David Poile

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Where it went wrong for Predators, and how they could fix it

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There has been a changing of the guard in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins? Out without winning a single game between them.

The Winnipeg Jets, a Western Conference Finalist a year ago and a popular Stanley Cup pick this season? They are finished.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Now the Nashville Predators, one of the top teams in the Western Conference for a couple of years now, have joined them. Just like the Jets, it probably should not be a huge surprise to see them go out as early as they did because something just seemed to be off with this team for much of the season, and especially in the second half.

It’s not hard to find the biggest culprit in their demise this season, either, and it begins with an inconsistent offense that was dragged down by the league’s worst power play unit. It was a unit that hit rock bottom in their Round 1 loss against the Dallas Stars.

To say it was bad would be an understatement.

It wasn’t just bad, it was historically bad. The type of performance that would make even an objective third party with no rooting interest scream at the TV at its overall incompetence.

After finishing the regular season converting on just 12.9 of their power play opportunities, one of the worst marks the NHL has seen over the past 15 years, the Predators went 0-for-the-series against Dallas, failing to score on even one of their 15 power play attempts. This is not something that just happens. The NHL has tracked power play success rates as far back as the 1933-34 season, and the Predators were just the 11th team during that time to get at least 15 power play opportunities in the playoffs and fail to score a single goal. You probably will not be shocked to learn that none of those 11 teams advanced beyond Round 1. You don’t need a great power play to win the Stanley Cup, but you need to get something out of it on occasion.

The Predators got nothing, continuing what turned out to be a season-long trend.

Dallas’ PK deserves a lot of credit here, and especially starting goalie Ben Bishop, but Nashville’s struggles on the power play weren’t a new thing in this series, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it wasn’t just a run of bad luck — it was simply a bad unit that needs drastically improved.

Not only did they have the NHL’s lowest success rate, but they were only 19th in the league at generating shot attempts on the power play and even worse (24th) at actually getting those attempts on net. If you can’t generate shots, and if you can’t get them on net when you do, you’re not going to score many goals.

Now comes the question on how to address it.

Injuries were a big problem for the Predators throughout the season, with Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, P.K, Subban, and Kyle Turris all missing significant action, and when Turris was on the ice, his production took a cliff dive. It is worth wondering if they are in need of another big-time forward. Forsberg and Arvidsson are outstanding, but they might still need another impact player up front. Maybe a full season from Mikael Granlund will help (he was mostly silent after coming over from the Minnesota Wild in a pre-deadline trade), but even he is not really a player that is going to put the fear of God in an opposing defense. He is very similar to what the Predators’ forward group is already made of — really good and really productive players, but not really a game-changing, impact talent.

If there is one thing to be said about general manager David Poile it is that he is not afraid to swing for the fences in trades. He has made several blockbusters over the past few years and it has played a significant role in building the roster the Predators have today. Would he be willing to make another one, and would he consider dipping into his pool of star defenders and flipping one for another impact talent up front to help strengthen an offense that went stale this year and a power play unit that collapsed on itself from the very beginning of the year?

He already did it once when he traded Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Ryan Johansen, and it might be worth at least considering again. It is a delicate balance to strike because the Predators’ defense, especially their top-four of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm is a huge part of what has made the team so good. But it is also a very clear strength and could be used to maybe help address what is now looking like a pretty significant weakness.

The other option is to keep your All-Star defense, shed salary elsewhere on the roster (Turris, if you think he is done as a top-six performer; maybe a Craig Smith or Nick Bonino?) and try to position yourself for a run at an Artemi Panarin or Jeff Skinner in free agency.

Whatever path they choose, it would be awfully difficult to come back next season with the same collection of forwards after they struggled so much this season and helped assemble such a dreadful power play unit. They simply need another finisher somewhere on the roster that can bring a level of consistency to the offense and improve a power play that failed the team all season.

Related: Stars eliminate Predators in overtime thriller

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

No big moves needed as Predators primed for another Cup run

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Another summer is here, and the warm months wouldn’t be complete without hearing fresh P.K. Subban trade rumors.

This isn’t exactly all that surprising, of course. The Nashville Predators’ defenseman is one of the league’s premier rearguards and comes with the possibility of quite the haul in return in any deal swung for him. And he just seems to have this knack for working his way into the rumor mill

Case and point: he’s on TSN’s Trade Bait board this year, and he’s inside the Top 10, just for good measure.

But while it might not come as a shock to the hockey world to see Subban’s name being thrown around in the trade winds again, there’s absolutely no reason why the Predators would want to trade one of the league’s top defenseman away from a team that remains so well-positioned in the Central Division, the Western Conference and the NHL as a whole.

Let’s review: Subban is a great defenseman that’s sound in puck possession, shot suppression and putting up points.

Naturally, Predators general manager David Poile has subsequently shot down the rumors regarding Subban, who has four years remaining on a seven year, $72 million deal with an annual cap hit of $9 million.

“You see tweets from different places, but that’s not happening,” Poile told The Athletic‘s Pierre LeBrun. “P.K. played terrific this year. He played really well. He’s a really good player. He’s one of the three candidates for the Norris Trophy. I really don’t know where this comes from.”

We’ve seen this song and dance before.

But while Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin couldn’t ultimately be believed in the end, there’s no reason to think Poile would drop that bomb in his defensive corps, one that is largely staying the same aside from Alexei Emelin becoming a unrestricted free agent.

That vaunted core on the back end — arguably the best in the NHL with Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis (a UFA after next season) — is all under contract

Let’s not forget that the Predators are one year removed from the Stanley Cup Final, and that they lost a tight series to the Winnipeg Jets in second round this season. And most importantly, let’s not lose track of the fact that Nashville is still in prime position to make another run this upcoming season.

