what he feels for Nashville.

Video: Injured Johansen can't wait to return to the Preds

"I still haven't found words that explain it," Johansen said. "How this city and Nashville Predators fans have come together, I still don't even know what to say. You wish [the 2018 playoffs were] starting tomorrow. I can't wait to get back out on the ice and we want to win for [the fans] so bad. We're just dreaming and imagining what it'd be like if we were champions here and it's going to be great motivation for us moving forward into this offseason and the start of next season."

That start will come soon enough with just over three months until players report for training camp, and the Preds share a belief that having experienced just about every scenario in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past three seasons it will make them better. Not that they needed any, but motivation will be plentiful this summer before it fades into autumn once more.

"We came in with high expectations this year and didn't start the way we wanted, but we finished pretty darn close to where we wanted," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "We're confident in the group that we have going forward and it's encouraging to see that - how hungry, how dedicated everyone was. I expect even bigger things next year."

Video: Ellis on the difficulty of falling short of the Cup

So as the team said their farewells for the offseason and went their separate directions, that quiet confidence - the same belief that carried them almost far enough this season - already seemed to be hovering once more.

And when the 2017-18 season commences in October, the Predators will have something to raise to the rafters of Bridgestone Arena for the first time in franchise history.

They don't intend on it being the last.

"We didn't get the Cup, and that's our ultimate goal, but we come back next year and we're going to have a banner, our first banner ever in this rink, and that's exciting for us because we know we're there," Ellis said. "We're close, and it's about the next step forward. Hopefully, the team can make it next year."

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