Nashville Predators @ New York Rangers Preview: A Crisis of Identity

Amidst fans calling for the head of the coach and/or GM, the Predators hit the Big Apple on a mission to get back in the win column.

The Nashville Predators make their first, and only, trip to the new-and-improved Madison Square Garden to square off against the New York Rangers. There has been a bit of drama on both sides recently, both related to how the teams have been performing on the ice. Can the teams put what is ailing them behind them in order to right their own respective ships?

The Stats

Nashville Predators New York Rangers
Record 13-14-3 21st 15-15-1 17th
GF/Game 2.23 25th 2.23 25th
GA/Game 2.83 23rd 2.58 15th
5-on-5 Close SF/60 29.6 14th 32.3 5th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 28.4 12th 29.6 17th
Fenwick Close 49.50 17th 51.10 11th
5-on-5 Close Save % .916 24th .922 17th
5-on-4 GF/60 6.1 16th 6.0 18th
# of PP's/Gm 3.10 26th 3.32 18th
4-on-5 GA/60 5.8 14th 5.4 11th
# of PK's/Gm 3.33 17th 3.13 6th

New York Rangers

Just like the Predators, the New York Rangers suffered a deflating loss to the Washington Capitals last time out. Rookie Philipp Grubauer, making just his second NHL start, was a minute away from recording his first shutout in a game the Rangers were barely in. Their play was so frustrating, that the team held a dreaded closed-door meeting after the game.

The general consensus from the players is that the team is no longer "tough to play against," something Nashville fans are almost tired of hearing. To a certain extent, that's true. Players like Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust have moved on or been traded, and the in-your-face, tough-as-nails, shot blocking style of John Tortorella is no longer as prevalent. However, tough to play against doesn't automatically equate to wins.

Joe Fortunato over at Blueshirt Banter published a great piece about that the difference between fighting tough and skill tough. It's an article that all Predators fans should read:

Maybe other teams are tough to play against because they, you know, actually score a lot of goals. The Blackhawks have six fighting majors (the third lowest total in the NHL) and yet they're the best team in hockey right now. Why? Because they have scored an NHL-high 116 goals. Not because they're going around and punching the hell out of the opposition.

You win games by scoring goals? Someone needs to send a raven with that information to the Nashville brass. Apparently they still haven't heard of that concept.

Nashville Predators

The last week has been a tense one in Music City. Fans want a coaching change, while others still support and have faith in the coach. There are those that believe the blame goes higher than Barry Trotz, and those that may welcome a regime change, but begrudgingly.

For all the support and admiration I have for Barry Trotz and what he has done for this Predators team, I firmly believe it's time for a new voice in the Predators locker room and new set of eyes to assemble the roster. Identity crisis can work two ways. The first way is lack of identity, when a team has no direction and no idea where they are going to who they are. Look at a team like the Winnipeg Jets to see a perfect example of that. The Jets aren't a terrible team, but they certainly aren't good, and they have no discernible playing style or team statement. They just are.

The second way is being so caught up with an identity, that it's forced down players throats even when it doesn't apply anymore. That's exactly where the Predators are. The gritty, grinding, score-by-committee style that has served them so well in the past is no longer working. You can blame injuries or players no performing, but essentially it boils down how the team is constructed, and then how it is deployed. The Predators may only be one game under .500, but when they've looked bad, they've looked awful. The team isn't constructed well, and when good players are being scratched you can say it's being deployed worse.

Nashville isn't going to make the playoffs this season. Period. So, even if you are in the camp that wants a coaching change immediately, it will only be because it will give you some semblance of hope that the owners are trying to improve things in the long run. In reality, it isn't going to matter if Trotz or David Poile are dethroned a week or a month from now. However, if there isn't something done by the offseason... Well, I don't even want to think about that.

Tonight's game is nationally televised, so the entire country can get in on the drama! NBCSN has your coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. CST. See you in the game thread, suckas.