Enough, as it turned out, was not enough.
Not for the Nashville Predators, who looked better equipped and seemed better prepared in 2011-12 to make a run at the Stanley Cup than at any other time in their franchise history. When judged by how far they progressed in the postseason, though, they ultimately were no better than a year ago.
“As a team, we — for sure — had enough skill and enough talent and enough leadership … and enough experience and all that stuff,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “So there’s no excuses, for sure.
“It’s just pure disappointment.”
Pretty much from the moment they entered the NHL the Predators faced a maddening series of “ifs.” If they could inject some high-end skill into the lineup, if they had the wherewithal to add talent for the stretch run, if they had a reliable power play, if the team could figure out a way to overcome the traditionally strong franchises such as Detroit and so on and so on, they might actually be a legitimate championship contender.
Now, after a five-game flameout against the Phoenix Coyotes, there is a new set of “ifs.” If only anyone knew exactly what they are.
“I’m sure we’ll take a look at things at the start of [next] year,” captain Shea Weber said. “I think we accomplished a lot of goals, but obviously, still the ultimate goal is not achieved.
“Hopefully one day it will be.”
This was the season that Nashville brought back the most gifted, homegrown offensive player in franchise history, Alexander Radulov. He made it back from Russia after four years just in time to play the final nine games of the regular season and — right on cue — he produced several moments fit for a highlight reel.
The roster was bolstered at the trade deadline with the additions of forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad and defenseman Hal Gill. All of them were accomplished players who brought a unique skill that enhanced the lineup in some way.
Even before those changes, the Predators had one of the most productive power plays in the league. In a startling transformation, a unit that had finished among the NHL’s bottom 10 nine times in 12 seasons, including each of the previous four, led the league with a franchise-record success rate of 21.6.
Through it all, the team remained committed to its defense-first, well-structured approach as evidenced by the seven-year, $49 million deal it struck with Rinne in November.
After all of that, as if by divine intervention, the Predators came face-to-face with the Red Wings at the start of the postseason … and routed them.
With all the ”ifs” having been addressed, then all that was left was to track down the trophy. Or so it seemed.
“We knew that we were as good as anybody in the league,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “So it makes it hurt a little bit more when you realize that you really had a great shot to battle for the Cup.
“Going into the playoffs you think, ‘OK, if we can beat Detroit and get things going we’re going to have a good chance to do something special.’ We beat Detroit and then we kind of had a letdown against Phoenix. … Taking nothing away from them, they have a good team and they played well, but I think we underachieved.”
So with the sudden start of the offseason there is this: If this team, with all that it accomplished and all that it offered in terms of talent and depth, can’t win more than one game in the second round, then what else can, or must it do?
“I thought we played well enough to win,” Rinne said. “But, obviously, it didn’t happen.”
For most, “well enough” is no longer enough.