A small market for professional hockey resides in Nashville TN. The crowd appeal or support may not be to the magnitude of the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings but don’t let that steer you away. The Nashville Predators came to TN as an expansion team in 1998, have enjoyed moderate success and continued fan growth. They are members of the central division in the Western conference and play at Bridgestone Arena.
Over the last 20 years of professional hockey in TN the predators have been to the playoffs 9 times, have won 3 series and advanced to the second round only once. Whether it is injuries or lack of experience to blame, it seems the Preds don’t click well in the month of April. After moderate success for the first 15 years which then dropped to a few lackluster seasons, the organization decided to part ways with long time coach-Barry Trotz.
The 2014-2015 season started with not only a new coach -Peter Laviolettie but also a new team identity. Over the last two years an exciting feel to the Predators started to take place. They are fun to watch, have strong tradition at home games and have the support of the city and fans from all over. They have made the playoffs the last two years. The most successful playoff campaign in history took place last year which saw the team reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever in the 2015-2016 season.
Exciting times are ahead and this season looks to be no different. The Predators clinched a playoff spot for the third time in three years. They seek their first ever Stanley Cup starting April 12th. According to the Tennessean, Nashville will begin its first-round series on the road, currently occupying the second wild-card position in the West. There is a 58.2 percent chance that the Predators will face the top-seeded Blackhawks in that matchup. It would be the third first-round meeting between the two teams in the playoffs, The Blackhawks won both in 2010 and 2015. Chicago captured the Stanley Cup in each of those seasons.
It wont be an easy task playing a top seed on the road, but with the offseason acquisition of P.K. Subban and top talent likes of rookie Filip Forsberg and James Neal the time seems right. The new style and attitude of the Predators could take them far into the postseason. This April could be different. Although they may only be a mid market team without all the glamour and prestige of other programs, they aren’t just satisfied with playoff berths-they want a Stanley Cup.
Is this the year the Nashville Predators make a deep run? Or just another excuse filled April. Only time will tell.