Nashville’s seen more rain in six weeks than usual. And not just falling from the sky, either.
The product coming out of 501 Broadway in Music City has been dreary at best since the beginning of the calendar year.
What began as a season of promise has had people asking what’s next for the Nashville Predators. But that question still doesn’t have an answer and may not for another week.
The Predators’ play over recent weeks has been maddening to watch, given the potential on the current roster. There are flashes of brilliance and periods of excellence, yet what generally ends up deciding games are stretches of ineptitude and moments of absentmindedness.
Still, now that the Preds have hit the quarter-pole (and yes, that’s the correct time to use it, not early in the season), angst and apathy are more common than hope and optimism if you look around social media.
However, Nashville still resides just three points out of the Central Division lead and four off the pace in the Western Conference. Yes, every team in contention has at least two games in hand as of this writing (early Sunday afternoon), but the way things are going now, no game-in-hand is a guarantee.
St. Louis has closed within six points of Nashville for second place, but the Blues might be peaking too soon. Any letdown in March and they’re right back fighting for a wild card spot.
In recapping the last three games, one thing is consistent—the Preds’ inconsistency. This is a team that simply has not put together a complete game in recent memory. They are excellent for 10-20 minutes at a time, then seem to disappear for similar stretches, especially when they get hit in the mouth.
Their toughness—both mentally and physically—is lacking and it’s showing up on the scoreboard.
On with it:
The Fast Money Round
Tuesday: Detroit Red Wings 3, Predators 2
Peter Laviolette simply cannot seem to find a way to beat the Red Wings as of late. That’s nine losses to Detroit—at its worst in several decades—in the last 10 meetings since he took over behind the bench. A great start resulted in absolutely nothing, Nashville had a good response in the second, but a bad third-period cost the Preds two points.
Thursday: Predators 3, Montreal Canadiens 1
This looked to be a night where things were turning in a positive direction. Brian Boyle played an exceptional game and Viktor Arvidsson just kept motoring along. Secondary scoring happened. And then...
Saturday: Vegas Golden Knights 5, Predators 1
...crickets. Juuse Saros deserved better. This could have been much uglier than the score, and that’s already putting lipstick on a pig.
Player of the Week
Now, Saros gets honorable mention for his yeoman’s work in a completely embarrassing performance from the rest of the team in Vegas. But Arvidsson’s remarkable partial-season explosion continues and he’s seven goals away from the franchise goal-scoring mark of 33 (shared by Filip Forsberg in 2015-16 and Jason Arnott in 2008-09) with 21 games remaining. Barring injury, he should get there.
Favorite Thing of the Week
Hello, Smash. Sure, St. Louis fans want to say the Preds copied them, but (a) they have a Labrador Retriever, so no, and (b) who wants to copy a team that’s going on 49 years without a Stanley Cup Final appearance?
Grumble of the Week
Here’s a question—how old is too old to be an analyst in sports television? Don Cherry—at age 85 (though he doesn’t look a day over 60, because makeup is magic)—is still flamboyantly gracing Canadian audiences on Coach’s Corner. And sometimes, he’s right. But the whole to-do over the Carolina Hurricanes’ Storm Surge celebrations is ridiculous.
Bottom line: if you don’t like it, don’t watch. Or, better yet, beat them and make sure they can’t do it.
“They’d better not do that stuff in the playoffs,” Cherry said. Or what? You’ll wag a finger at them from a flamingo-printed suit while Ron MacLean plays the apologetic host being appalled while trying not to look appalled? Give me a (bleeping) break. His whole theory being against fun and things even close to resembling fun is more ridiculous than the fabrics he sports on TV every Saturday night.
His stance—while it might have good intentions—represent the kind of thinking that is holding the NHL back in the North American sports landscape. Personalities are good for the game. Exposure is good for the game. Fun is good for the game. Don Cherry’s old-school thinking is not good for the game, colorful as his suits may be.
Do you know why baseball players sign autographs before Major League Baseball games? Because they know it keeps people—especially kids—coming back. And that’s what all of this is about—keeping people coming back.
Some younger broadcasting hopeful is having to wait longer for a higher-profile gig since Don Cherry is still employed. It’s time, Don. Hang up the suits and let progress happen. Because let’s be honest—you can’t do a damn thing about it.
On trades and stuff
It’s all speculation at this point. What we think we know, we really don’t, and what has already been thrown out there has been beaten to a pulp. We don’t know more than we did two weeks ago, we just think we do.
Sure, it’s fun to discuss (but you don’t need somebody to tell you when to talk trades), but at the end of the day, unless a move is made, we end up right back where we started. So a lot of the hand-wringing is over nothing. With that out of the way, this roster—as currently constructed—might win a series. It might not.
This team is mental. They are in their own way right now and can’t seem to find a way out of it. Completely stagnant. The Predators need another fresh face in the dressing room (and one that can provide something other than presence and the occasional physicality). There hasn’t been a real shakeup in a while and the time to do so is rapidly winding down.
This group wanted to remain together in the offseason and made as much known to David Poile. They got their chance, and although they’ve not had their full complement of guys out there together very much this season, the ones who have been have largely failed to live up to expectations. (JOFA line, Ekholm and for the most part Rinne and Saros excluded).
They wanted their shot, and it’s apparent it won’t be good enough. You don’t get many chances to contend for a Stanley Cup, so you’d better be willing to roll the dice to get one. Another second-round out, and more grumbling will certainly begin. One week left—will we be talking about a shakeup next time?
This week’s grade
Honestly, this wasn’t a good week. Thursday seemed more smoke screen than smokeshow, further pushing the point home that a shakeup is needed. This team is halfway asleep, and it looks like the only way to really wake it up is by sounding the alarm. This week’s grade: C-
Who’s the Player of the Week for Week 19?
This poll is closed
Other (mention in the comments)