Predators Storylines for the 2021-22 Season
The Nashville Predators changed over the offseason. What will we be looking for in 2021-22?
Over this seemingly-short offseason, the Nashville Predators have made some puzzling, albeit necessary moves. The puzzling part wasn’t the moves in and of themselves; it was the returns they got for the assets they gave up.
Take the Ryan Ellis trade, for example. The move was correct. Ellis is on a relatively team-friendly deal, and he’s been one of the best defenders in the NHL over the last few seasons. Any team would be ecstatic to have him on their back end. However, one would think that the Predators could have gotten more bang for their buck. Cody Glass and Philippe Myers could prove their doubters wrong and turn out great, but there being no draft picks included in the package makes it a bit confusing.
The Viktor Arvidsson trade was slightly less lopsided, especially considering how his value diminished over the last two seasons thanks to two torn MCLs due to the Robert Bortuzzo incident. Trading him was also the right move, but many fans were clamoring for more in return. This was the guy that set the franchise record for goals in the regular season, after all. However, David Poile had other things in mind.
He teased a youth movement that didn’t come into full form until the injury bug ran rampant through the lineup. After being forced to give the younger players a chance and seeing what a difference hungry players can make night in and night out, Poile decided to go for it and move players out that are taking up roster spots. He also let depth spots open up by not re-signing Erik Haula, Brad Richardson, and others. So what exactly does that mean for the lineup? What should we expect?
A Hard Year for the Fans
Let’s get it out of the way now; it’s going to be a hard year for fans of the team. The roster will be filled with players that have little to no NHL experience, resulting in a lack of true chemistry and most likely leading the team to falter in the standings. There’s going to be a lot of losing, and at this point, I think most fans are expecting that. This message is more of a PSA for those that still believe this team can contend for anything past the first round. Of course, I don’t think that’s many of you, so I may be talking to the void here.
If you enjoy watching winning, this isn’t the team for you. The good news is that the 2022 draft class is loaded with talent. From Shane Wright to Ivan Miroshnichchenko, the Predators will have an abundance of options if they happen to be towards the lower end of the NHL landscape. They could draft a forward who changes the makeup of the roster entirely. So, while we as enjoyers of Predators hockey may not have the Stanley Cup Playoffs to look forward to this season, we can at least take solace in knowing that there will be a big-name player coming to the Music City.
Fun, Fast-Paced Hockey
The one expectation I’m going to set for the team (and one they should set for themselves) is to be like the 2020-21 Ottawa Senators. But why? They ended with 51 points in 56 games, finished 23rd overall in the standings, and seventh out of eight teams in the Scotia North Division. As much as those facts may be true, the Senators were an entertaining team to watch. They enjoyed playing spoiler, and they kept most of their games close. They also showcased a lot of the young talent and integrated them into their system to further their development. It’s exactly what the Predators should do as well.
There will be an influx of young players this season, so the next step is putting them in roles to succeed. For a player like Philip Tomasino, it’s putting him in a middle-six role with consistent linemates. We’ve seen forwards develop poorly throughout the Predators’ history, so it’s uber important that management and coaching get these next few right.
Contending for the playoffs seems like a dream scenario at this junction, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t be fun to watch. I enjoyed watching Senators games last season, even though they were bad. I want to attend Nashville games and believe that they can compete with any team that enters the ice. They may not be the most talented team, but as we saw last season, they could make the games fun if Juuse Saros gets hot, and the young guys get an ample chance in the lineup.
Hot Seat or Not?
We’re entering the final year of John Hynes’s contract, which means that there are many possibilities for this upcoming season. The first outcome is Hynes coaching out the rest of his contract but not being re-signed next offseason. It’s possible, especially considering the direction that the team is moving. Judging by my interactions with many New Jersey Devils fans, they could go on tangents for hours about how bad the combination of Hynes and young players was for the team.
However, considering Poile’s loyalty to his coaches (almost to a fault), I doubt that we see him fired in the middle of the season unless the team goes on a massive losing streak. I think there are better options for coaches out there, including someone down in Milwaukee by the name of Karl Taylor. However, I doubt there will be any coaching changes during a “change of the guard” period.
It’s not just Hynes that may be on the hot seat. The general manager could be too. Poile created all of this, and if it doesn’t pan out, it’s going to be a big stain on top of smaller stains that came to be over the last few seasons. He’s at the age where retirement is a real possibility, but it may come even sooner for him if the team is massively underperforming. There’s only so much blame that you can place on the coaches and even the players. At some point, it has to do with how the team is built. Again, I doubt anything is going to happen considering the background of the situation. Still, it’s something interesting to follow as the year moves along.
Glass or Pass?
Probably the biggest piece coming over in the Ellis trade wasn’t actually a part of the original transaction. After receiving Myers and Nolan Patrick from the Philadelphia Flyers, they flipped the 2017 second overall pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Glass. The young center has had a rough go of it in the NHL, and two big factors contribute to it. The first is his injuries.
As with any player in the AHL or NHL, injuries can derail seasons and sometimes careers. It did just that for Glass, who had to receive season-ending surgery on his right knee and has been working his way back ever since.
Not only did he get injured, but outside of the power play, he wasn’t receiving the most favorable of minutes. In 66 games with the Knights, he averaged 13:51 of ice time. He deserved more than that as a player who was drafted sixth overall and proved himself in the minor leagues. The only way to increase his production is by giving him favorable minutes with skilled players. Mutual chemistry between him and someone like Filip Forsberg could really benefit both players on the scoresheet.
I love what Glass has to bring to the table. He’s a mobile center who uses his creativity effectively in space and easily moves the puck to open areas. His shot is nothing to scoff at either, but it’s really his playmaking ability that made him coveted in his draft year. Putting him with wingers that can shoot the puck (Tolvanen and Forsberg?) and create space for themselves is vital to bringing him to his true potential. I touched on it earlier, but I would love for him to prove the doubters wrong.
Be Ready for a Rollercoaster
The season, just like the offseason moves, will probably be chaos and confusion. There will most likely be more negatives than positives, but endless entertainment is always fun. It makes the hockey season that much more interesting. There will be some interesting things to look out for that may not have to do with the team's success but, instead, the success of individual players. I didn’t even touch on some other narratives, like Juuse Saros in a larger sample size or Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene—we’ll have more on those later.
Despite that, one thing is for sure: Team Chaos will rule in the end.