Nashville Predators 2020-21 NHL season preview

Nashville Predators 2020-21 NHL season preview
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The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we preview the Nashville Predators.

Nashville Predators 2019-20 Rewind

Record: 35-26-8 (78 points); fifth in the Central Division; seventh in the Western Conference.

Leading scorers: Filip Forsberg (21 goals), Roman Josi (65 points)

After making a huge investment in Matt Duchene (and divestment from P.K. Subban), the Predators expected a strong 2019-20 season. Instead, the season was at times a debacle, and it’s stunning to consider how dramatically Nashville’s stock has fallen.

As much as the Predators changed things in recent years, it’s difficult to tell how much any of it worked. Sometimes it’s obvious it didn’t (Kyle Turris); in other cases, it might simply not be enough (Duchene). Early on, there’s not a ton of hope that John Hynes can solve the issues that riddled Peter Laviolette.

That said, some tough breaks can sometimes exaggerate problems.

Frankly, the Predators at least deserved better against the Coyotes during the play-in round. Instead, the stuttering run ended with a thud, thanks in large part to Darcy Kuemper‘s brilliance.

We’ve seen it before in sports: sometimes a team takes that extra step after you expect it. Could that be the case for the Predators? Maybe, but confidence isn’t exactly soaring in this bunch. (Well, except for a defense topped by Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. That group is still stellar.)


Luke Kunin (trade), surprise return of Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula (free agency), Mark Borowiecki (free agency), Nick Cousins (free agency), Matt Benning (free agency), Brad Richardson (free agency)


Craig Smith (free agency), Kyle Turris (buyout), Nick Bonino (trade), Austin Watson (trade)

Nashville Predators 2020-21 season preview John Hynes
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

3 Most Interesting Nashville Predators

• John Hynes

To this day, it’s still baffling that the Predators were in such a rush to hire John Hynes. What, exactly, did Hynes do with the Devils that convinced Nashville that he’d unlock some untapped potential?

Predators fans might disagree, but in the big picture, it was tough to see too many exciting results early on. That said, it’s not totally fair to judge a coach taking over a team mid-season. Of course, we’ve also seen coaches do just that, only to produce splendid results. Look at the difficult situation Rick Bowness inherited in Dallas, and that Stars team finished two wins shy of a Stanley Cup.

Even so, fortunes can change quickly in sports. Maybe Hynes will improve his perception in the league and help the Predators turn this around?

• Matt Duchene

Look, it’s not like Matt Duchene was horrible in 2019-20.

Glance at his player card from Evolving Hockey, and you’ll see someone who brought quite a bit to the table:

Nashville Predators 2020-21 season preview Matt Duchene EVO player card
via Evolving Hockey

Still, it’s difficult to shake the urge to ask for more from Duchene. Most obviously, he’s carrying that $8 million cap hit. Beyond that, the Predators are the latest team to make big investments to bring Duchene in, and yet he’s never really had that big run.

In his first playoff(-ish?) series with the Predators, Duchene already drew criticisms. As with many highly-paid players, he’ll be judged not just for his stats, but his team’s performance. For 2019-20, the feeling was “not enough” both for the player and the team.

Mind you, Duchene doesn’t need to do it all. The Predators deploy reigning Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi, and Ryan Ellis is right there with him. Filip Forsberg is just as much a go-to guy as Duchene.

But there’s still a ton of pressure on Duchene. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

Eeli Tolvanen

Comb through the PHT archives, and you’ll see plenty of speculation about Tolvanen and the Nashville Predators. It began after the Predators selected Tolvanen late in the first round after their Stanley Cup Final run. For some time, it seemed like Tolvanen could be the sort of steal that might widen their contending window.

Since then, Tolvanen stumbled, and so have the Predators.

The 2020-21 season represents one of the most important “Can he finally make it?” seasons for Tolvanen. At 21, it’s not as though this season will make or break his career. Another frustrating campaign could really test the Predators’ patience, however.

Theoretically, Tolvanen could be the sort of shooter who could enliven the Predators’ often-stagnant power play. In reality, we’ll have to see if Tolvanen can gain enough opportunities to make the waiting game worth it.

Best-Case Scenario

” … I mean, I’m not a betting man but I would bet our top players would improve statistically,” David Poile recently told Joe Rexrode of The Athletic (sub required).
While comments like those can drip with wishful thinking, there’s some truth to squeeze out of that. One would expect Duchene to generate more offense than last season’s 42 points. Both Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson might enjoy better health next season. Beyond that, would it be that shocking if Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne churned out some of the best goaltending in the NHL? Combine better offense, rebounding goaltending, and typically strong defense, and suddenly Nashville looks dangerous again. If Hynes defies critics and pushes the right buttons, this team could be back in the mix as dark horse contenders.

Worst-Case Scenario

That said, Hynes might fail to make all of the pieces fit together. Considering the advancing age of key players (Josi, Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm are all 30 already, somehow), a wasted 2020-21 season would be devastating for the Predators. Between Josi, Duchene, and Johansen, the Predators are dropping $25M. That spending could start to look awfully rough if the Predators miss the playoffs. That’s especially true if the Predators fall in puck purgatory: too good for a great draft pick, but too weak to reach the postseason. Being that the Nashville Predators were wobbling on the bubble last season, the worst-case scenario is one the front office must reasonably grapple with.

Pointsbet – Nashville Predators Stanley Cup odds

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James O’Brien is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.


    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).


    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.