Last night’s 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers may represent a low point in the Nashville Predators season.
With their playoffs chances already hovering close to zero, Nashville missed out on another opportunity to gain ground as the Oilers, the Western Conference’s last-placed team, completed a three-game season sweep of the Predators.
Issues on offense and no star-powered players at forward have defined the Predators roster for (at least) the past two seasons and that’s generally accepted to be the team’s most glaring weakness. But looking ahead to the team’s future at forward, there really aren’t any major personnel or culture changes on the horizon.
After all, Nashville only has one forward currently slated to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer.
The impending UFA is recently acquired Patrick Eaves, who was a part of the deal that sent David Legwand to the Detroit Red Wings. The bottom-six forward does not appear to be in Nashville’s long-term plans. This season has been perhaps winger Nick Spaling’s best–he’ll be a restricted free agent after this campaign–but with his increased contribution, Spaling is probably a player Nashville will want to re-sign.
So that’s one spot out of 12 that is open for next year.
Earlier this month on the NHL’s trade deadline day, Nashville general manager David Poile hinted at some small changes that may be coming to the Predators lineup for the 2014-2015 season.
“We need to get better on our forwards. We need to have some changes in our offense,” Poile said. “That’s why the trade last year for Filip Forsberg happened and the trade this time for Jarnkrok happened.”
Assuming forwards Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok are both somehow on Nashville’s opening night roster, is that enough of a difference from this year’s version of the Predators that ranked near the bottom of the league in goals per game?
Forsberg has spent the majority of this season playing in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals after Poile said the young winger needed, “some more work before he’s ready for the NHL on a nightly basis.” Jarnkrok, too, is not without his shortcomings and that’s to be expected of an unproved forward playing his first full-year professionally in America.
But now that the Predators postseason chances are all but mathematically eliminated, it makes the most sense to call up Forsberg and Jarnkrok and see first-hand what the players can contribute at the game’s top level.
With technically just one forward spot scheduled to be available next season, the Predators need to be certain the right player is in it. There’s really nothing more profitable for a player than game time at the NHL level, so that’s why Nashville should try and slip in some of their young guns this campaign while they can.
Poile mentioned earlier this month that he’d also like to see what kind of contribution he could expect from forwards Colton Sissons (currently with Nashville) and Austin Watson as well, so don’t be surprised if they are in Predators gold some day soon too.
It’s the youth movement that Nashville must turn to try and get better in the long-term future. But how they factor into this and next season remains the predominate question.