For the first two-thirds of the 2014-15 season, the Nashville Predators were the surprise of the NHL.
New coach Peter Laviolette, armed with additions made by longtime general manager and C.G.B. Spender look-alike David Poile, transformed the long staid and steady Preds into a team that finally utilized its underrated speed to its offensive advantage, like a Paul Westhead Loyola team on skates.
If the old Preds were sludge metal technically proficient at what they did, though what they did was a bit of a slog these new ones were Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" while going headfirst down the Cresta Run.
In his official rookie season, winger Filip Forsberg seized his opportunity on the first line with ensorcelling playmaking center Mike Ribeiro and edgy sniper James Neal (both off-season acquisitions) to emerge as the likely long-term solution to the Preds' longest-term woe: scoring from the front. The young defensemen Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm elevated their games, relieving pressure from stalwart Shea Weber and Swiss polyglot Roman Josi the latter, at times, appearing to be the best blue-liner on the team, prompting Preds fans to finally say, "Ryan who?" Healthy Pekka Rinne was the ...