This season, the Predators will try to regain the respect lost after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but it won't be easy. Thanks to the NHL's realignment plan, Nashville is now in the Central Division along with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues and Suter's Minnesota Wild, all teams who figure to have a better chance at landing one of the division's three automatic playoff bids.
Still, it's difficult to count the Preds out considering the club's longtime general manager/head coach duo of David Poile and Barry Trotz have managed to coax playoff-qualifying seasons out of teams with similar skill levels to this one.
Perhaps, the addition of highly-touted defenseman Seth Jones, who fell to Nashville at the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, could provide the boost needed to make a return to the playoffs.
FORWARDS - Under Poile and Trotz, Nashville's strength has always been on defense and that doesn't expect to change in 2013-14.
Nashville's punch-less offense finished 29th in the NHL in scoring last season, averaging a paltry 2.27 goals per game. Signing Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen to free-agent deals over the summer could help improve things somewhat, but generating offense will likely be an issue for the club once again.
Even though his performance during last year's lockout-shortened campaign was disappointing, Weber still led the Predators in scoring with 28 points. That left David Legwand as the club's highest-scoring forward with just 25 points in 48 games. Legwand is the franchise's all-time leading scorer, but he doesn't he exactly strike fear into the hearts of a opposing defensemen.
Mike Fisher is best suited at playing a two-way role with an emphasis on defense, but the centerman once again will be called upon to be one of the club's top-scoring forwards. Fisher posted 21 points on 10 goals and 11 assists in 38 games last season after notching 51 points (24G, 27A) in 72 contests during the 2011-12 campaign.
Both Cullen and Stalberg will likely land on one of Nashville's top-two lines, units that will be centered by Fisher and Legwand. Cullen would've been the Predators' top-scoring forward last season when he posted 27 points (7G, 20A) over 42 games with the Minnesota Wild, while Stalberg had nine goals and 14 assists in 47 outings for the Blackhawks.
Stalberg could be in line for a career season in 2013-14 after spending the last three seasons battling for playing time on a stacked Chicago offense. He won't have to fight nearly as hard for minutes among Nashville's thin forward group.
Nashville's offense would benefit greatly from a rebound season from winger Patric Hornqvist, who led the team with 27 goals in 2011-12 before falling to four goals in 24 games last season.
Poile also added former Washington winger Matt Hendricks over the summer after he tallied five goals and three assists in 48 games for the Capitals. Eric Nystrom was another free-agent pickup and is coming off a seven-goal, 11-point season with the Dallas Stars in 2013-14.
Perhaps, Filip Forsberg (no relation to former Predator Peter Forsberg) could provide a spark up front. The winger was the 11th overall pick by Washington in 2012, but was acquired for Martin Erat at last season's trade deadline. Forsberg had one assist in a five-game run with the Predators last season.