The St. Louis Blues have been able to keep the Nashville Predators in their rear view mirror for most of their existence. The question is whether 2016-17 will see the end of that.
The St. Louis Blues have had to contend with a scrappy Nashville squad for the last few years. Every since Peter Laviolette arrives, they’ve been real contenders.
The Predators had a little bit of a set back in the regular season of 2015-16. Despite this, they made it to the second round of the playoffs and gave eventual Western Conference Champion, San Jose, a real run for their money.
The Predators took the Sharks the full seven games. However, seven games with Anaheim and two overtime games with four overtime periods overall was too much for the Preds by the end.
Still, they did themselves proud. Though you never want to play the team that was talented enough to knock off the one that did so well, it would have been a heck of a series to see the Blues against Nashville.
Going forward, the Predators are going to continue to be dangerous. They’ve added some serious firepower over the last few seasons and put that with a big piece over the summer and you have a dangerous team going forward.
No wasting time here. Let’s just get to it and address the big name of P.K. Subban.
The Nashville Predators GM David Poile has done a fantastic job and adding Subban just confirmed that. Nashville had to give up a huge piece to get him, but it should end up being a net-plus for the Predators.
Subban had a down year last season, but that was mainly due to being banged up. Not being named to Team Canada for the World Cup will aid him in two ways.
First, it allowed him to get healthy without the grind of the tournament putting any stress on him physically. Second, not being named to Team Canada is going to put a huge chip on his shoulder.
It’s not as though Subban was not going to perform without any incentive. Proving the heads of hockey’s capital wrong will just add fuel to his fire though.
Nashville also added Yannick Weber. He isn’t going to replace the man with the same name, but he’s a servicable defender who will mainly be used to provide depth and insurance against injury.
If Subban is the big name coming in, Shea Weber is surely the big one going out. It’s always hard to declare either team a winner in these matters, but it’s definitely a spend money to make money kind of scenario.
The interesting thing about the trade is the Predators are banking on the fact Subban is a younger player. As of right now, Weber has actually been the more consistent goal scorer.
Much of that is due to his hard shot and prominence on the powerplay unit. The Predators are looking to become a little more dynamic and Subban’s puck moving skills were more in line with that style.
Weber’s loss will be felt in the locker room. It’s hard to replace a long time leader. The Blues and Predators will have that in common this season.
Nashville’s other loss is the Blues gain. The Predators let Carter Hutton loose and the Blues are hoping he can provide them enough to make up for the loss of Brian Elliott and be the kind of backup he provided for Nashville.
Hutton provided some very stable goaltending for the Predators in his three seasons there. It is understood why they did not bring him back, but giving up on what you know for what you hope is always difficult.
As a Blues fan, it’s a little more difficult to separate feelings from fact. One thing is for sure, the Predators are going to be a handful for the entire league.
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Additionally, Johansen is in a contract year. It remains to be seen whether the Predators will work out an extension during the season, but players have a history of doing well in contract years, which will only make the Predators even more dangerous.
EA Sports clearly thinks the Predators will be good. Their simulation has Nashville winning the Central Division and the Stanley Cup.
Personally, I don’t see that happening. However, as mentioned, they have all the tools to do it.
Having Johansen for an entire season will make Nasvhille hard to deal with. Outside of that, they’ve really only replaced what was lost.
Weber replaces Barret Jackman in terms of production and depth. Subban is a better skater, but in terms of pure point production, isn’t as much of an upgrade on Shea Weber as everyone would have you believe. Rinne has to stay healthy as well.
If everything works out smoothly, Nashville is going to be challenging the top teams in the Central. If they hit a few bumps and can’t overcome those, it’ll be back to the wild card picture.
All that said, there is almost no way this team does not make the playoffs and challenge anyone they face. It would take some catastrophic injuries to knock the Preds out.
No matter how good either team is or how bad the other is, they always seem to battle. Any game decided by more than a goal between these two has to be considered a blow out.
The Blues have the edge in the series overall, but not by much. 50-46-4 is the slim margin separating these two teams.
St. Louis also had a rare bit of dominance in 2015-16. The Blues won four and only dropped one game.
The interesting thing that has happened over time is the Blues have done to Nasvhille what the Blackhawks have done to them. The Predators’ home building is often turned into a defacto home game for St. Louis due to the fans that travel.
With no weekend road games, that may not be the case this season. Still, it has emerged as a strong rivalry without the nastiness you get from other fan bases.
The Blues will open on the road on Thursday, November 10. They’ll be at home Saturday, November 19, back to the road Tuesday, December 13, home on Friday, December 30 and close out at home on Sunday, April 2.
Even with the new players, don’t expect this rivalry to take on any less meaning. It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of dynamic Subban brings when the Blues play them.