This doesn’t happen much in the NHL anymore.
There is too much parity, too many variables and a myriad of elements that can take a team from a powerhouse one day to the outside looking in the next.
And yet, for the fifth consecutive season, the Nashville Predators will be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Five seasons, you might say, may not seem all that impressive.
Well, consider the following:
As of March 25, only three other clubs have active streaks of at least five consecutive postseason appearances. Two of those teams, Minnesota and Anaheim, could see their six-season streaks come to an end, leaving the Preds and the Pittsburgh Penguins (who have made 12-straight appearances) in elite company. The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals are on track to clinch their fifth consecutive appearance as well. Not a bad group.
Perhaps even more impressive than the immediate run of success is this.
It took them until their sixth season to skate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time, but since then, the Predators have qualified for the postseason in 12 of the past 15 campaigns dating to 2003-04. As of March 25, only three teams have as many playoff trips in that span: San Jose (14), Detroit (12) and Pittsburgh (12).
Gone are the days of assembling so-called ‘dream teams’ who were essentially guaranteed to play into the springtime year after year. Sure, teams still employ star players on their rosters, but so much more goes into clinching a berth these days.
The names on the paper in training camp may say one thing, but the games still have to be played.
“It’s not an easy thing,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said after his team clinched their spot on Monday. “Everybody goes into a year with good intentions and everybody has a plan in mind, and I’m sure they’re all including the playoffs. It’s not an easy thing and should never be taken for granted, but our guys worked hard and we got to this point. We have to continue to work on our game and get ready.”
Nothing is perfect in hockey. How could it be?
There are men wearing steel blades on their feet skating on a 200-by-85-foot ice rink chasing a frozen three-inch piece of rubber around while trying to deposit it into a four-by-six-foot net.
What could go wrong?
In all seriousness, another postseason appearance is quite an accomplishment.
Yes, it hasn’t necessarily been an easy go of things this season for the Preds, even though they’ve been in either first or second place in the Central Division since their third win of the campaign way back in early October. The players and coaches know there is still plenty of work to do.
But there are plenty of franchises that would give anything to be in the position the Predators are in right now.
It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day aspects, what’s working and what’s not, who should play with this player or that player and the like.
In the midst of the grind, however, it’s important to take a step back, even for a moment, to recognize what this Predators franchise has done and continues to do.
Moral of the story? There are highs and lows in this game, triumphs and heartbreaks along the way, but clinching a Stanley Cup Playoff berth is no small feat.
Appreciate what we have here in Nashville, Preds fans. After all, the best time of the year has almost arrived.