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- American ice hockey coach
Three points out of first place isn't the first place most expected the Nashville Predators to be going into Friday, 16 games into their season.
Not after playing seven of their last eight on the road, with their eighth out of nine on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, who made surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final last season only to fall on hard times this season with the loss of former Predators captain Shea Weber to long-term injured reserve and goalie Carey Price, who entered the league's player assistance program and has been public about his battle with substance abuse.
Not with Filip Forsberg out since suffering an upper-body injury Nov. 2.
On paper, they looked like a team that would be closer to last place than first.
But there they were having gone 7-2-1 in the previous 10 going into that game. There they were in fourth place in the Central, right behind the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues. And ahead of division favorite Colorado.
How have they done it?
The answer, coach John Hynes said, is pretty simple. They've been able to show a valid ID, one Hynes has stressed since the day he was hired.
It's how no Forsberg has been no big problem.
"You hear us talk a lot about identity," Hynes said. "When you have an identity and you play with structure, you can plug and play, meaning you can bring guys into your lineup. We may have injuries, but the team can play to the same identity.
"You can sometimes get through with committee work. ... When you have that it's easier to sustain some losses."
And earn some more victories than might have been expected.
General manager David Poile originally labeled the move toward youth as a "competitive rebuild" but later relabeled it a "competitive transition." He wanted to shed some payroll. He wanted to move on from visions of 2017, when the Predators, who, like the Canadiens, made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Presidents' Trophy and two division titles that followed that run made Poile more hesitant to break up that core.
Pick nits about the phrasing all you want, one thing cannot be argued: The Predators couldn't afford to spare change after the last couple of seasons.
Yes, Roman Josi still is one of the best hockey players on the planet. Juuse Saros continues to prove he's a bona fide No. 1 goalie. Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are putting up numbers more comparable to their $8 million-per-year price tags than they have in a few years.
All reasons the Predators are competitors so far this season.
None of it possible without valid ID.
Reach Paul Skrbina at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Why are Nashville Predators so darn good? They finally have valid ID