Very few have done it as many times as the Nashville Predators.
The Predators are in elite company when it comes to playoff consistency. With their berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Nashville has made the playoffs in 10 of their last 13 seasons. That’s tied for the third-most in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks.
The only teams with more playoff berths in that time frame are the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks with 12 each, and the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers with 11 each.
“I think it’s a great job by the management and everybody who has been here for a long time,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “It’s important for the city of Nashville. We’ve got a great hockey town, and the fans are awesome, and they definitely deserve to watch playoff hockey. It’s just speaks for the organization.”
“It’s not easy to make the playoffs in the NHL. It’s great that the Preds have been that consistent.”
The teams that have made the playoffs more than the Predators since ’03-’04 have been some of the stalwarts of the NHL. The Penguins have won multiple Stanley Cup championships over the last 13 years, the Red Wings have one title in that span, and the Sharks and Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final in the last few seasons.
Head coach Peter Laviolette noted how remarkable Nashville’s success has been given their company and the nature of the NHL and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think that there’s something to be said for that,” Laviolette said. “You hear about the strings of success of some of the teams and only 50% of the teams are playing [in the playoffs] and the rest are going home. For me, it speaks to the stability of the organization, the ownership right now, the management that’s been in place for a long long time here. Smart people doing the right things.”
Under Barry Trotz, who was Nashville’s coach from 1998 to 2014, the Predators were consistently a playoff team and established a culture of winning, but only advanced to the second round just twice. Since then, Predators have been in the playoffs in all three seasons under Laviolette, and advanced to the second round last season.
The team has also undergone a major transformation between the Trotz and Laviolette eras, as the Predators have built an offensive juggernaut supported by a world-class defensive unit. One of the biggest parts of that transition, at least this season, has been P.K. Subban, who was brought in from the Montreal Canadiens over the summer.
Subban had plenty of playoff experience in Montreal. He is ready to see what the playoffs are like down south, and make a little noise in the process.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “Obviously, coming in, that was our goal to get to the playoffs, following up what they did last year and how this team has performed in the postseason. Coming in, I just wanted to do my job and help us get back to having the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup again. I think now we have the opportunity to even surpass what we’ve accomplished and what this organization has accomplished in the playoffs. I think we’re pretty excited about this opportunity and really we have to look at ourselves as a group and feel good about it.”
Coming from the winningest franchise in the NHL in terms of championships, Subban has also noticed plenty of differences between winning culture in Montreal and winning culture in Nashville.
“It’s definitely a different attitude here than in Montreal,” Subban said. “It’s just different. That doesn’t mean that one place is good or bad, it’s a different mentality. Peter Laviolette, David Poile and the coaching staff have kind of created this atmosphere that everybody just needs to come to the rink and do their job and making it fun for us every day. There hasn’t been a day where I’ve come to the rink and felt like I didn’t want to be here.”
“It’s a fun place to play and I’m just happy that we all have the opportunity to play for the Cup, because we deserve that. There’s good people in this organization, and just really excited about the opportunity now to do some damage in the playoffs.”
Now, the Predators have less than a week to get themselves in the best position possible to advance in the playoffs, and it’s anyone’s guess how the seeds will shake out. The Predators could be traveling to Chicago, Minnesota, Anaheim, San Jose or even Edmonton for their first round series.
No matter who the opponent is, the Predators feel confident that they can take on anybody, even the big bad Blackhawks.
“I think we’ve proved ourselves to be a team that could beat anyone any night,” Filip Forsberg said. “Obviously, in the playoffs, everything is going to get to an extra level, and we’ve proved ourselves last year to beat Anaheim in the first round and almost beat San Jose too. We’ve proved ourselves and proved it to everyone throughout the season.”