The Minnesota Wild is moving into the Western Conference's Central Division. The club will realign with six other clubs: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
It's important to know your enemies, so leading up to the 2013-14 regular season Wild.com Managing Editor Mike Doyle will take a look the Wild’s new divisional rivals. Today he gets to know the Nashville Predators.
Additions: Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks
Subtractions: Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, Bobby Butler, Chris Mason, Brandon Yip, Jonathon Blum
2012-13 Season Summary
Record: 16-23-9, 41 pts.
Finished: 5th in Central, 14th in Western Conference
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
2012-13 Wild Record vs. Nashville: 2-1-0
All-time Wild Record vs. Nashville: 20-20-7
Last Meeting: 2-1 Wild shootout win at Bridgestone Arena
2012-13 Team Leaders
Goals: David Legwand (12)
Assists: Shea Weber (19)
Points: Shea Weber (28)
Wins: Pekka Rinne (15)
Shutouts: Pekka Rinne (5)
GAA: Pekka Rinne (2.43)
SV%: Pekka Rinne (.910)
When Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild two summers ago, it left a hole on the Nashville blue line wider than the Cumberland Gap. Without Suter, the Predators missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and finished below .500 for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
While the team was unfortunate to lose an all-star caliber defenseman to free agency and suffer through its worst season in a decade, the organization might’ve hit the jackpot at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey. The Preds watched the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Seth Jones, fall down the draft board and right into its lap at pick number four. Nashville had the 6-foot-4, 205-pound blueliner at the top of its draft board and believes that he’s a franchise altering talent.
The Preds have one of the league’s top netminders in Pekka Rinne. However, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist had arthroscopic hip surgery in May and looks to rebound (and not give up as many) after a season in which he posted the lowest save percentage (.910) of his career since taking the starting job in 2008.
Nashville's offensive attack was its bugaboo last season, and it certainly didn't help to lose Colin Wilson midway through the season. The forward was leading the Predators in points, scoring 19 (7-12=19) through the first 24 games before sustaining a shoulder injury against the Wild. After surgery and six months of rehabbing, Nashville needs Wilson to supply an offensive punch to a team that had trouble scoring last season.
Up front, the team signed a number of free agents, three with State of Hockey ties. The Preds inked former Wild fan favorite Matt Cullen after the club was unable to re-sign the veteran due to the lowered salary cap. Another former St. Cloud State University Husky and Minnesota native signing with Nashville is gritty forward Matt Hendricks. Former Wild forward Eric Nystrom also adds to the Predators’ depth at wing.
Rounding out the ties to Minnesota is former NHL defenseman Phil Housley, who the Preds hired as assistant coach over the summer. Looks like the Music City is trying to cover State of Hockey success.
154 – The amount of minor penalties called on the Preds last season, which tied them for the league low with Minnesota and Winnipeg.
2.27 — Goals per game, tying Florida, with the fewest scores on average through the regular season.