Scott Hartnell is gone, but the Predators only have two other players searching for new deals — Ryan Hartman and Miikka Salomaki, both restricted free agents and filler pieces rather than key cogs. Everyone else is under contract and the Predators can look forward to Eeli Tolvanen entering the lineup next season.

Juuse Saros is an RFA in goal (and you’d have to think the Predators will want to square that one away ASAP with 35-year-old Pekka Rinne set to become a UFA next offseason) but their lineup will look quite similar to that of this past season, one which led the Predators to the 117 points and the Presidents’ Trophy during the regular season.

The Predators are sitting pretty, too, under the cap, with $7.5 million to give in its current state — a number that is expected to rise with next season’s cap being projected in the $78 million to $82 million range.

If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. And that cliche certainly applies to the Predators this summer.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Under Pressure: Mike Ribeiro

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Last summer Predators GM David Poile gave Mike Ribeiro a second chance after the Arizona Coyotes bought him out.

This year, Ribeiro is under pressure to prove that his 2014-15 campaign wasn’t a fluke. Ribeiro scored 15 goals and 62 points in 82 games as Nashville’s top center last season. His 47 assists was a single-season franchise record for assists by a Predators’ center.

The Montreal native led Predators’ forwards in average ice time (18:44) during the regular season, and paced all NHL forwards in average ice time during the Stanley Cup playoffs (23:21).

“From the beginning of last year, for David and Peter (Laviolette) to believe in me and to be supportive of me and help me through this, I think it was a great fit,” Ribeiro told the team’s website. “People believe in the team and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. The players, the coaches and David, they believed in me. They supported me throughout the year last year and I couldn’t be more thankful.”

Despite his off ice distractions, Poile decided to re-sign the 35-year-old to a two-year $7 million contract on July 1.

“I met with Mike this morning and certainly reinforced to him the importance of being a good citizen in the community and Mike is certainly committed to our team and to his family,” said Poile following the signing. “He really appreciates us showing confidence in him as a hockey player and a person.”

Heading into his 16th NHL season, Ribeiro believes the Predators are on the right path to playoff success.

“You want to be somewhere you can win and I believe strongly that we can do that,” he said. “It’s still a long process… but I think we can go deeper than we did this year for sure. It’s hard to do on the first year when everyone gets together, but if we stick together for a few years, I think we can surprise a lot of people.”

It’s Nashville Predators day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Nashville Predators.

The Nashville Predators snapped a two-year playoff drought last season finishing second in the Central Division with a 47-25-10 record. However, the Preds met the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the first round falling in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Filip Forsberg had an excellent rookie campaign scoring a team-high 26 goals and 63 points in 82 games. He added four goals and two assists in the six postseason games. The 21-year-old finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting.

Captain Shea Weber led all Nashville blue liners with 15 goals and 45 points in 78 games. He finished fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy. Weber’s postseason was cut short following a knee injury in Game 2.

Pekka Rinne carried the load in goal for Nashivlle making 64 appearances and finishing with a 41-17-6 record while posting a 2.18 G.A.A. and a .923 save percentage and four shutouts. The 32-year-old was the runner up to Carey Price in Vezina Trophy voting.

“I really believe our players are going to be hungry to do even more,” said GM David Poile in July. “We came so close against Chicago. We wanted to make a couple of changes, get a little bit more depth, but we wanted to keep the core of the team together and that’s what we’ve done.”

Off-season recap

In addition to re-signing the club’s top two centers in Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher, Poile signed free agent Cody Hodgson to a one-year $1.05 million deal. The 25-year-old was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres following the second year of his six-year $25.5 million contract.

“He’s shown some great flashes of offensive success at center,” said Poile. “Last year was not his best year. I think he would fit in behind Ribeiro and Fisher.”

Hodgson had just six goals and seven assists in 78 games last season.

“He’s not going to be very proud of the season he had last year, but with all due respect, I think it’s a little circumstantial to who he was playing with and for and how they were playing and what their record was et cetera et cetera,” Poile said.

Poile also added experience on the blue line signing veteran Barret Jackman to a two-year $4 million deal.

“Barret gives us great balance back on the blue line with three lefties and three righties,” said Poile. “I think this is a perfect fit for our defense. He brings a veteran leadership, a physicality and his biggest asset to us is that he kills penalties.”

Nashville added depth for its American Hockey League club acquiring center Max Reinhart in a trade with the Calgary Flames.

Hodgson on 14-15: ‘It was a disaster of a season by all accounts’

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Cody Hodgson is hoping to have the kind of bounce back season Mike Ribeiro enjoyed in 2014-15.

The 25-year-old is on a similar path that Ribeiro followed last summer.

Ribeiro was bought out by the Arizona Coyotes and given a second opportunity by Preds’ GM David Poile.

Hodgson, who was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres last week, signed a similar one-year, $1.05 million deal with Nashville on July 1.

“Hopefully, I can do what he did. It’s a new opportunity for me like it was for him,” Hodgson told The Tennessean. “Hopefully, I can make the most of it like (Ribeiro) did.”

Hodgson scored a career-low six goals and 13 points in 78 games with the Sabres last season. It was just the second year of his six-year, $25.5 million deal.

“It was a rough year all the way around, on the ice, off the ice, everything could go wrong went wrong,” Hodgson said. “It was a disaster of a season by all accounts.”

In 218 games with the Sabres, over parts of four seasons, Hodgson registered 44 goals, 99 points and a minus-65 rating while averaging 16:13 in ice time.