Bolstered by pre-season results, the Nashville Predators were confident that they could make the playoffs when the regular season started.
However, for the first time since GM Tremblay took over, injuries hit the roster pretty hard early on and for most of the season: “We’ve played maybe 5 games all year long with our full lineup”. The bad luck was such that the team will set a new record for games missed due to injuries in 2016-17. Looking back, the Predators’ players have missed more games this year than during the past five years combined together.
For the Predators, the injury bug could not have come during a worse year: the usually cap conservative team was close to the cap than any previous year. As a result, the Predators had not only to fill the huge holes left on their roster but also had to contend with cap issues. This resulted, for a good part of the season, in difficult stretches and losing streaks. Nashville kept sliding in the western conference and close to the cut-off right before the trading deadline.
It was also at the trade deadline that the long-time injured players came back, sparking hope that the team would go back to winning. Being on the bubble, GM Tremblay decided to stay put after talking to a couple of teams about adding a player: “We didn’t want no rental as our players were just returning to the lineup and the race was pretty close for that last playoff spot in the West. Unfortunately, our salary cap standing didn’t allow us to add too much salary so we couldn’t work on bringing quality players that could have helped next year as well.”
Fortunately, the return of key players to the lineup started a winning streak that helped the Predators get some breathing room. Sitting in 4th position with 11 games to play and a five point lead over the last playoff bound team, the Predators are entering the final stretch that will decide whether or not they can contend for the cup. That last bit won’t be easy, playing 8 games out of 11 against teams in the playoffs race. Still, with a mostly healthy lineup, the Predators feel ready for a late season push to squeak into the playoffs with the ice advantage.