The Nashville Predators have a new slogan this season. It appears on their shirts, walls and all over the facility. However, the most important place it seems to have resonated with them so far is in their mentality.
Nashville’s new “Play like a Predator” slogan is a reminder to get back to the style of play for which the Predators have always been known. A style that includes out-working the opponent on a nightly basis and being a complete pain for the opposition to play against. It’s a style that they did not have last season, which is why they are trying to renew that mindset this season.
“Play the way that we normally do,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “Last year wasn’t any indication of the way we should play, and we know that and we’re going to correct it and be better this year.”
The 2013-14 team has a much different makeup than the 2012-13 team did. There are a lot of new faces on this season’s opening night roster – 10, to be exact, compared to last season’s opening night roster – which makes last season almost a mute point. It’s something that the Predators don’t even discuss.
“We don’t even talk about last year,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. “We haven’t talked about it for a long, long time. This is a totally new group. Eric Nystrom, or people like that, they’re like “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.’ I think for us we’ve looked at it as more of let’s build for this year than look at last year.”
Nashville had a very hard training camp in order to lay the foundation for the culture they are trying to reestablish. It was a fast-paced, hard training camp that seemed to help the Predators start to regain that identity of what it means to play Predator Hockey.
“I think we accomplished what we wanted to do,” Trotz said. “We really pushed the guys and really ground them down for the first eight days, and then we did some team building. We had 60 guys trying to build the culture that we pride ourselves in, and now we’re trying to get back and get our game in order. This is about starting a winning culture, getting our game in order and playing Predator Hockey for 60 minutes.”
The “Play like a Predator” slogan serves as a constant reminder to the team about what sort of team they want to be. It’s all over the place, and the message it conveys seems to have resonated with the players so far.
“We want to have a team identity of a team that plays real hard, that’s hard to play against, that comes to compete every night and leaves it all out on the ice, and I think that’s kind of what that exemplifies,” said Predators forward Mike Fisher.
Following a dismal season, a logical question to ask would be whether or not any of the coaching staff or players are feeling the pressure to win this season and make a big turnaround. After all, the Predators were 14th in the Western Conference last season after finishing the regular season as the fourth seed in the Western Conference in 2011-12. However, the outside pressure doesn’t seem to have an impact on the Predators. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“If there’s any pressure, it’s probably more from internal pressure, and I say internal pressure will be our ownership wants us back in the playoffs, I want to be back in the playoffs, management wants us back in the playoffs, so our pressure probably comes from our side. The players are very proud, and they put internal pressure on them. They want to be in the playoffs. Shea Weber’s a winner. He needs and wants to be in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne is and all that, so the pressure really comes probably from us because we want to be back in the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup,” Trotz said.
With the regular season finally beginning for the Predators on Thursday night in St. Louis, the “Play like a Predator” slogan and mentality will be put to its first real test of the season. The Predators have had a fast-paced training camp and a bit of a rocky preseason, but Thursday night is when it really starts to count. They’re hoping the hard practices and work they’ve put in during training camp begins to translate into success right off the bat.
“We’ve had a hard camp. The skates have been real good and upbeat and up tempo, so that’s what we need,” Fisher said. “We’re a team that wants to play with a lot of speed, and we want to use our speed. If we have some good, quick, hard practices, that’s going to benefit us. That’s where it all starts. Practices have been a lot better this year.”
The wait is finally over and the regular season is now here. The “Play like a Predator” mentality will now be put to an 82-game test, and the Predators hope passing that test means a return to the playoffs.