I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the 2006-2007 Nashville Predators!
At Forward, the Predators have their entire core from 2005-2006 returning which is good news for Preds fans. While no one is expecting Doug Weight to win the Art Ross Trophy for a 2nd year in a row, we think this year's forward group is stronger than ever thanks to a solid rerate (in particular, Lehtinen and Shanahan rerated very well) and the acquisition of new 1st line C Shawn Horcoff (acquired in a move that saw JS Giguere leave town).
At Defense, the Predators have once again their entire core from last year returning. In fact, the defense was so good last year that it enabled GM Mathieu to downgrade in nets in exchange for scoring help knowing the defence would protect the net. With the core 5 of Souray, Ohlund, Boyle, Smith and Preissing signed for 2-4 years, the defense in Nashville will be strong for the forseable future.
In Nets, the Predators saw their biggest changes. 05-06 starter Giguere was sent packing as mentioned before for forward depth and the starting position was dealt to 05-06 backup and youngster Mathieu Garon. He is expected to hold the fort down for 55-65 games this year and we believe he can get the job done. In the first 3 games of the season, Garon has a shutout and 2 losses. The 2 losses however were still very decent one goal low scoring games. Its a sign that the offence needs to wake up and you can expect to see some forward line changes in the near future. 3rd stringer Phillipe Sauve was let go as a free agent in the offseason. To backup Garon, a combination of free-agent signee Chris Mason and obtained via trade Chris Osgood will be used. That platoon will be counted on for a solid 15-20 games this year and we feel they can handle it.
In the system, we have several standout players that we expect to come up in the next few years. At forward, Garth Murray, Mikhail Grabovsky, Jonathan Ferland, Mason Raymond and Brooks Laich should fill spots on the pro team within the next 1-3 years. On D, Andy Wozniewski, Richie Regehr and Joe Finley should come in and have an impact sooner than later. And finally in nets, the teams blue chipper Tuuka Rask will be expected to push Garon for the starting role within the next few years and will be the cornerstone of the team in the 5-10 year outlook.
The Predators are on the Prowl and expect to compete for the cup come April 2007!!