Nearly a week ago, the Nashville Predators supposedly took a substantial step toward changing their culture and ending the “Predator Way.”
When Barry Trotz was not invited back to be Nashville’s head coach, the team’s previous commitment to a full team-defensive game was abandoned for an offensive attack, at least according to fans and some media. So is the Predator Way dying?
Even when a new bench boss is selected to run the show in town, there’s only so much the coach can do with the roster already established in Nashville. After all, almost all the members of the 2013-2014 version of the Predators are under contract for next season. So with the team essentially the same, will offensive troubles and low-scoring games really go away? Probably not.
Before the recent altering in the Predators coaching staff occurred, we warned of some of these issues, and nothing has changed since then:
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.
But despite the limited opportunities for a shakeup, we’ve continued to receive the same promise of change from Predators general manger David Poile. Last week the GM said:
“I want this team to play a different way, that’s why I thought this tough decision with Barry was best,” Poile said. “None of our players should take anything for granted. A new coach is going to be here and things like playing time shouldn’t be assumed.”
And this was after Poile first made similar comments (while perhaps also trying to send some kind of message to Trotz) in early March.
“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.”
So the dump-and-chase style of offense fully adopted by Nashville over the past decade plus might evolve under a new coach, but really, the roster and the Predator Way is probably going to keep going strong for the next little bit.
As Trotz and Poile have both said multiple times over the past few seasons, when the strengths of your team are a world-class goaltender and perhaps the best defensemen in the NHL, leaning toward a defensive style of play really just makes sense.
So is the Predator Way dead? Not yet, and probably not for a while. Throw in Jarnkrok and Forsberg next season, plus a fresh take on defensive hockey from a new coach, and the Predators will be different next year. But without major trades and a few years of drafting differently, the Predator Way won’t be dead, it’ll just be the Predator Way version 1.1.