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History: What Does the Preds Good Start Indicate?

by Pete Weber / Nashville Predators

This season has brought about the third best start in Predators history – at least over the course of the first 16 games:

Wins Losses OTL Points
1998-99 6 9 0 13
1999-00 6 8 1 14
2000-01 6 4 1 18
2001-02 5 9 0 12
2002-03 2 8 4 10
2003-04 7 8 0 15
2005-06 11 2 3 25
2006-07 11 4 1 23
2007-08 8 7 1 17
2008-09 8 7 1 17
2009-10 7 8 1 15
2010-11 7 6 3 17
2011-12 8 5 3 19
2013 7 4 5 19
2013-14 8 6 2 18
2014-15 10 4 2 22

This brings back memories of the two best seasons in team history: the 2005-06 and 2006-07 squads. Those teams came out of the lockout (on the heels of the Predators first playoff trip) and compiled 106 and 110-point seasons respectively.

Free-agent-signee Paul Kariya led the way in 2005-06 with 31 goals and 85 points, becoming the first – and to this point only - Predator to average more than a point-per-game over the course of a full season.

The other major contributors to the offense in 2005-06 were Steve Sullivan (31 goals, 68 points) and Yanic Perreault (22 goals, 57 points). Scott Hartnell had a breakout season with 25 goals and Marty Erat added 20. In all, there were five players with 20 goals or more. The defensemen chipped in as well: Kimmo Timonen had 11 goals and 50 points; Marek Zidlicky, 12 and 49, and Dan Hamhuis had a plus/minus rating of +11 to go along with 7 goals and 38 points.

That team was a franchise-best 10th in NHL scoring, seventh in defense and sixth overall in the League standings. Most importantly – they had the sixth-best record in the League, nine spots higher than they had ever been.

The 2005-06 Predators were dominant at home, going 32-8-1, outscoring the opponents by 48 goals (more than one per game). It was the first year of the shootout in the NHL, and the Predators went 6-3 in those games, as Kariya was 5-of-6 and had the deciding tally four times. Steve Sullivan converted on 3-of-7 shootouts as well.

Kariya and Sullivan were absolutely dynamic on the power play; zipping passes from one side of the goal crease to the other through the lower box for quick-strike goals.

At the other end of the ice, Tomas Vokoun was dominant, playing 61 games, going 36-18-7 with a 2.67 goals-against-average and stopping 91.9 percent of the shots he faced. Chris Mason backed him up for 23 games and went 12-5-1. There was also a 23-year-old youngster named Pekka Rinne, who filled in for two games and went 1-1.

The following year, the second-best start over 16 games brought about even more excitement. Excitement was the theme that season, especially with the player additions.

J.P. Dumont joined Nashville after the Buffalo Sabres walked away from an arbitration ruling that went in his favor. Jason Arnott signed on as an unrestricted free agent from Dallas. It was the first full season for Shea Weber on defense and the second for Ryan Suter. Another enigmatic talent who emerged that year was Alexander Radulov, who came up from Milwaukee to play 64 regular-season games and in the playoffs.

The last addition happened on Feb. 15, 2007, while the Predators were in St. Louis preparing for a game the following night. Word came that the Predators had acquired future Hall-of-Famer Peter Forsberg (no relation to Filip) from Philadelphia for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and two draft picks.

From the time he was part of the blockbuster trade from Philadelphia to Quebec (now Colorado) for Eric Lindros in 1992, Forsberg had been one of the best overall performers in the NHL. He even missed the entire 2001-02 regular season, and then played 20 playoff games for the Avs, scoring 9 goals and 27 points!

Forsberg scored a dramatic overtime goal on a “sick pass” (Forsberg’s words) from Paul Kariya against Detroit on Feb. 24. There were 23 games remaining on the Predators schedule when the trade was made, and Forsberg was able to play in just 17. The goal against Detroit was one of just two he scored before the playoffs, in which he added two more.

(No one could have predicted that Peter Forsberg would play just 11 more NHL games, all for Colorado, after his time with the Predators was up that spring.)

All of that helped produce a 51-win, 110-point season, which was the NHL’s third-best record, behind Buffalo and Detroit, each with 113 points.

They scored a franchise-record 272 goals, tying for fourth-best in the League (even though the power play was tied for 17th). The third-ranked penalty-killing unit marked another all-time franchise best.

However, the San Jose Sharks eliminated each of those teams in the first round of the playoffs. Great starts to the regular season merely indicate what can happen over the course of 82 games. You would think that the Predators have already made the bulk of their player acquisitions coming into this season. The Forsberg they have now is pretty good, don’t you think?

The Predators best playoff seasons came in 2011 (beat Anaheim, then lost to Vancouver, which dropped the Cup Final to Boston) and 2012 (beat Detroit, then lost to Phoenix, which was eliminated by Los Angeles en route to their first Stanley Cup).

The Predators of today are five and three points better than those two teams.

Two things are for certain: this team is getting outstanding scoring from its top line and the team is getting tremendous goaltending. They are playing a high ratio of one-goal games, like much of the NHL is today. That’s how thin the margin of error is – and projections can change daily.

For additional statistics on each Preds team by season, click here.

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