NHL Season Preview: Nashville Predators

Welcome to the NHL FanHouse 2008-09 season preview. While other sites are previewing "30 teams in 30 days," we decided to take advantage of the extra time off before the start of the season to bring you all 30 previews over the next three weeks. We're counting down in reverse order of finish from last season in each conference every weekday from now until October 3. Look for an Eastern Conference preview every morning and a Western Conference preview every afternoon. Click here to read them all.

Who's In: Ryan Jones, F (trade, Min)

Who's Out: Chris Mason, G (trade, Stl), Alexander Radulov, F (likely gone, KHL), Marek Zidlicky, D (trade, Min), Darcy Hordichuk, F (trade, Car)

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What's New: Relatively speaking, the quick answer is not a whole heck of a lot. The Predators really did not do much on what you might call the positive side of things this off-season aside from re-signing players like Martin Erat, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dan Ellis, Rich Peverly, and Jerred Smithson. So by and large the band that played to an 8th place finish in the West remains together. Two departed members stand out, however.

Of the two, Marek Zidlicky is definitely gone. He was traded to Minnesota in exchange for former college star Ryan Jones and a second-rounder. The move made Nashville's defense even younger, but the group remains solid with the retention of Suter and Weber. The team is counting on Ville Koistinen to quicken his pace of improvement with Zidlicky gone.

The more painful departure was that of Alexander Radulov, who was drawn to the shiny bright lights of the Kontinental Hockey League. He breached his contract with Nashville in July, creating a storm of controversy that generated the bulk of the NHL-related headlines this summer. The team is operating under the assumption that Radulov will not be back this season, chosing to assume that the eventual arbitration hearing will not be decided in their favor. They've suspended the Russian indefinitely in a move that is symbolic as long as he remains overseas. Reports recently have indicated that Radulov is disillusioned with the KHL, but whether that will produce the necessary repentence for a return to the NHL remains to be seen.

With Radulov gone, the Predators will have to rely on players like Erat, Jason Arnott, David Legwand, and JP Dumont for their offensive production. Ryan Jones and another youngster, Patric Hornqvist, could add to the mix, but their likely level of immediate impact doesn't seem high.

In net, the Preds will be on the young side, with Dan Ellis in the driver's seat and Pekka Rinne looking to step in if needed. A lot depends on Ellis being as good as he was in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Who's On The Hook: The chances for Nashville's success hinge mostly on the performance of Dan Ellis. If the young goaltender picks up where he left off in the 2008 playoffs, the Predators will have the strong netminding they need to have a shot at success. If, however, Ellis turns out to be something of a one-hit wonder, the Preds are in trouble. Given that Ellis made a name for himself by extending a series with the Detroit Red Wings, I'm inclined to believe the kid is for real. For his sake I hope his teammates rally around him.

Radulov will have to do a lot to redeem himself if he ever does make it back to the Predators.That seems a big "if" at this point, however.

Where They'll Finish: With an improved Chicago and a Columbus squad that just has to strike gold one of these days, it will be difficult for Nashville to remain second dog in the Central Division. I see them finishing out of the playoffs.
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