When he announced Barry Trotz's firing and wrapped up a disappointing season, general manager David Poile also offered some optimistic statements about the future of the Predators.

He noted the number of younger players on the roster and looked forward to the return of a top-notch Pekka Rinne. And then Poile — a man not known to deal in hyperbole — delivered this impressive prediction:

"Our defense will be the best defense we've ever had in Nashville," he said. "This defense has the potential to be as good as any defense in the National Hockey League."

That's no small statement, considering some of the defensive corps the Predators have had in the past, and considering that this group had its share of struggles during the past season.

There's little doubt the current pool of defensemen has plenty of potential, considering that it's led by arguably the game's best blueliner — Shea Weber — and that it features five players drafted in the first or second round.

But even given that impressive pedigree, the defensive corps will have to make significant strides to live up to Poile's prediction.

After all, the Predators did finish 23rd in the league in goals against last season (2.84 per game) and were 25th in penalty-kill success (80.2 percent).

The seven defensemen that finished the season on the roster — Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, Seth Jones and Michael Del Zotto — combined for a minus-29 in games with Nashville.

While blueliners are obviously not completely responsible for all those numbers, they certainly have to take some of the blame.

On the other side of the rink, however, the defensemen did show strong offensive pop, combining for 51 goals, 117 assists and 168 points.