Thanks so much to Dirk from SB Nation's excellent Predators blog On the Forecheck for being a sport and introducing us to the Preds despite the fact that we already know them pretty well!
1. If you had to come up with a team motto/mantra for your club, what would it be?
"You can't shut down our #1 line... because we don't have one."
2. Who do you consider your most potent forwards?
Viktor Stalberg will be expected to step into a major scoring role, but the player who fans hope can carry the load is Colin Wilson, who is developing into a legitimate power forward. The top three centers (Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher, David Legwand) are all OK, but none of them stands out as particularly dangerous. Patric Hornqvist is a crease-crasher who has hit the 30-goal mark previously, but has trouble staying healthy.
3. Which player, if you could magically make him disappear, would you vaporize? Why?
Paul Gaustad. He seems like a great guy, and it's easy to love the faceoff/penalty killing specialists, but the Predators are paying him $4 million this season and next (please, stop laughing, that's not polite). That's one of the most stupendous overpayments in the league, and it constrains the team's ability to add game-breaking talent at the top of the depth chart.
4. How do you feel about your team's coaching staff? What would you consider your head coach's trademark?
It's remarkable to me that Barry Trotz has been around for so long, yet continues to get a great effort out of his players. You don't hear guys complaining, even after they've left the organization, which speaks volumes about Trotz's ability to communicate effectively. The big question, however, is whether the staff has the ability to develop young offensive talent, and not grind down their creativity with demands to adhere to "the system". The guys behind Trotz have changed in recent years, however, so it will be interesting to watch how Lane Lambert and Phil Housley work with the kids.
5. Goaltending controversies: would you say your team has one? If not, could you make one up really quickly? St. Louis media looooves them some goalie controversy.
The only controversy is who's going to back up Pekka Rinne, the free agent they signed with one NHL game of experience (Carter Hutton) or Magnus Hellberg, their 2nd-round draft pick from 2011 who had a strong AHL season but hasn't made it to The Show yet.
6. What are some things you think your team does well? Needs to improve upon? Would you say that the team would agree with you?
The Predators may be the best team in the league when it comes to drafting & developing defensemen, as shown by the fact that last season, five former Preds were the top-scoring defensemen on their teams (Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Cody Franson, Kimmo Timonen & Marek Zidlicky). This season's blueline is entirely homegrown at this point, none of them have played even a single NHL game for another team, and yet that's not a major area of concern.
In addition, goaltending has typically been a team strength going back several seasons as Tomas Vokoun, Dan Ellis and Chris Mason finished among the league leaders in save percentage at various points.
If there's a downside, it's the lack of similar success up front. The Preds have been quite honest about valuing traits like work ethic & character over skill, and I would argue that leaning too far in that direction has left the team outgunned consistently. This is a team with enough defensive talent, work ethic, and team cohesiveness to qualify for the playoffs more often than not, but do they have enough offensive punch to win a division title or make a deep playoff run? 15 years of history tells us no, and unfortunately I don't see that changing any time soon.
Would the team agree with me that this is a problem? I doubt it, this defense-first philosophy is one they've espoused for many years, and has led them to a modest level of success. In other words, it isn't a bug, it's a feature!