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Season 5 Preview - Nashville Predators Written by habsfan93 - November 30th, -0001

After 4 consecutive years at the helm, GM Eddy Franchise finished last season by missing the playoffs for the first time. Prior to that, Nashville had always been a 5-8 team, never quite capable of elevating their game, but always good enough to make the playoffs. In April, it was decided that new blood was needed in Nashville and a former CMHL Stanley Cup Winner was brought in to lead the charge - GM Rye. Over the summer, Rye drastically altered the shape of this team, and now once again, he looks to make the playoffs, and get past the hurdle that every previous Nashville squad has stumbled on - making it past the quarter finals.

Offence

Of the 20 players that regularly skated for Nashville in Season 4, only 3 remain. The rest have moved on through GM Rye's massive restructuring project. Two of those 3 players are forwards - David Vyborny and Sergei Brylin. Jassen Cullimore stays on the back end as the third player. Previous Nashville teams had been defined by consistency. Former GM Eddy Franchise was not one to pull a lot of trades. Players like Martin Havlat, Bobby Holik and Paul Kariya had spent their entire careers in Nashville before this summer. Kids who bought Predators jerseys thinking their stars were here forever are now sporting different names. GM Rye has brought in an interesting offence. The attack will be led by consistent overachiever Anson Carter. This is widely believed to be Carter's swan song in the CMHL, and he'll want it to be a good one. Expect a point a game from him. Opposite him will be young phenom, Alexander Semin. Semin had a breakout year for the Red Wings last year, and is widely expected to be a franchise-type forward who could be scoring a lot of goals for this team. He's a former Cup Winner, and at 24 years old, has a lot of experience. Centering them should be one of the better all-around players in the CMHL, Michal Handzus. With these two scorers taking his passes, Handzus could easily set career records in assists and points this year.

Behind these three, GM Rye has built a very strong supporting cast of forwards, including the likes of Radek Dvorak, Sergei Samsonov, Mark Bell, Mark Parrish, Tomas Holmstrom and returnee David Vyborny. In fact, one thing that defines all these players is that all of them are guys whose numbers at the end of the season will surprise you. All of these forwards are capable of putting up 40-70 points a year. GM Rye has shown a knack for finding talent where other GM's give the cold shoulder. If there's a weakness to this offence, its at centre. Vyborny is a very capable 3rd liner C, but he's currently the number 2 guy in Nashville. If this author were the GM in Nashville, I would be looking to move one of the surplus of wingers, like Mark Bell, to Centre, in order to get a 70 point player like Radek Dvorak off the 3rd line. I think some better line management could really elevate this team.

Defence

Nashville has one of the better group of offences in the league, and they need it, because there is no offence that is going to come from their back-end. The six guys patrolling the defence in Nashville are all very capable defenders though, and they make it tough night in and night out for opposing forwards to enter the zone. But don't get me wrong, none of them are going to catalyze any offence. Willie Mitchell and Bryce Salvador lead the group in defensive acumen, followed by returnee Jassen Cullimore, Andreas Lilja, Karel Rachunek and Hal Gill. As a said, offence no, defence yes.

Goaltending

The biggest change GM Rye made is the move that GM Eddy Franchise should have done a long time ago. Rye dumped previous starter Patrick Lalime to the backup spot where he belonged, and acquired franchise goalie Mikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff may be the element this team needs to break the barrier. He's a former Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and he knows what it takes to go the distance. He will be invaluable to this team.

Prospects

The prospect pool in Nashville is not tremendously deep, but there are some serviceable components. Trevor Lewis was Nashville's first pick in '06, and he carries a lot of potential with him to be a key component of Nashville's future offence. Ryan O'Marra is currently playing with the pro squad but may need a year or two of further seasoning. Nonetheless, he holds equally high potential. Beyond those two, there are no blue-chip prospects and this is something that Nashville really needs to address in the long-term.

Playoffs

Nashville is a dark horse in this year's CMHL. They are off to a strong start, having yet to lose in their first 5 games. If they can take advantage of key matchups, it is extremely possible that we could see this team make the playoffs, anywhere from 4th to 8th. With Columbus as strong as ever, and Chicago in a state of flux but still strong, I don't know if Nashville has division-winning potential.

Quick Hits

Best Bargain: Willie Mitchell - Mitchell is one of the best pure defenders in the CMHL, and he is a steal at $650,000 as GM's fail to realize the advantage of having a player like this on a team.
Most Overpaid: Sergei Brylin - Brylin can't see his prime in the mirror anymore, and he is nowhere near worth the almost 3 million he'll pull in this year. Don't be surprised if he finds his way to the minors before the 20 game waiver mark hits.
Breakout Player: Tomas Holmstrom - Holmstrom seems to be stuck in the 30-40 point range, but rumours are that he showed up in camp in great shape and that he is raring to go. A good start and he could be seeing 50+ points easily this year.
Overrated: Jassen Cullimore - Cullimore is a big body and not much more. He's slow, not a good puck mover and his 21 assists last year were a fluke. He will not reproduce those numbers ever.

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