With these playoffs being so weird and strange already, what if the NHL threw another curveball into the mix?
What if each of the 24 qualifying teams could select ONE PLAYER from one of the disqualified teams to boost their roster? Ignore all the questions you might have about contract status, team loyalty, salaries, bonuses, rivalries, and liability. This player is simply “borrowed” for the playoffs and would never become a permanent Predator unless a trade was made at a later time.
Who would you add to Nashville’s lineup?
Even though Nashville has some quality defenders, it’s been evident this season that replacement-level players like Dante Fabbro, Yannick Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Korbinian Holzer, and the recently-traded Matt Irwin just don’t cut the mustard.
Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm remain the three blue-line workhorses for Nashville, but I maintain that another defender would do wonders for the Predators. For the playoffs, I’m adding Thomas Chabot from Ottawa. He had six goals and 33 assists for the Senators this season and he’s continued to establish himself as a powerhouse defender at the mind-boggling age of 23.
When Rachel first proposed this great idea, I had a lot of possibilities: Timo Meier of the Sharks would be an excellent offensive weapon, and probably would be my choice if I was playing this game the smartest way possible.
But you all know me by now. After the top three defenders, it's grim. Dante Fabbro is still making his transition to the NHL and ideally belongs on a third pairing. I'm not high at all on Jarred Tinordi, and would rather see Frédéric Allard over him—but you know, there's one answer staring us all right in the face. A player to place alongside Mattias Ekholm, who could return to being the standout defender he was in 2018-19 and not be tasked with moving the puck. Someone who knows the team, and has playoff experience with this very Nashville roster:
Pernell Karl Subban.
“He had an awful season,” you might say, and to that, I dig out my most advanced stats, my fanciest charts, then put my fingers in my ears and reply, “LALALA SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU.”
P.K. Subban was on an absolutely abysmal New Jersey team and a coach I won't name refused to keep him in the pairing he succeeded with most. He brings fire, energy, and most importantly, is the second pair defender this team needs. So spare me your criticisms. This team is filled with offensive talent that is somehow not being utilized and I don't think another forward would change that. Let's pack the Listerine, get the gang back together for one last ride, and hopefully—just hopefully—get revenge on the league and raise the banner we’re still waiting for.
Do the Predators have a top-20 winger in the NHL?
Do the Predators have a top-20 center in the NHL?
Do the Predators have a player in the top 20 goals scored this season?
Do the Predators have a player in the top 20 points this season?
Is the premise of this article seriously letting me add Jack Eichel to the Predators?
The Predators have lacked a consistent, bona fide game breaker as a forward since Alexander Radulov left. If you’re telling me that I can add any player from an eliminated team, it has to be Boston University product Jack Eichel. Nobody else even comes remotely close. I couldn’t care less about Johansen getting bumped down to the third line; Eichel is an absolute superstar and immediately becomes the most impactful player on the Predators (and yes, I know Roman Josi still wears gold).
Eichel has 36 goals and 42 assists this season for the Buffalo Sabres, good for 78 points in 68 games. No player has ever scored at that rate wearing a Predators sweater, not even Paul Kariya.
It’s an old adage that you should always pick the best player available. By a wide margin, the best player available is Eichel. Welcome to the playoffs, Jack.
I’m going with the first name that came to my mind: Erik Karlsson—for all of the reasons that others have given for wanting another defender and for the all-time, over-the-top boost to Handsome/60.
If not E.K., then I’m with Bryan on P.K. Let’s try to capture that lightning in a bottle again!
Eichel’s probably the obvious pick. But Bobby had it first (jerk). So instead, I’m going to be a hipster and pick someone no one’s mentioned yet... Future Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin, welcome to Smashville.
Larkin is basically what Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene should have been this season: a two-way top-line center who can do a little bit of everything. He may be the fastest skater in the league (reminder, he set the fastest-skater record DESPITE ALMOST FALLING DOWN ON HIS RUN), and when you combine that with his elite playmaking vision, his underrated defensive awareness, and his penchant for finding the net, he’s a true game-changer.
Plus, it’s worth noting that even while playing on arguably the worst NHL team in the past decade, he has more points this year (53) than any Predators forward.
My initial instinct for this exercise was to choose a defender. Nashville is obviously lacking help on the blue line outside of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, but you can’t win a cup if no one on your team scores. Therefore, I’m picking a forward. I believe Nick may have chosen the best pick for a well-rounded forward—offensive and defensive skills—but I have a different player in mind from the same team.
Tyler Bertuzzi is the winning addition to the Nashville Predators in their quest for a Stanley Cup. The 25-year-old was a first time All-Star in January and was in the middle of a breakout year when the season was cut short. Of the Predators’ “star” forwards (Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg) only one of them eclipsed 20 goals during the regular season: Forsberg.
Bertuzzi is tied with Forsberg in goals (21), assists (27), and points (48). Bertuzzi is a player who will consistently get shots on the net for you and is a proven scorer, which the Predators desperately need from their team right now. To reiterate my point—goals win cups. The Predators need a scorer.
I’d love to pick a guy like Eichel or Larkin, but unfortunately I’m a bit late to the party here and Bobby and Nick already stole those two. Erik Karlsson already got taken and so did Chabot, but I feel like Karlsson is the more mainstream pick. I’m going to take Thomas Chabot, the 23-year-old Senators defender. Looking at this roster, there are two glaring holes: one at forward (lack of a game breaker) and the other at the fourth defender slot, where Fabbro has been inadequate to mediocre in his rookie season.
Chabot is having a down year by GAR and WAR, but he’s consistently put up strong numbers with zero help on poor Ottawa teams, and that’s come while leading the league in TOI by over 60 minutes at age 23. He remains a strong play-driving defender and chance producer, ranking 12th and 10th among defenders in RAPM CF/60 and xGF/60, respectively. Honestly, he reminds me a lot of a young Roman Josi with his dynamic skating ability and offensive instincts, but he’s been carrying a much heavier load.
In this scenario, we now have the best top pair and second pair in the league by a massive margin. Ekholm no longer has to be the guy who carries both the offensive and defensive load on the second pairing, and can hopefully revert to 2018-19 form and become a borderline game-breaker once again. Looking at all defenders in the league ranked by transition offense, Roman Josi is far and away the most valuable in this regard. Who sits at number two? Thomas Chabot.
The addition of Chabot bumps down Fabbro and likely solves all of the defensive issues that the team has been plagued with all year, takes pressure off of Ekholm, and alleviates some of the transition burden from the shoulders of Josi and Duchene. Chabot also likely sees some huge benefit from playing with a better partner and not having to play 26 minutes a night.
Well, here’s our ideas. What do you think, Preds fans?