Though Nashville made little news in the offseason, the Predators enjoyed a good preseason, winning four of six games, and head coach Barry Trotz likes what he sees.
"I think we've had a good camp," Trotz told FanHouse. "We've had good focus, our best players have been our best players, and I like the overall team play. We've been aggressive with the puck, and when we don't have it, we've been aggressive to get it back."
There are areas Trotz would like to see some improvement, particularly the team's power play, but he said it's coming along and he likes the team's depth and the fact that there have been some good battles for spots.
There was one disappointment for Trotz this past month. The club, which needs to add some firepower, lost out on Phil Kessel when the Bruins traded the winger to Toronto. Nashville was in the picture but couldn't match the Leafs' offer.
"We were really close on (acquiring Phil Kessel), yeah. I was dreaming about it. Now we'll have to do something else. Someone will have to be the next Kessel." "We were really close on that, yeah," Trotz said. "I was dreaming about it. Now we'll have to do something else. Someone will have to be the next Kessel."
Could that man come from a nice group of youngsters the team has highlighted during September? Mike Santorelli, 23, is among those who have stood out after moving from a center spot to left wing on Nashville's No. 2 line. He scored two goals -- on seven shots - and had three assists during the preseason.
Then there's Patric Hornqvist, 22, who led the team with seven preseason points and took a whopping 25 shots; Trotz described him as "taking it to the next level." Boston University's Colin Wilson, 19, also has a shot at a roster spot.
Forward Steve Sullivan, meanwhile, looked especially good, according to Trotz. Though sidelined with a groin injury the latter part of the preseason, Sullivan's back troubles of the past few years appear completely gone.
Shea Weber -- already good and getting better -- heads up a defensive unit that Trotz feels very good about; he thinks the team is eight-deep there, at least.
"Shea gets more confident every year and then his natural ability takes over," Trotz said. "He's become one of the top defensemen in the league, because he's more poised. In chaotic situations, the game slows down, his reads are better."
Pekke Rinne is the top goaltender, Dan Ellis is No. 2. "We're set there," Trotz said.
In a league that features frequent coaching changes, Trotz is a fixture. He's been the Predators' coach since the team started in 1997. Nobody knows better how tough life can be in the Central Division after years of chasing after the Red Wings and now having to deal with stronger clubs in Chicago, St. Louis and even Columbus.
"Our division is now probably the tough division in hockey," Trotz said. "All those teams are capable, there will be absolutely great hockey in the Central Division this season. Every game is a huge challenge. That will make us better, too, because those will be the kinds of games that get you playoff-ready.
"Now we've just got to get to the playoffs, get beyond the first round and see how far we can go."