Ultimate Standings: Nashville Predators climb the ranks

John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's Oct. 12 Owners Issue. Subscribe today!

Nashville Predators

Overall: 27
Title track: 74
Ownership: 18
Coaching: 35
Players: 22
Fan relations: 17
Affordability: 10
Stadium experience: 10
Bang for the buck: 66
Change from last year: +13

After a down season that led to the firing of longtime coach Barry Trotz in 2014, the Predators made a return to the playoffs last season, and with it came a jump in fan satisfaction. Nashville climbed 13 spots in the standings, from No. 40 overall last year to No. 27, boosted in large part by a strong -- and affordable -- stadium experience.

What's good

The Predators had two Top-10 finishes: affordability (10th) and stadium experience (10th) -- a credit to the way they have effectively sold the game and built a die-hard hockey fan base in a nontraditional market. The team has embraced the Smashville theme right down to allowing fans to sledgehammer a car painted with rival logos and colors before games. The average ticket price for a game in Nashville ($62.16 ) is right around the league average of $62.18, and value comes in the reasonable prices that accompany the tickets. Sodas are the some of the cheapest in the league; beer prices are reasonable; and parking is among the NHL's lowest.

What's bad

Nashville would have finished higher in these standings except for one issue: the lack of a championship. The Predators have never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs despite having made it to the postseason four times in the past six seasons. Nashville finished No. 74 in title track, a sign that fans aren't optimistic of seeing a Stanley Cup paraded down Broadway anytime soon. That could change with another strong season behind a defense led by Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Seth Jones that is one of the best in the NHL. But that dearth of postseason wins, plus Nashville's average prices, mean fans aren't convinced they're getting the most out of their team (66th in bang for the buck).

What's new

The biggest jump for the Predators came in ownership, where they improved from No. 43 to No. 18. The team is owned by a group called Predators Holdings LLC, with Thomas G. Cigarran serving as chairman. Nashville is a small market, but ownership has spent big in recent years to keep the team's core locked up. The Predators matched Weber's monster 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Flyers in 2012. They signed goalie Pekka Rinne to a seven-year contract worth $49 million in 2011. And over the past few years, they've locked up Josi, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith to long-term deals. Nashville won't push the upper limit of the salary cap this season, but ownership has shown a willingness to spend when necessary -- only two NHL teams scored higher when fans were asked whether their team gets the most out of the money it spends.

Next: Pittsburgh Penguins | Full rankings