Reacts: Nashville Predators fans still confident after rough season

The pandemic hiatus has taken fan confidence down a little, but it’s improved a lot from the New Year.

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With play about to resume in the NHL, fans can again turn to the on-ice action. For Predators fans, that’s mostly a good thing. According to SB Nation’s Reacts survey, 60 percent of Nashville fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction, a downtick from 71 percent in mid-March.

When the NHL season abruptly came to an end due to health and safety concerns over COVID-19, the Predators were finally on a winning streak—the longest one of new head coach John Hynes’s tenure. After a rocky fall and winter for both goaltenders (Pekka Rinne’s goal notwithstanding), Juuse Saros had settled into form and was turning in great performances.

How the break will affect the goalies, we don’t yet know, and that might be part of the reason for the dip in confidence—as might the break itself. It’s been over four months since we got to watch the Preds, and their recent gains may have faded a little in the memory.

It wasn’t just the goalies who had a rough start to the season. Awful special teams, an anemic offense, a questionable defense, undisciplined play, Peter Laviolette’s never-explained grudge against Kyle Turris, and what looked like a total lack of team morale were also all things the Predators struggled with in 2019. The coaching change in early January still came as a shock to most people, and the immediate long-term hiring of John Hynes was an unexpected choice.

2019-20 has been a challenging season to be a Preds fan, with sky-high hopes heading in (the fabled Matt Duchene signing at last!) followed by months of sliding inexorably down the standings. The humiliation by the Stars at the Winter Classic—after years of us hoping for the Preds to finally get an outdoor game while certain other teams seemed to have one annually—was bad; Corey Perry’s cheapshotting Ryan Ellis and sending him to LTIR was worse. Hynes had failed to get a bad Devils team to excel and didn’t immediately manage to turn things around for the Predators.

Still, they were making progress, finally—and then the pandemic hit.

Over the last few weeks of the NHL’s regular season, Predators fans were starting to feel some hope. A month before the shutdown, barely a quarter of Preds fans had confidence that the team was headed in the right direction. At the time of the shutdown, barely a quarter of Preds fans didn’t have that confidence. The team had turned it around. Then everything stopped.

It’s easy to forget the good times when they lasted so briefly, but here’s hoping—first for the safety and health of everyone involved as the NHL goes ahead with its return-to-play plan, second for the Predators to give us a reason for optimism again.

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