Stanley Cup Qualifiers: Where must the Predators finish to keep this roster together next season?

What does a successful tournament look like to GM David Poile? Is it win or nothing at all? Or is there another option that will convince him not to dismantle the roster?

As we inch closer toward the Stanley Cup Qualifier tournament, most NHL fans are wondering the same thing: What will the teams look like entering a tournament format after a four month hiatus? Facilities were closed for the majority of the shutdown, making off-time training difficult.

Though an SBNation poll says 60 percent of Predators fans are confident the team is moving in the right direction, the fan pulse I’m getting from our OTF readers tells a different story. Based on our comments sections and mentions, many Predators fans are predicting the team doesn’t make the Cup Finals — some are predicting they don’t make it past the first round.

Nashville’s season resume thus far doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the team, which is a problem considering General Manager David Poile’s warning to the team in January.

Roman Josi

Poile also called out his “key players” in the same press conference when he said they’d all underperformed besides Roman Josi.

That January press conference felt like a warning to the team: step up or this is the end. Could this really be team’s last chance to prove to GMDP they can win as a team? Could he really tear it all down and make major changes to the roster? Yes, he could do that. He’s the GM; he can do anything he wants (within reason). But the question I’d like to explore here is: What will it take to keep this team together? What will constitute success in GMDP’s eyes that could make way for this roster to have another year to figure things out?

The obvious answer is “win a Stanley Cup.” Don’t yell at me that it’s a cup with an asterisk. Whether that’s how you feel or not, it’s real to the NHL and to the teams.

Is there anything short of winning the Cup the Predators can do to prove themselves to their GM? Maybe. The next question: How much is enough?

My personal opinion: Success looks like:

  1. Stanley Cup runner-up
  2. Western Conference runner-up
  3. Take the eventual Cup winner to 7 games in any round (of a 7-game series) and play them well and hard.

It might look like slim pickings, but the Predators have been caught beneath the weight of high expectations since their Stanley Cup Final run of 2017. Expectations are difficult to live up to, but when you have about $50 million tied up in your key players — not including Pekka Rinne — success is expected.

GMDP wasn’t wrong when he said the entire team, excluding Josi, was underperforming. That’s alarming for a player like Matt Duchene, Nashville’s highly sought after free agent signing, who’s making $8 million a year. It’s unlikely Nashville says goodbye to their big fish after one bad season and just one year into a seven-year contract, but the pressure is high.

For players like Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith, who are about to enter the off season as unrestricted free agents, this tournament is one more chance to prove they’re worth a new contract.

Ryan Johansen is in a similar predicament to Duchene, due to the fact that they’re both making $8 million a season and are experiencing career-low seasons. However, unlike Duchene, Johansen is three seasons into his eight-year contract. He’s already been traded once in his career, so it’s not far-fetched that Poile could seek to trade his top-six center for draft picks; a younger, higher-scoring forward; or a defender, among options.

Though I’ve made my thoughts on Kyle Turris’ situation clear — I think he’s played exponentially better this season and rolled with the punches the coaching staff dealt — I think his time with the Predators is all but over. If Turris plays well, it will more than likely be used to lure another team into a trade.

When the season halted in early March, the Predators looked like they could finally be finding their footing in a three-game win streak, meaning all hope was not lost. Head coach John Hynes only had about two months with his team before the season stopped. Though the re-start training camp and single exhibition game aren’t long to prepare, a fresh start could be exactly what the Predators need.

Four months with little to do except reflect on a disappointing season can make or break some players and teams. The Predators could easily enter the tournament hungry and angry. There is enough talent on the roster to make a deep run if the team starts scoring.

Personally, I think the most likely option out of the three given above is that the Predators take the eventual cup winner to seven games. GMDP doesn’t seem to want to dismantle his carefully constructed team and I think he is looking for a reason to keep them together — the Predators just have to give him one.

This is all, of course, just my educated opinion based on the season thus far and Poile’s own words. He could also decide to keep the team together regardless of what happens. After all, during that same press conference he also noted that it was easier to change a coaching staff than 22 players. However, the hotter his seat gets, the more likely he is to make a big move.

What level of success do you think will convince GMDP to keep the team together as is? Let me know in the poll below and in the comments.

What will it take for GMDP to keep this team together in the off-season?

Nothing less than a Stanley Cup.15
Stanley Cup runner-up.28
Western Conference runner-up.70
Take the eventual Cup winner to 7 games.22
Nothing. GMDP is going to dismantle this roster once the season ends.22
I’m going to yell at you in the comments. The Preds are getting swept by the Coyotes.13