Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Nashville Predators.
47-29-6, 100 points (1st in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost to Dallas Stars 4-2 in Round 1.
If you judged the Nashville Predators’ season by the sour mood hanging over the team and fans at the end of the 2018-19, you’d almost think they were a cellar dweller.
Instead, the Predators managed to hold off the Jets and Blues to narrowly win the Central Division, and the team was able to survive some tough injuries to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There’s no getting around the disappointment once they got there, mind you, as falling to the Stars in a six-game Round 1 series definitely ranks as a letdown.
GM David Poile’s reaction to that letdown was to make major moves, something he hasn’t been shy about in the past.
Yet, even by Poile’s standards, he made some bold bets during this offseason.
The headliner, of course, was trading P.K. Subban to New Jersey for pennies on the dollar to clear up cap space for long-rumored free agent target Matt Duchene. While that move was also, in a more indirect way, meant to keep things open for a possible Roman Josi extension, many will fairly view the Predators’ overall offseason as sending away Subban so they could land Duchene.
The value proposition is debatable, but the logic makes a reasonable amount of sense.
After all, the Predators were absolutely terrible on the power play last season, and they also had trouble getting much offense outside of the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson. The hope is that Duchene can provide more balance to Nashville’s scoring attack, while Dante Fabbro might be able to replace some of what the Predators lost in shipping out Subban for not-much (sorry, Santini).
The Predators also made a fascinating bet in signing a quality depth player – but a depth player nonetheless – in Colton Sissons to a seven-year, $20 million contract. This is a “Poile move” as much as the bold trade, as the Predators also made a similar decision with Calle Jarnkrok a few years back.
One cannot help but wonder if the Predators are addressing personnel changes while ignoring possible structural issues.
Nashville’s power play woes could be as strategic as they were talent-related, as the Predators relied far too much upon lower-danger point shots, rather than a heavier number of attempts from better scoring areas like the slot. Will they emphasize that more now that Duchene is added to the mix? We’ll see.
Let’s not forget how much the Predators have struggled to integrate other new faces.
Mikael Granlund hopes to have a better full season with Nashville, after his first “rental” run was underwhelming. Kyle Turris had a fast start with the Predators, then went on to struggle for a year and change. Wayne Simmonds never really managed to make a mark as a rental, and now he’s gone to the Devils. Nick Bonino was also a disappointment as a free agent addition from a while back. Is anyone noticing a trend?
Will it be different this time around with Duchene, and will some of those players turn things around? The Predators are gambling big-time that the answer is “Yes.”