I can't even tell you how many different types of people have asked me about last season's memories. Some were season-ticket holders. Some were casual fans, who had become hard core. Some had never paid much attention to the Predators, even though they had lived in Nashville their whole lives. I'm sure that, like me, you met "that guy" at some point this past summer who uttered some version of the following: "I probably watched more hockey in two months than I did in the previous 10 years combined!" And still other questions came from "new fans" who lived far away, some I knew, some I didn't, who would see me wearing Gold and tell me how they were swept up in the incredible madness we all witnessed.
We will never forget last season. Regardless of what the future holds.
But now, it starts over. It's a six-month journey just to earn another spot in the playoffs. On this adventure you are promised nothing. There is no "automatic bid" for the defending Western Conference Champions. Inevitably, like every team, there will be challenges to deal with. And unlike some Predators teams of the past, this squad will sneak up on no one. In the Central Division, history has shown that a good team can finish fifth - or even sixth. In a salary cap-driven League, everybody's margin for error is relatively slim.
That said, the Predators are a true Stanley Cup contender. They have a talented nucleus of leaders - all of them in the prime of their careers. They have all matured together over three years of playoff battles. Now, this group knows what it takes to win.
To set the table for the regular season, which begins in Boston on Thursday, here is a look back at some themes from training camp through five in-depth interviews that took place at Centennial Sportsplex on the Predators flagship station, 102.5 The Game. Once you have listened to these conversations from my radio show 3D, I have no doubt you will gain insight into the season ahead:
5. Preds Forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Colton Sissons:
Viktor Arvidsson and Colton Sissons will have increased responsibility this season. In the interview, Sissons discusses how he would like to build on his playoff success. Arvidsson looks forward to taking on the challenge of being a focal point of the opposition now that he is an established threat. Plus, find out why he changed his number to 33, and about his recent engagement. On a lighter note, listen to both discuss the fashion habits and styles of their teammates:
4. Preds Director of Player Development Scott Nichol:
This popular, former Predator player is now entrenched as the team's director of player development. Listen to him describe the progress of a couple of youngsters who made a good impression during camp, namely defenseman Samuel Girard and center Vladislav Kamenev. In addition, Nichol articulates the process of developing players at the minor-league level. Sometimes it can take three full years of training in Milwaukee before a player is truly ready to help Nashville:
3. Defenseman Ryan Ellis:
The newly named associate captain describes his physical therapy regimen as he works his way back to health. Ellis also describes, in detail, the daily process of preparing to play effectively with the knee injury that hampered him throughout the back half of the season and the playoffs. Additional topics include the mental challenge of putting last year's success into the proper context - using it as motivation to take the next step while not taking anything for granted:
2. Goaltender Pekka Rinne:
The Predator goalie reflects on last season's magic, and tells us about the process of putting together his heartfelt piece he wrote for the Player's Tribune. Other topics include his drive to maintain excellence as he gets older; plus, his influence on the younger Finnish players, Miikka Salomaki and Juuse Saros (they are now ready to branch out and get their own places to live). Listen below:
1. Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette:
Head coach Peter Laviolette goes into detail on the team's offseason acquisitions and the process of building the newly named leadership group. Recorded just days before the announcement of Roman Josi as captain, Laviolette explains the backstory of Mike Fisher becoming captain last year, and the importance of his influence on the young group of rising stars. He also harkens back on how that young core has grown immensely since he became coach in 2014. Also, Laviolette stresses the importance of "keeping your head down and doing the work" every day to avoid falling into the trap of complacency from last season's success: